Healthier Holidays

Depending on which holidays you celebrate, the season might begin as early as Halloween. For most of us, the festivities start with Thanksgiving and continue through New Year's Day. Our celebrations inevitably involve decadent foods, drinks, and lots of treats we might avoid during the rest of the year. Can we honor these holidays without losing our minds and our waistlines?

Yes. But...

Holidays are all about tradition. Your family probably has its own particular recipes and rituals. I know I cannot fathom having anything but a whole roasted turkey for Thanksgiving. I've tried other options, and I've always ended up sad and sorry. For a holiday to feel "right," we need to hold onto enough "truth" from our traditions.

So how can we celebrate in a healthier way? The answer, for me, is tweaking. Taking those traditional recipes that we have every year and putting a healthy spin on them. For example, check out this pumpkin pie recipe. I have tweaked the regular recipe by making a healthier crust with rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, and shredded coconut for added fiber and good fats. The filling contains no dairy, using coconut cream instead of evaporated milk or cream. For those who can't tolerate dairy or gluten, this pie is a delicious solution.

Another holiday staple which might need some tweaking is gravy. I have a trick for making yummy gravy without added flour. Use the roasting pan drippings and just add a cup or two of turkey or chicken stock. Homemade is always best, but store-bought stock will work just fine. Stir the stock into the drippings and heat over a medium flame. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the gravy comes to the desired thickness. Add chopped fresh herbs like parsley if you like. (This gravy will be thinner than a typical gravy thickened with flour, but will have tons of great flavor!) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If you normally avoid sugar, flour, and junk foods, you can choose to relax your standards for a day (like on Thanksgiving) or a meal here and there over the holiday season. This might be a good strategy if you tend to be very strict with your diet. Occasionally loosening up and allowing yourself a few treats is okay! However, if you have food allergies this could be a recipe for feeling crappy and exacerbating your symptoms.

Choose the best strategy for your health and happiness. Remember: you are in charge of your own body!

Have you found way to make the holidays healthier? Share your tips and techniques.