Whether you are the host or a guest, it is likely you will find yourself faced with many unhealthy food temptations during the holiday season. Family and friends (and their homes), going out to eat, or hosting your own party, can be triggers for unhealthy habits. Party food doesn’t need to be unhealthy to be fun and festive, and you don’t have to indulge senselessly to have a good time. And you’re not alone. Many people ask themselves, how do I avoid overindulging? There are many ways that you can have fun, manage your approach to holiday eating, and maintain your healthy habits all season long. Here are five tips to enjoy the holiday eating season with a healthy twist.
Sip alcohol responsibly
Alcohol is high in sugar and dehydrates the body, so it is not a good choice for a skin-healthy diet. Heath skin types are especially prone to being triggered by alcohol. Alcohol consumption increases your appetite while diminishes your ability to make healthy food decisions. In addition, alcohol is tough on your liver and depletes your body of important nutrients. People often ask me, “What about red wine?” Red wine does contain the antioxidant resveratrol, but there are many other ways to obtain antioxidants, such as through consuming colorful fruits and vegetables . During the holiday season, I recommend finding a happy balance. Sip and savor your favorite cocktails or wine in moderation and choose low sugar and organic options when possible. And take a break and enjoy sparkling water with a squeeze of lime or lemon, or a splash of pomegranate juice with fresh berries topped with a sprig of rosemary for a festive alternative!
Find dairy alternatives
Many holiday foods rely on dairy products. Whether it is a cheese-rich casserole, eggnog, or cakes and cookies made with butter and cream, it is very difficult to avoid dairy. Dairy is a problem food group for skin, and some studies suggest that skim milk is actually the worst for skin. Dairy is a common food allergen and contains growth hormones and anabolic steroids to help calves grow. Even if you buy “hormone-free” dairy products, bypassing all hormones in dairy is nearly impossible. Consuming these hormones may create imbalances when they interact with the body’s natural hormones. Another component of dairy products, lactose, is found in milk and has a high sugar content, which can impact skin health negatively. Luckily, there are many dairy alternatives today that are good substitutes for cow’s milk in most recipes, even your favorite holiday foods. Unsweetened nut milks, such as almond, coconut, hemp, oat and cashew milk are good replacement options. Cashew milk is especially rich and creamy in consistency and oat milk works well as an alternative in tea and coffee. No matter what kind of substitute you are using, it is important to read the label to look for hidden sugars and other ingredients that are detrimental to your skin and health.
Curb the caffeine
Most hosts, especially during breakfasts, brunches, and afternoon get-togethers, offer coffee as a beverage, which contains caffeine. And when your guard is down and your mind is in holiday mode, it is easy to drink more coffee than usual. Unfortunately, coffee contains large amounts of caffeine. Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant that is dehydrating and acidic, and it can deplete certain skin-enhancing vitamins and minerals. It does not nourish the body, but instead taxes your adrenals and neurologic system. It’s best to limit coffee and opt for herbal teas when they are available. If your tea needs sweetness, add a natural sweetener like stevia.
Bring a dish to share
If you feel stress and anxiety about sticking to healthy habits at a party, tell the host you want to help by bringing a dish (or two!) to share. Then, you’ll have one thing to feel good about eating. If you fill up on your dish (or dishes), you will have less room for temptation from less healthy foods. Bring foods that are gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free. If you are at home, serve the same types of foods! It doesn’t get much easier than buying a veggie tray if you don’t like to cook. Sometimes, it’s a little more expensive, so there’s also pre-chopped bags of vegetables. That way, you don’t even have to do any chopping. It’s just pre-chopped broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, or tomatoes. Serve it with a nourishing dip, like hummus. Bringing a green salad is also an easy healthy option. My book, Clean Skin from Within has many options for healthy recipes!
Plan in advance
If you know you are attending specific events during the holiday season, or hosting a big meal yourself, make healthy meals in advance. Double the recipe and freeze half of it for later. Soup is a warming and nourishing food that can be made in advance and frozen, then heated up quickly on the stove or in the crockpot. This habit allows you to start your day the healthy way, whether you are entertaining guests or eating on your own. Using a crockpot for homemade bone broth or other soups and stews makes it easy to add ingredients in the pot and let it cook while you shop or visit with friends and family.
Below, is the recipe for my Butternut Squash Soup. This is a favorite this time of year!
- 1 large butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup thinly sliced carrot
- ¼ – ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- Celtic or Himalayan salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 cups free range chicken stock
- ¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk
Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Peel the squash and cut into 1-inch pieces. In a large pot, heat coconut oil and onion over medium heat. Add and cook about 5 minutes. Add the carrot, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook for a minute, and then add squash, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and puree the soup with a hand blender or food processor. Return to heat, add the coconut milk and season to taste.
The holiday season is meant to be enjoyed with family, friends, and other loved ones. It is the perfect time to reflect on the many gifts life has to offer. Food is one of those gifts that has the ability to nourish your body. When you take a different perspective and create a healthy plan, you can truly practice intentional and mindful eating habits.