The word “healthy” doesn’t often come to mind when you’re thinking of holiday food, parties, or presents. During this season of indulgence, most of us want to forget about health, enjoy ourselves, then deal with the consequences later.
To be honest, I’m like this too. I’d never pass up a cookie in favor of a celery stick, or choose to run five miles on Christmas morning instead of diving into a stocking full of candy. But there are many ways that we can consider health during the holidays without compromising our desire to splurge.
Here are some quick and easy tips for making your holiday season healthier for the whole family. (Don’t worry, no one will even notice!).
1. Make recipes with natural colors and flavors. Why? Because although the FDA swears that artificial colors are safe for human consumption, research has shown that artificial colorings are associated with behavior problems (hyperactivity, learning disabilities, and irritability) in children. Some children are especially sensitive, and may display symptoms of ADHD within an hour of eating a food dye, even if they don’t have ADHD or ADD. That’s reason enough to choose an alternative, if you ask me! Luckily, bright and festive holiday treats are easy to make using natural alternatives like fruit and vegetable-colored sprinkles, candy canes, and fruit snacks or gummy candies.
2. Serve a “heritage” holiday meal. Heritage and heirloom foods are foods not typically grown or distributed in large-scale agriculture. Purchasing these foods not only helps support U.S. family farmers, but also allows you and your guests to experience delicious and unique tastes at the holiday table. This season, create a meal around a heritage meat from Heritage Foods USA, and visit your local farmer’s market (or freezer section of the grocery store if you live in a chilly place) for seasonal and unique fruit and vegetable options.
3. If you don’t have time to bake holiday treats from scratch, choose natural or organic pre-made versions of cookie dough, frostings, candy, etc. Though these products aren’t exactly healthy, they will at least be free of artificial flavors and colors and sourced from higher quality ingredients. Some products to try include:
• Immaculate Baking Company cookie, cinnamon roll, and biscuit dough
• Let’s Do…Organic Sprinkelz
• Surf Sweets, Yummy Earth, or Pure Fun organic candy
• Wholly Wholesome frozen pie crusts, cakes, and cookies
• Dr. Oetker cake and frosting mixes
4. Buy and make only the amount of food you need. Abundance makes us feel good, so it’s tempting to make absolutely everything we can think of for our holiday meals. But beautifully presented food can be appealing and satisfying no matter the amount! This year, challenge yourself by preparing just a few of your favorite dishes, so the focus is on quality rather than quantity. You’ll feel good about reducing food waste (and saving money!), and your guests won’t feel obligated to overeat simply because the food is there.
5. Give gifts that promote sustainable food. This time of year, many charitable organizations offer gift-giving opportunities that stretch your dollars even further to help more people eat better. Right now, any donation you make to Farm Aid, which supports small family farmers, will be matched by one of their large donors! Or, help make good, clean, fair food available to all by joining the Slow Food Movement. Since many of us don’t need more material things, donating to your favorite food-focused organization in the name of a friend or family member is a great way to spread goodness during the holiday season.
The holidays are such a joyful and delicious time of year. Following a few of these tips helps to ensure that we all have greater and longer lasting joy, well after the season ends!
Amelia Winslow is a nutritionist, food lover, new mom, and the founder of Eating Made Easy, a blog that makes healthy eating easier for busy people. Get recipes, food news, nutrition tips, answers to your burning questions and more on Eating-Eade-Easy.com.