How to Have a Healthy Holiday

healthy holiday
Photo by: Jennifer Pallian

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with clients lately about how to have a healthy holiday.

So I want to share with you a few tips so you can have a healthy holiday too.

I can’t tell you how many years I spent the majority of months sticking to a rigid plan only to let it completely fall apart in the last two.

The holidays make the rest of the year look easy.

All the parties (OK maybe not so much in a pandemic), Christmas cookies, urges to bake something, hankerings for hot chocolate, and excuses to drink… well, it adds up quickly.

I’m here to tell you…

You can do, eat, and drink all the things and still have a healthy holiday.

The trick is having a few practices that will help keep you on the rails… or at least get you right back on when you fall off (cause we all do!).

Here they are…

Stick to Your Routine

Remember health is more about what happens every day and not as much about eating a few donuts.

The key is having regular things you do every day, automatically, without even having to think about it, that create health.

I’m talking about things like drinking water first thing in the morning (before coffee) to rehydrate and flush your system.

Having your regular healthy breakfast.

Getting those greens in at (most) every meal.

Going to bed at the same time every night and better yet – having a wind down routine to help you sleep even deeper.

Moving your body in ways that you enjoy every single day.

If you’re already doing these things – great! You’re ahead of the game.

If you’re not, there’s no better time to start.

Think of it this way, when the majority of the time (80-90 percent) you’re sticking to your routine, doing all the things, and doing them automatically so you don’t even have to think about them…

When you do go out to eat, to an event (you know, when there’s not a pandemic), or just want to eat a donut, you can indulge and enjoy. Cause you know afterward you’ll be right back at it.

Photo by: Ella Olsson

Add In to Crowd Out

Over the years I’ve learned one important truth: Deep down we’re all 5 year olds. Tell me I can’t have something and what am I going to want? The thing.

Not sure if you’ve noticed this – we hear a lot more about what we shouldn’t be eating than what we should… (hello, low carb diet).

So I say forget about the shouldn’ts and focus on the shoulds.

Try adding in more of the shoulds to crowd out the shouldn’ts.

The shouldn’ts aren’t off the table, they’re just not getting any attention.

And before you know it, there’s simply no room for them. They’ve been crowded out.

This subtle shift makes huge difference.

Count Colors not Calories

Calories are so 1997…. Old ways die hard though and I often hear from clients they’re still stuck in the calorie counting trap.

Remember Weight Watchers?

In WW vegetables are free. They don’t cost you any points.

When you eat a real food, whole food diet, most of your food ends up being “free.”

Which means no counting necessary.

If you want to count something – count color, variety and nutrient-density – now talk about getting some points! When you count these things you’re giving your body the things it can really work with… not just something to burn.

Communicate Any Dietary Needs (and Remember this…)

This one’s for my food allergy and sensitivity folks… (oh hey, that’s me!). I see you, I get you, I’ve got you.

This time of year can be especially hard when there are certain foods you know you need to avoid at all costs for your health.

I know it’s not an easy thing to do. I can tell you from experience though, it’s worth it and totally do-able with the right approach…

  • Be up front and explain. Tell those that you’re comfortable sharing with that this isn’t some latest fad diet to lose weight. That you’re doing this to feel better/get out of pain and so far it’s working so it’s important that you stick with it.
  • Be clear about what you can’t eat. And then help them out. Many simply prepared dishes are just fine as is or things can be easily cooked in olive oil instead of butter if avoiding dairy, for example. These are easy swaps when you know about them; it’s just that most people don’t.
  • Offer to bring something and make/bring something to share that you know you’ll be happy eating, even if it’s the only thing. This way you know there will be at least one thing on the table that you’re 100% good with. Bonus, you’re sharing your new ways with others and you may just introduce someone else to a new favorite recipe. See below for ideas…
  • Give others grace. Remember that seeing others make dietary changes can be triggering. Know that snide comments, jokes, etc. are about them not you. Seeing your change is like holding up a mirror – it reflects back to them. And most people know that they need to make a change but haven’t because it’s hard, scary and uncomfortable. Stay strong and know too that just by sticking to it you’re showing what is possible, do-able, and you just might inspire them… without even saying a word. What a gift.

Healthify Your Favorite Holiday Foods

Who says celebratory foods and treats have to be unhealthy anyway?

Make healthier versions of your favorite holiday treats so you can satisfy the want without feeling the adverse effects.

You can swap whole food sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses that have a gentler effect on blood sugar.

Try using alternate flours like almond meal, coconut flour, plantain or cassava (especially if you are avoiding gluten).

If you want some new ideas and healthified versions of old favorites, grab my GF & DF for the Holidays recipe book.

It has 28 recipes that have passed the test and made it to holiday tradition status in my own family.

Some of my favs in there are olive oil mashed potatoes, breadless stuffing, the brussel sprouts, roasted carrot salad, chocolate chip cookies, coconut macaroons, and cranberry and pear tart.

You can see the full list of recipes included here.

And if you want to test out a few first, you can download a free sample here.

When you purchase the book you’ll also be feeding another family in need this holiday – 20 percent of your purchase will be going to Feeding America.

Get the expanded Holiday recipe book here.

OK, Your Turn Now…

I hope these tips help you have a healthy holiday this year.

I’d love to know, what’s worked for you? What’s your biggest challenge this time of year? What helps keep you on track to have as healthy holiday as possible?

Share with us in the comments.


P.S. Get the DF & DF Holiday recipe book here. It’s got 28 recipes, all 100% free of gluten, dairy, refined sugar, that have passed the test with my own family and made it to holiday tradition status. See the recipes included and get the book here.

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