Every holiday season, we promise that this will be the year we don’t throw out all the healthy habits we’ve cultivated. Then we’re faced with busy days, boozy parties, and indulgent meals featuring all of our favorite seasonal foods. Before we knew it, we had fallen into a familiar, much less healthy cycle of too much sugar, sodium, and stress.
Believe it or not, a balance between totally indulging and absolutely abstaining from the seasonal foods and drinks you love is possible. It takes advanced planning, says Beth McCall, a certified sports dietitian based in Durham, NC, but she insists that none of us should let the holiday season derail our healthy habits.
“I use the idea of fueling your body whether you’re an athlete or not,” McCall says. No matter what your daily activity level looks like, the best approach to healthy eating is to keep loading up on nutritious foods throughout the day. Of course, the way you do this can differ from day to day, so McCall shared his tips for staying on track no matter what your schedule throws at you.
Healthy Habits at Home
First, you need to have the right foods on hand, and that starts with your cart. To shop smart, stay primarily in the perimeter of the grocery store where you will find produce, meat and dairy products. “That’s the answer, really – build a plate full of wholesome, wholesome, whole foods,” says McCall.
Once you’ve brought your groceries home, there’s still some work to do. “A good tip, especially during the holiday season when you’re running from event to event, is to prepare or cook in bulk,” McCall says. Setting aside time one day a week to chop your veggies and whip up some of your lean protein will make it easy to create a quick plate when you’re short on time.
On days when you have the time and inclination to whip up one of your favorite vacation recipes, take a moment to consider if you can make some healthy tweaks by swapping out one or two ingredients. McCall likes to replace sour cream with plain Greek yogurt, using an olive oil-based dressing rather than a creamy one in salads and, for cooking, using applesauce or bananas in place of oil.
Charleston, SC registered dietitian Mia Syn is also a big fan of the exchanges. One of her favorite tips is to lighten up holiday dishes by adding vegetables. “Try replacing half the potatoes in your mashed potatoes with cooked and mashed cauliflower, mashed butternut squash in your mac and cheese sauce, or use spaghetti squash instead of pasta in your favorite holiday noodle dish, ”she says. She has also noticed the emergence of meat and vegetable mixes in the consumer packaged product market, which helps people reduce their meat intake – and increase their intake of vegetables – without missing out on the foods they want. like.
That doesn’t mean every indulgent dish needs a makeover, McCall says. “If you eat your grandmother’s famous apple pie she bakes once a year, don’t swap recipes. Enjoy it!
Time to party
What about times when you’re not responsible for the food served, like at a dinner party or vacation gathering? “Don’t come on an empty stomach,” McCall says. “You’ll get there, you’ll see all this food and be really hungry, take big portions and potentially overeat. ”
McCall also has tips for creating the perfect party plate. “When you’re first going through the buffet line or getting your plate ready at the party, start with small portions of the foods you want to try,” she says, noting that now is the time to. taste the special foods that you rarely see. “Then you know what you really like – and after you’ve finished your first plate, if you’re still hungry, you can go back and choose only the ones you really liked. ”
And fun is an important part of the equation. “Slow down and take the time to enjoy the family and friends around you,” says McCall. “It allows you to slow down, enjoy your meal and listen to your body. Your body will tell you if you are full or want more.
When it comes to cocktails, beer, and wine, a good rule of thumb is to alternate a glass of water with each alcoholic beverage, McCall says. “It slows you down a bit, for one, and helps you stay hydrated – and that helps in the long run. She also likes to incorporate nutrient-rich blends, such as orange juice or tangy cherry juice, like Cheribundi, into mocktails and cocktails, with seltzer water. “(Cheribundi) contains antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, so your calories aren’t entirely empty calories,” she says.
Brands better for you
Stocking up on produce and other fresh foods is never a bad idea, but some packaged foods can also help simplify healthier snacks and drinks, says Rachel Krupa, founder of The Goods Mart, which she calls a socially responsible convenience store. “Consumers are smarter than ever before,” she says. “We know that what we consume has a direct impact on our health. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the growth of better-for-you brands through innovations that use less processed, more nutritious ingredients.
Krupa sees other exciting trends emerging in this space. “There is also a growth of healthy products not only for you, but also for the planet, with ingredients from regenerative agriculture, (and) recycled and fair trade foods, such as Goodfish, which recycles them. salmon skins, ”she says. Plus, she sees nutritious ingredients from other cultures being introduced to the United States, such as Ancient Provisions, which uses green banana flour in its Cheddar Cheezish crackers.
Ancient Provisions Founder and CEO Alex Duong saw the growing popularity of green banana flour during his time at Thrive Market, an online organic retailer. Besides being allergen-free and naturally prebiotic, the product is also comparable – people all over the world are familiar with bananas. “But more importantly, it has a texture similar to wheat flour,” says Duong, and as his company focuses on buying bananas from farmers to send them directly to the mills as much as possible, the farmers “don’t do not clean and prepare the bananas for retail. They prepare for the plant to be processed immediately, “he explains.” They do not have to worry that they will become overripe or disfigured, this which saves up to 20% in terms of waste. ”
In other cases, inspiration hits closer to home, as was the case with Tommy Kelly, co-founder of Sound, an organic sparkling beverage company, and his wife, Lauren, a registered dietitian. While working as a nuclear engineer, Kelly craved something cold, crisp and caffeine, “but without the garbage,” he says. “I looked at my sparkling water, then I looked at my tea and thought, why can’t I carbonate this? It turned out he could – and after buying loose tea and a SodaStream machine, he did.
The sound also emphasizes durability and generosity. They’ve avoided using plastic bottles throughout the supply chain, but now they’ve taken that commitment a step further. “Earlier this year, we made the decision to completely eliminate the shrink-wrapped plastic trays that most canned beverages are in and use a cardboard box instead,” says Kelly. “It’s more expensive for us, but it was important to eliminate all this plastic waste. They also recently started a new partnership with EcoCart, which allows customers to add a small amount, often less than a dollar or two, to offset carbon emissions from their order.
And outside of their own product, Lauren says they have a passion for partnering with organizations to improve access to food. “We’ve been working with Wellness in the Schools for a few years now, mainly through a program called WITS BITS, where they provide nutrition education and cooking demonstrations to children throughout the school day,” she says. The COVID-19 pandemic has of course brought about some changes in these programs, but Sound continues to give back with donations and using social channels to highlight other organizations that make it easy for people to make a difference.