By Shelley Alexander
For many people, the holidays involve indulging in buffet tables loaded with lots of fattening, processed foods and sugary sweets.
For those of us who strive the rest of the year to eat a healthy diet while leading busy lives, it can be a challenging time. Not only are we busier than ever, we know that all those foods we usually try to avoid are going to give us indigestion, sap our energy, and pile on the pounds.
But it really isn’t hard to give yourself, your family and friends the gift of delicious, nutrient-rich meals over the holidays.
Instead of heading to the local supermarket, visit a farmers’ market, where you can buy fresh, local, seasonal and organic produce, along with other nutritious foods from farmers and local food artisans. You’ll have a much more enjoyable experience in addition to stocking up on all the ingredients you need to have handy. You can also find excellent choices at natural and health food stores.
Choose foods that will nourish you and ramp up your energy: Nutrient-rich, whole foods that don’t have unnatural fillers and other additives; seasonal, organic vegetables and fruits; wild-caught seafood, and pasture-raised, organic chicken and meats that come from well-fed, unadulterated, healthy animals.
While eating well might seem like a difficult, unrealistic goal during the high-fat holiday season, you can make it work for you with some tips for quick and convenient healthy eating.
• When shopping, check labels and avoid foods with a long list of ingredients. The best whole foods have one or just a few unprocessed or minimally processed, easily recognized ingredients. Among ingredients to avoid: chemicals, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, nitrates, MSG, genetically modified ingredients and preservatives (indicated by the initials BHT, BHA, EDTA and THBQ.)
• Set aside a few hours each week to prep foods to eat in the days ahead. Cut up produce and store it in airtight containers. Lightly wash fruits and vegetables before using with natural vegetable wash, or use one part white vinegar to three parts water. Make several homemade vinaigrettes or dressings to last all week so you can make leafy greens and vegetable salads in minutes. Clean and marinate enough meat or poultry for dinners over the next few days.
•Start your day with a healthy smoothie. Cut and freeze organic fresh fruit to use in green smoothies. You can also buy frozen fruit that’s already cut up. Add organic kale or spinach, coconut water or nut and seed milks plus natural sweeteners such as dates or stevia for an energy-boosting beverage.
• For your holiday dinners, make at least three to four dishes that are both delicious and nutritious. Good examples are pasture-raised, wild turkey with sage and garlic, baked wild salmon with lemon and herbs, steamed greens, roasted root vegetables drizzled with balsamic glaze, pureed winter squash soups, and desserts made with seasonal fruits, spices, and healthier sweeteners like coconut sugar or raw honey.
• Invest in a dehydrator. Dehydrate fruits and vegetables and raw nuts or seeds that have been soaked in unrefined sea salt water (which removes anti-nutrients, kick-starts the germination process, and increases key vitamins), and you’ll have plenty of on-the-go snacks with a long shelf life. Dehydrators are convenient and easy to use; I recommend the Excalibur brand.
• Make batches of fermented vegetables twice a month. Alexander recommends eating fermented vegetables every day to keep your digestive system healthy. They’re loaded with probiotics – the good bacteria your intestines need. Mix a variety of organic vegetables such as carrots and celery into brine with warm filtered water, unrefined sea salt, and cultured vegetable starter or liquid whey, and mix with shredded cabbage heads. Pack the mixture into sterilized glass jars and allow the vegetables to ferment for five to seven days. Once done fermenting, store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Stick to whole, healthy foods this holiday season, and you’ll feel so good, you won’t want to go near the buffet table at your office party – or anywhere else!
Shelley Alexander is the author of “Deliciously Holistic,” (www.aharmonyhealing.com), a cookbook featuring more than 154 of her favorite recipes and as well as holistic lifestyle tips.