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How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

November 23, 2020

How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Guest Author - Lauren Aprahamian

This week's blog comes from Lauren Aprahamian, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and friend and ambassador to SPRING.

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As a nutritionist, I get asked about tips and tricks for staying healthy over the holidays all the time. Misleading magazine and online articles have us believing we need to restrict certain foods/food groups and overcome our cravings (without offering any direction or reason why), but that advice contributes to poor eating habits, and ultimately, an unhealthy mindset around food.  

With the unexpected year we’ve had, the holidays feel as if they bring something more magical than the typical joy and merriment. This year, they bring a glimpse of normalcy. So, let’s embrace these upcoming seasons with gratitude and mindfulness, and leave our worries of the calories in mashed potatoes and gingerbread cookies at the door (or the waiting room if you’re on Zoom). Here are my Top 5 Tips for Healthy Holidays.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD

Roasts, casseroles, pies, and cookies lined up on display and filling the room like a kaleidoscope of scents. Though the food itself seems to be the centerpiece of the holidays, it’s the act of gathering and spending time around your friends and family that is truly what is being celebrated. Don’t make food your center of attention. Instead, let yourself get pleasure from eating without restriction (food is meant to be part of celebration!) and spend this time focusing on what the season is about and why you’re gathered. 

BE PRESENT

My favorite mantra, and one you most likely have heard before, is “Be Here Now.” It’s a daily reminder to be in the now, live in the moment, and connect with the present. The “what if’s” and “to-do’s” only interfere with our ability to concentrate on being present and it takes away from the spirit of the holiday season. Wrap presents, bake, and cuddle up to a cozy fire with a book or favorite holiday drink and take a mental note about how you feel when you are fully present.

PLAN AHEAD

Plan ahead your meals for the week. There’s no excuse to “fall off the wagon” when you have a plan! By doing this, you allow yourself the *fabulous* option to have a healthy snack before attending holiday engagements so that you’re not showing up completely starving – a surefire way to end up uncomfortably full. 

You can also bring your own dish to a holiday! Not only can this be helpful to your host, but it provides you (and others) a nutrient-dense meal option. I’ve added a few recipes below if you need some inspiration!

PRACTICE MINDFUL EATING

Giving yourself permission to enjoy all food takes away the scarcity and urgency factor when it comes to eating. However, it’s important to check in with yourself throughout your meal and gauge how hungry you truly are. 

The key is to eat slowly. Chewing your food (even putting your silverware down in between bites) gives your body time to catch up and start the digestion process. Asking yourself questions like: “How am I feeling?, Do I want more?, Am I eating more because it’s there?, Am I starting to feel full?” helps to observe the signs and signals your body sends to you about your hunger. Practicing mindful eating even beyond the holidays will help you to better trust and learn the levels of hunger and fullness that are unique to you.

GIVE YOURSELF GRACE

If you’ve indulged in an extra helping of Grandma’s famous casserole, enjoy it and move on. There is no point in dwelling on your food choices. Instead, use this as a learning experience, create a plan for the next time, and make sure to add an extra scoop of veggies to your meal – they are full of fiber and nutrients, the perfect way to add volume to your dish, and keep you satisfied longer. 

Regardless of how you chose to celebrate the holidays this year, I hope these tips take a bit of stress off your plate (to make room for some roasted vegetables, of course) and you are able to close out 2020 on a high note. 

Wishing you a healthy and safe holiday season!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced into cubes
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, ends cut off and halved (or quartered if they are large)
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° 
  2. Cook the bacon on a baking sheet until just crisp, then place on a paper towel-lined plate, leaving bacon grease on baking sheet.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine squash, brussels sprouts, cooked bacon, olive oil, salt and pepper; mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  4. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet and roast in the oven 30-35 minutes, turning halfway until the vegetables are fork-tender and lightly browned. Remove from oven. 
  5. In a small bowl mix together maple syrup and balsamic vinegar and drizzle over the vegetables. Gently toss to make sure they are evenly coated. 

Basil Pesto Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients

  • (For pesto)
  • 4 oz fresh basil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

(For cauliflower)

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pesto
  • 3 Tbs parmesan cheese, optional
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. To make the pesto, place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Once finished, scoop out pesto and place into a bowl.
  3. Chop the cauliflower into florets and place in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Toss the florets with pesto, salt, pepper, and olive oil until evenly coated. Spread into a single layer on a greased baking sheet. 
  5. Roast cauliflower for 20-30 minutes, removing halfway through to stir. 
  6. If you want to add parmesan cheese, remove the baking sheet from the oven 2-3 minutes prior to being finished, add parmesan cheese and place back in the oven until cheese melts.



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