3 Keys to Healthy Holiday Feasting
How can you thoroughly enjoy the holidays without sacrificing your health?
Most people who are on a healing journey or maintaining hard-won health gains face the holidays with mixed feelings. We want to experience the joys of celebrating with friends and family, but when the food and festivities are fundamentally inflaming, this can come at a cost – one that could cause a hefty setback requiring weeks of recovery time.
How can we approach the holidays proactively, with the intention of holding a high standard for ourselves? How can we lead with the value of health and the desire to head into the new year feeling better than ever?
Here is some guidance and practical tips to support you in having a joyous, connected, and full-on celebratory holiday season without sacrificing an iota of life force energy. Now that’s having your cake and eating it too!
A Feast for the Spirit: Focus On Connection
I’ll cut right to the chase. What is it we really want from holiday celebrating? It’s a warm connection with the people we love (or at least like). Even when among relatives or people who push our buttons at times, we want to do our part to have moments of genuine connection. Forget the externals (like food and beverage) for a moment, and consider making this your #1 goal while at a gathering.
When you do your best to have a genuine connection with the people who are important to you, then your spirit and emotional body are fulfilled. There’s no need to attempt to meet emotional needs with food and drink that doesn’t serve the body, or stay out too late with people who drain you.
A Gratitude or Reflection Circle
If it feels right, formally or informally (e.g. spontaneously around the dinner table as we did at our Thanksgiving dinner), give each person a turn to share what they are most grateful for in the past year. It’s a wonderful way to deepen the conversation and truly see and hear each person you are communing with.
Plan With YOUR Needs In Mind
Whether you are hosting or joining a party elsewhere, plan for your needs and be prepared to share. Many people enjoy learning about dishes that are both healthy (e.g. won’t cause them to gain weight), and also taste great!
Whether or not your family and friends are interested and open-minded enough to try new things, there’s only one person who can take care of you, and that’s YOU!
So take time now to think ahead about the social plans you are making, and how you want to plan so that the feasting part of a gathering doesn’t leave you with nothing safe to eat. For example, when the sweets and sugars are the greatest danger, bring a dessert that is (at least mostly) compliant with your diet. You might want to bring a non-alcoholic beverage, a big salad, a soup – or in some cases all of the above!
Remember, it’s your body, and you will want to have on hand whatever foods you want and need to feel well-nourished – however bland or odd those might seem to others.
Below are a few great recipes that I have made and share regularly for family and friends at holiday time. We generally follow a grain-free diet, and I’m not a big meat eater either, so these recipes are in that vein.
Big festive salad. There are so many directions to go in, but here’s a few to choose from – beautiful and delicious!
Kumquat Radish Salad with Dukkah
For a warm vegetable dish, this one is easy. I am slightly obsessed with brussel sprouts, how versatile and delicious with their mild bitterness they are this time of year. You can’t go wrong with this simple, classic combo.
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts & Onion
As for desserts, these flourless pumpkin brownies are not too sweet, and make kids (and the kid in you) quite happy. Where the recipe calls for chocolate chips I use Lily’s stevia-sweetened chips. It can be baked in a pan and served whole like a cake with toppings – such as homemade whipped cream (sweetened with stevia, monkfruit or maple syrup) and/or a berry sauce – or cut up into pieces for a party. This recipe was shared with me by dear friend Sangeeta, who made it for her daughter’s 8th birthday party.
I am a big fan of special beverages, especially those that are both celebratory and superfoods! If you are looking for alternatives to alcohol or other sugary drinks, I recommend having some irresistible and inspiring options on hand. For example,
Gold Mine Mineral Rich Tea is Bloom & Reveal Botanicals herbal blend that is designed to enrich the body with nutrient-dense plants. It’s a great way to warm and build your vitality throughout the winter months. It’s caffeine free, and delicious any time of day.
AIP Toasted Coconut “Egg” Nog (paleo / vegan). Love this unique dairy-free alternative to egg nog!
Focus On Festivities
It’s true that food is a huge part of celebrating that many families bond over, but there are other great ways to spend time together that are fun and engaging. When we take the focus away from food, it helps everyone discover pleasurable ways of connecting that are surprising, perhaps child-like, and that bring out the best in us. Here are some of the things our family does to have fun when we’re all together other than sitting down to eat.
Disco light & fun family holiday playlist
Seriously, when was the last time you got your groove on? Set the mood with some fun lighting and enjoy the process of gathering songs from your friends and family. Compile the playlist ahead of time and play it during the gathering so the crowd gets to enjoy hearing and remembering favorite Christmas songs from friends and relatives of different ages and styles. The next thing you know, people will be singing and moving, smiling and grooving.
A game of charades
If you want a hilariously fun way to spend time with others, consider inciting a game of charades at your holiday gathering.
Puzzles can be started and placed out on a table, in a quiet corner perhaps, where passersby can get sucked into the vortex of putting the pieces together. It is a fun group project that can engage people of most ages and abilities.
A walk in the woods or around the block
Getting outdoors and appreciating the neighborhood or nature can be a great way to spend time together and get everyone moving in an expansive setting.
A poetry, story or music share
Depending on the talents or desires of your group, ask everyone to bring a poem, story or song to share. This brings an elevating soulful vibe that sparks interesting conversation and appreciation for each other.
Warning: Don’t try all of these at once! Just choose 1 or maybe 2, and get your crowd gradually more open to shifting traditions in a healthy way that serves everyone, including the coming generations.
Young people benefit from role modeling and seeing how the adults in their world can make choices that put the values of nourishing health and connection first and foremost over traditions that no longer serve the family (like refusal to update treasured family recipes even though half of the family can no longer eat gluten and enjoy the dessert without getting sick!).
Imagine how good you will feel in the post-holiday quiet knowing that you made it through the holidays with minimal drain on your health, having enjoyed friends and family maximally without life-force drain or self-abandonment.
Are there some holiday tips and tricks that have worked well for you? Share them with us below!