How to Stay Healthy Over the Holiday

How to Stay Healthy Over the Holiday

Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day or any other celebratory event, everyone has their own traditions and way of celebrating, but much of it will include a lot of sugar, processed food and alcohol. These “festive foods” are strongly tied to all the happy holiday memories, making a powerful emotional connection in our minds when we eat these foods. In our minds, happiness is tied to eating marshmallow bunnies, christmas cookies, halloween candy, valentines day chocolates…and as we get older, washing it down with celebratory drinks. So it’s no wonder so many people are sick at the end of the holiday period, when it’s time to get back to school and work. Well maybe it’s time for some new traditions! Isn’t it possible to celebrate, have a holiday AND take good care of our bodies so we feel amazing even after the party is over?

Bex and Brad enjoying the Christmas Holiday 2008
Kaiya was in my belly this XMAS. There’s sparkling water in my champagne glass.

All I Want For Christmas is a Good Body

The number one New Year’s resolutions are to get fit, lose weight, and eat healthy, but we spend several weeks before the new year trashing our bodies! Well, this is the year things are going to change for YOU. You are reading this article, and soon will be armed with new ways of approaching any holiday time so that you don’t come out the other side tired, sick and several kilos fatter. So let’s get to it – If there’s going to be a holiday feast and party platters, let’s talk about food!

Every Feast Starts with Meat & Veggies

Meat and veggies are always a feature at any holiday gathering, so make these foods the bulk of your plate! If you’re throwing the party or bringing a plate, make colourful and delicious meat and veggie dishes. When you go to a party, find the meat and veg and fill up on those first. What’s more festive than a roast pork with crackling and roasted vegetables? Or for summer holidays – fresh prawns, barbequed meats and colourful salads? The list of festive meat and veg dishes could be endless but here are some ideas:

– Chicken, beef, lamb or fish on skewers! Alternate the meat with colourful veggies and grill them up for an easy main party dish. Kids love to help make the skewers too.

– Roast turkey, lamb, ham, chicken, pork, or beef. Rub on some salt and herbs; crisp up the crackling; stuff poultry with cut oranges or lemons. You’ll have healthy leftovers for days.
Throw plenty of veggies in too while you’ve got the oven on. Whole sweet potatoes, pumpkin, parsnips, beetroot, onion…or cut them all up and make a roast veggie medley.

– Whole grilled fish, fish cakes, fresh prawns and other shellfish. Seafood is very festive and the possibilities are endless.

– Green beans or broccoli sprinkled with crispy bacon; grated/shredded cabbage, carrot and capsicum (bell pepper) salad with chopped nuts, raisins, orange wedges, oil and vinegar; leafy green salads with loads of colourful toppings.

Make low-sugar, flour-free holiday treats
Raw gingerbread men from chocolatecoveredkatie.com

Sweets without all the Sugar

The best sweet food for any occassion is fruit. Make fruit skewers, fruit salad or a fruit platter. Use as many colourful fruits as possible for the season. Cut fruit shapes with cookie cutters. Hollow out melons to use as a decorative fruit salad bowl.

Nuts and seeds are another perfect snack food for any get together. Toss raw nuts with mixed spices; serve nuts in the shell with a nutcracker; make a trail mix; roast pumpkin seeds.

One of the biggest obstacles, however, to your healthy holiday is all those chocolates, cakes, cookies and candies. Every holiday, there they are staring you in the face, luring you with happy sugar-filled fun memories. There are three ways of getting over this hurdle:

1/ Just say no. If you are the type of person who can’t just have one bite, and is easily addicted to sweets, make a pact to yourself to not even have one bite. Before each party, remind yourself of the consequences of eating sweets: weight gain, bad moods, tiredness (sugar coma), getting sick, or whatever relates to your body and goals. Fill up on meats, veggies, fruits and nuts, and if anyone asks, keep your explanation simple and upbeat.

2/ Choose your battles. Decide which holiday sweets are your absolute favourite and have a small plate or handful of that. Keep in mind the 80/20 rule – take great care of your health 80% of the time, and it will be strong enough to handle the stress, sugar, and toxins you incur 20% of the time. Have a plate of christmas pudding, a slice of pumpkin pie, or a small Lindt chocolate bunny as part of your celebration. Enjoy it slowly and leave it at that.

3/ Make paleo / primal sweets and treats. With the paleo ‘movement’ and health awareness growing rapidly, there are hundreds of recipes for baked goods and sweets with less to no sugar and flour. And being homemade, it won’t have additives and preservatives! Some great sites for these recipes:

www.fastpaleo.com
www.elanaspantry.com
www.thenourishinggourmet.com
www.primal-palate.com
www.civilizedcavemancooking.com

You can celebrate holidays without drinking alcohol

Cheers! What about alcohol?

In many of our cultures, hardly any celebration is without alcohol. However, if you are eating well, exercising and making lifestyle changes to feel healthier and/or lose weight, drinking alcohol can quickly reverse all your hard work. So try these ideas during the holidays:

If you want to only have a few drinks:

– Sip your drink slowly. Slowly drink a full glass of water between each drink.
– Drink spirits straight or only mixed with water, soda water, or sparkling water. Leave out the soda and fruit juice mixers!
– Dilute your wine and champagne. Halve your glass of white wine and fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water. Fruit puree fills up a champagne glass well and tastes nice.
– Keep lots of healthy food snacks nearby as alcohol will make you crave junk food.

If you want to celebrate without drinking at all:

– Bring a bottle of sparkling mineral water and some fresh limes, so you’ll have a nice drink for yourself. Also, drinking this in a short glass looks like a cocktail, so you won’t get pestered to have an alcoholic drink.
– Make mocktails with blended fresh or frozen fruit and sparkling mineral water.
– Think about how great you’ll feel tomorrow and know that you’re not really missing much.

Eating isn’t the only holiday activity

There is more to holidays than consuming food, alcohol and material goods! Put your time and energy into memorable activities and traditions and make your celebrations revolve around the activity.

– Go for a walk or drive to look at Christmas lights
– Set up an Easter egg hunt or a more challenging scavenger hunt for adults
– Have a Halloween costume parade and competition
– Go Caroling or sing carols at home
– Play board games, do puzzles, make crafts
– Play at the beach, in the snow, by the lake, in the park
– Serve meals at a homeless shelter or deliver old clothes to the needy
– Dance!

Don’t forget the other 5 of the Primal 6

– Thoughts: Say no if you feel too busy or pressured; omit holiday traditions that are too stressful; stay within your budget and do free things; make time for yourself.
– Breath: Take time to stop and breathe and/or lay on a foam roller; use your holiday time to learn breathing techniques, meditation and yoga.
– Water: Keep drinking plenty of filtered water. Keep your water bottle with you at all times.
– Movement: Get outdoors and play; dance with friends and family or by yourself in the living room; do some stretches every morning or night; join an active group or sport.
– Rest/Sleep: Get to bed by 10pm on the nights when you are not out, so you don’t accumulate too much sleep debt from late night celebrating. Don’t overschedule yourself, make rest time.

The Golden Rules of Healthy Socialising

Lastly, never forget the golden rules of staying healthy at parties, dinners, and social events. These apply perfectly to holiday time:

1/ If you know there won’t be much healthy food offered, eat well before you leave home!
2/ Never stand next to the food table / buffet / snack table / bar.
3/ Carry lots of whole food snacks with you like raw veggies, nuts, fruit, egg muffins, salmon cakes, and spinach bread. This is especially important for your children!
4/ For main meals, serve up your plate then don’t go back for seconds. Avoid family style dining and buffets when possible. Learn more on portion control.
5/ Decide before you go if you will have no sugar and/or alcohol or just a little, and stick to it.
6/ Enjoy a small amount of unhealthy food and drinks if you are following the 80/20 rule for health and weight maintenance.
7/ Don’t make a big deal explaining your healthy choices. Simple, upbeat answers work best.

Above all, enjoy yourself! Stressing about the challenge of staying healthy over the holiday can cause more health problems than actually having the cookies. So instead of thinking that you will be deprived of treats and drinks, focus on all that you will receive and enjoy about the holiday – homemade food, friends and family, music and activities. Happy Holidays!

Healthy Party Food for both Kids and Adults

I used to think that the term healthy party food was an oxymoron.
How can you use healthy and party in the same breath?
Haven’t we all had a party throw us off our healthy eating goals?
Or felt like a party-pooper for not partaking in all the rich, sugary, processed party food?
Well it doesn’t have to be like that anymore.

Healthy party food ideas and recipes

First of all, getting healthy (instead of just skinny) is getting more popular, as people are realising how much better life is when you have good health. So you are not the only party-goer who wants to eat real food. Secondly, now that we’ve ditched the low-fat diet myths and embraced Primal diets, we have much more delicious and filling choices for our party menus!

Here are some of our favourite party food ideas, most of which would best suit casual get-togethers and kids parties, but can also be fancied up for a stylish cocktail party or any occassion. Either way, these party dishes can all be made very inexpensively, so your party doesn’t break the bank.

When you are trying to think of what to make for a party, just think of Primal food basics: animal food and plant food. Animal food is red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, wild game. Plant food is vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.

 

Meats, Chicken, Fish & Eggs

Let’s start with some delicious animal food party dishes that are so simple to make. A good quality wholesale butcher is your best bet for getting grass-fed/free-range meats at cheaper prices. Never buy caged eggs, and always look for wild caught fish, even if you use canned fish.

Mini sausages (chipolatas)
A party favourite with kids and grown-ups alike! Some toothpicks are all you really need to serve these with, but you could also easily do a homemade ketchup or chutney, or a good-quality mustard for dipping the sausages. If you want a more sophisticated presentation, try skewering the whole sausages lengthwise, or use lemongrass to skewer diagonal slices, as shown above.

Sausages on lemongrass skewers
Sausages on lemongrass skewers

Mini sausages with chutney, relish or salsa
Sausages with chutney or relish

Chicken wings or drumettes
Just as easy as sausages, and all you need are lots of napkins. These can be baked in a 350F oven in 20 minutes, or you can turn the temp down and cook long and slow for up to 1.5 hours to make nice and crispy. For flavour, google a baked chicken wing recipe, or try my favourite simple coating of sesame oil, olive oil, cider vinegar or rice vinegar, soy sauce, grated ginger, and an optional touch of honey. Mix it all in a bowl, then simply brush it onto your wings before baking.

Chicken wings or drumettes
Chicken wings and drumettes
photo: mykitchensnippets.com

Meatballs
These can be as simple or fancy as you wish, depending on what you mix the meat with before rolling into balls. For basic meatballs, all you need is ground meat, one egg, onion, herbs and spices. No need for breadcrumbs or fillers; the egg in your mixture works well at holding the small balls together. Most recipes call for browning the meatballs first, before finishing in the oven. But if you are short on time, you can do the whole thing in the oven: 375F for 20 minutes should do it.

Meatballs are great party food
Homemade meatballs

Fish cakes
A good quality canned red or pink salmon can be used as a shortcut to fresh fish. Most recipes call for forming the mixture into patties and pan-frying, but it’s even easier to just spoon the fish cake mixture into a greased mini-muffin tin and cook in the oven for about 25 min on 350F (180C). Instead of breadcrumbs as filler, here is a great fish cakes recipe using almond flour, and another one using coconut flour. You can vary the taste with different ingredients, such as garlic, chili, ginger, lemongrass, fresh dill/parsely/cilantro, and ground spices.

Salmon fish cakes with coconut flour    Salmon Fish Cakes

  • 1 can salmon (8 oz)
  • 1 tbs. coconut flour
  • 1/2-1tbs lime or lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional:1 tbs. mustard

Egg Muffins
Beat 6 eggs in a bowl with choice of fillings: diced meat and/or veggie leftovers, herbs, raw cheese, seasoning. Bake in a buttered muffin tin for 20 minutes on 180C (350F). A mini-muffin tin is even better for party sized egg muffins and for little kids. Some favourite fillings include roasted pumpkin, bacon, leek, capsicum (bell pepper), sausage, and olives. Here are more ingredient ideas for egg muffins.

Deviled Eggs
This is an oldie but a goodie, and loved by kids and adults alike. It’s nothing more than hard boiled eggs with the yolks fancied up and restuffed into the egg. Google a recipe or just improvise. No need for mayo, but if you use it, best to make your own. Otherwise, mustard and seasonings work great, and you can dress the eggs up by topping with diced or slivered raw red capsicum (bell pepper), avocado and bacon, or just some fresh dill.

Deviled eggs with avocado and bacon
Deviled eggs with avocado and bacon

 

Fruit & Vegetables

Now for the plant foods. There are endless possibilities for enticing party presentations with all the colourful fruit and vegetables!

Fruit skewers and platters
These can be as simple or fancy as you wish. Simply peel, cut and skewer the fruits or arrange on a platter. If you’re feeling creative, make designs or do a colour scheme.

Fruit & veg Sesame Street party platters
Fruit & veg Sesame Street party platters

Raw veggie sticks and platters
The more types of veggies you use, the more colourful your platter. Try carrots, celery, cucumber and capsicum (bell pepper). You can also use purple or yellow carrots, various colours of capsicum, and jicama, if you can find them. Serve with homemade dips like babaganoush, hummus, beetroot hummus, (kids love the colour), guacamole, olive tapenade, or sweet potato and cashew dip. Google a dip recipe! For kids parties, you can arrange the fruit and veg into shapes on the platters, or do something like these clever Sesame Street faces.

‘Ants on a log’ is a very fun dish that especially appeals to children but can easily be fancied up for adults. For the log, celery is most popular, but carrots and banans sliced longways also work well. The traditional filling is nut butter, topped with raisins for the ‘ants’. If you don’t want to use nut butter, try hummus or another homemade dip, or tuna or chicken salad for a more filling dish. Variations on toppings (ants) include diced banana, strawberry, berries, shredded coconut, dried cranberries, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

Tuna and cranberries ants on a log
Tuna and cranberries ants on a log

Grilled/marinated vegetables
Slice zucchini, capsicum (bell pepper), and eggplant, brush with olive oil and cook under a grill (broiler) or on the barbeque until soft. Add more flavour by adding crushed garlic, ginger and/or herbs to the olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste and lay colourfully on a platter. Asparagus, green beans, mushrooms and tomatoes also work well, and olives, pickles and dried tomatoes add a nice touch.

Grilled vegetable party platter
Grilled vegetables platter

Homemade popcorn
Put 1/4 cup certified organic popcorn kernels in a pot with 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Cover and shake every couple minutes until popping starts, then turn heat down slightly and keep covered until popping starts. Pour over some melted butter, sprinkle on some sea salt and you have a healthy version of a very popular snack! You can also get creative with your toppings, like adding ground cumin, coriander, paprika and cayenne to the sea salt and butter for a spicy popcorn.

Homemade popcorn
Homemade organic popcorn

Homemade sushi
Making your own sushi allows for great versatility. You can make them with cooked vegetables, raw vegetables, rice, quinoa, meats, chicken, fish – it’s up to you. Cut your sushi rolls into small slices and you have a filling and healthy finger food everyone will love. Here’s how to roll your own sushi plus lots of great ingredient ideas for all different types of parties.

 

Party Sweets & Cake

For desserts, think “better bad” choices. For example, your coconut macaroons will still have sugar in them, but by making them yourself, you can choose to use good quality sugars, such as real maple syrup, coconut sugar or rapadura. You may want to make a cream cheese frosting for your cupcakes, which is not a great choice because it’s pasteurised dairy. However, it’s a much better choice than commercial frostings loaded with fake ingredients, and it’s only a small amount that each person will have. These are both better bad choices.

Thanks to the current Paleo and Primal food revolution, there are hundreds of delicious better bad desserts on the internet. Elana’s Pantry is particularly popular for her gluten-free, grain-free, low-sugar and raw treats.

Cacao Balls
These delectable bite-sized treats can be made many different ways, depending on your tastes and dietary restrictions. Start with our recipe for raw cacao balls, then try different versions using dates, various nuts and seeds, and even liquor. If you don’t have raw cacao, use minimally processed cocoa. As an alternative, dried apricots and shredded coconut make delicious apricot balls.

Raw chocolate and coconut balls
Raw cacao balls rolled in crushed almonds

Morning Glory Muffins
Instead of cupcakes for Kaiya’s 3rd and 4th birthday party, we made morning glory muffins with yoghurt cheese and honey icing. Soooo yum!

Healthy cupcakes for kids birthday party
Morning Glory muffins with cream cheese frosting and homemade sprinkles

Makes 12
2 1/2 cups almond flour or almond meal
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups carrots, peeled and grated
1 large apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup raisins
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey (optional)
1/2 cup coconut or olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a standard-sized muffin pan.
2. Combine almond flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add carrot, apple, coconut and raisins and combine well.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, honey, oil and vanilla extract together.
4. Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and mix very well. The batter will be very thick.
5. Spoon the batter out into muffin pan and place on upper or middle rack of your oven for 40-50 minutes.
6. When a toothpick inserted into the top of a muffin comes out clean, the muffins are done.
7. Cool muffins in the pan for 8-10 minutes and then remove to a rack to finish cooling.

Recipe from: paleocomfortfoods.com

Cream Cheese Frosting – with no icing sugar! For about 12 cupcakes
1 cup softened cream cheese (or yoghurt cheese)
8 Tbsp softened butter
2-4 Tbsp Honey (depending on how sweet you like)
1 tsp. Vanilla
Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy (or just mix with a spoon!). Beat or mix in honey and vanilla.
Recipe from: helium.com

For kids parties, the best strategy is to keep things simple. A platter of watermelon slices, some popcorn and grapes are loved by all! The same can often be said for adults as far as simplicity is concerned. People love to go to a party and find recognizable and wholesome food. Don’t you agree?

 

Do you have a favourite healthy party food recipe?