“Healthy holiday meal” doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. Sure, you may be surrounded by cookies, cakes and cocktails, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take control and create a delicious, nutritious and seasonal meal for that will win over skeptical family and friends. Here are some tips for creating a healthy holiday table:
1) Don’t fight your instincts. It’s natural for our bodies to crave warm, rich foods during the winter months. Go with your cravings and try making hearty, healthy grain-based dishes. Filling and warming, whole grains are an excellent source of essential enzymes, iron, fiber and vitamins. Plus, grains provide you with sustained energy since the body absorbs them slowly. Quinoa is one of my favorites since it’s packed with protein, cooks up quickly and is super versatile. It’s great both savory and sweet. Try it sprinkled with chopped, toasted walnuts and dried cranberries or topped with sautéed wild mushrooms.
2) Return to your roots. Ever notice that when you eat a really salty meal or snack, you immediately crave something sweet afterward? That’s your body’s natural way of trying to balance things out. Adding “sweet” vegetables to your meal – such as winter squash or root veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots and parsnips – not only tastes great but helps reduce our post-meal sugar cravings.
3) Go Green. Dark, leafy greens are nutrition powerhouses. Packed with micronutrients and phyto-chemicals, greens can improve circulation (great if you suffer from cold hands and toes during the winter, like me), purify our blood and strengthen our immune system – good news if you’re prone to winter colds. Kale and collards are relatively cheap and easy to make for a large crowd, and they’re still delicious this time of year.
4) Try organic. Go easier on your body (and the planet) buy purchasing organic, pastured meats. Organic farming works in harmony with nature, respecting the balance necessary for a healthy ecosystem. In addition to benefiting the environment, choosing organic also means no pesticides, hormones or antibiotics sneaking their way into your food. Happier cows = a happier, healthier you.
5) Indulge a little! The winter holidays come but once a year. Feeling deprived can make you become cranky, depressed, and set you up for bingeing later on. If you just can’t live without your aunt Minna’s triple chocolate mousse trifle, by all means, treat yourself to a small bowl and savor it slowly, intensely, and with as much pleasure as possible – no guilt allowed!