Holiday Survival Tactics 101

 

Welcome to my Holiday Survival Tactics 101 Guide! Here you will learn my secrets for enjoying your holiday food without feeling guilty or deprived, and without gaining weight. In addition, I have thrown in my tips for beating the stress that weighs many people down this time of year.Survival Tactic #1- Take charge of FOOD
First and foremost we must talk Food, because, let’s face it, Thanksgiving is the premier holiday for eating. And, for this reason, many of my clients seem to have this love-hate relationship with the holidays in general. What do I eat? How much? But what if I really want that pie? Don’t worry, we will cover it all here. The bottom line is that I encourage people to listen to their bodies. And indulging on occasion really is OK!In regards to cooking, most recipes can be modified to a healthier version. Here are some of the ways I change things up for healthier but still delicious dishes.Sweeteners: Some of my favorites to use are: coconut palm sugar, coconut nectar and dates. I use these in place of sugar and brown sugar, and liquid sweeteners like corn syrup. You can use the coconut sugar and nectar in a 1:1 ratio for sugar. That’s right- a simple swap is all it takes. And the benefit is great- the coconut sugars are much lower on the glycemic index scale which means they have minimal impact on your blood-sugar levels. Dates are packed full of nutrients and fiber which helps to minimize their impact on your blood sugar levels as well. Here is a recipe I found for pecan pie that uses dates in place of corn syrup. I cannot wait to try it! Incidentally it is also grain-free. http://mywholefoodlife.com/2013/11/16/grain-free-pecan-pie/

Fats: In place of butter or margarine, try ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil. Ghee is wonderful to use if you really want the buttery taste, but you or someone you are cooking for suffers from dairy intolerances, because it does not contain the milk proteins that typically cause problems for people. I use it regularly in place of butter and it does not affect my digestion at all. Coconut oil is also a wonderful alternative that will give the food a slightly sweet taste.

Ghee

 

Grains: Use whole, unrefined grains, instead of white flour as much as possible. For instance: stone-ground wheat flour, brown rice flour, etc. If you are feeling really daring, experiment with using gluten-free grains such as almond meal and chickpea flour. Here is a great website for exploring the gluten-free grains: http://www.thedailydietribe.com/p/essential-gluten-free-baking-guides.htmlMeats: Choose organic and humanely-raised if at all possible.Of course, the highlight of Thanksgiving is eating and enjoying yummy food with loved ones. But how can we do it without completely gorging ourselves, feeling yucky afterwards, and falling into that self-defeating spiral of eating more of the bad food because we have already failed?Key Tips:

  • Try sampling a little bit of everything so that you won’t feel like you are depriving yourself of anything.
  • Eat slowly- set your fork down between bites.
  • Really try to savor each mouthful so that you can truly enjoy it. So many of us rush each bite that we barely even taste the food. If you eat more slowly, you will be helping your digestion and your metabolism to boot- so more incentive to sit back and slowly enjoy what is on your plate.
  • Use the 80/20 rule. This is a practice where 80% of the time you eat food that is good for you, and 20% of the time you eat whatever you want. And the key to this is that it allows for indulging without guilt.

Survival Tactic #2: Compassion
For some of us, holiday family gatherings bring more stress than joy. If that is the case for you, I encourage you to just sit back and try to understand each family member for who they are, without judgment or fear of judgment. View them as human beings swimming through this game of life, just as you and I are. Personally, I have found it easier to have compassion when I allow myself to step back and view things from that perspective. It is easier said than done, I know, but just play with it, and see if it helps you shift the experience in your mind from one of pure discomfort, to one of acceptance and love.

Survival Tactic #3: Breathe
Remember to BREATHE. If you feel yourself getting agitated or anxious, take a deep breath. If you want, you can take it a step further, and on the inhalation, breathe in the negativity you are sensing. On the exhalation, breathe out loving kindness- showering the people around you with love and compassion.

Survival Tactic #4: Sometimes it’s OK to Just Say NO.
So often we have competing demands and expectations during the holidays from family, friends, work, and groups we belong to… I am giving you permission to say “no”, despite what feels like pressure or guilt from your family or friends. Check in with yourself and ask, “Do I really want to do this?” If the answer is “no”, or “kind of”, or “no, but I should”, then you have your answer. In that case, it is ok to say “no”. Your mental and physical health should take precedent over anything else whenever possible. Admittedly, some of my most cherished holiday memories have been when I just said “no” to the pressures from my family to fly home for holidays, and instead shared relaxing meals with good friends and sent my family love from afar.

Survival Tactic #5: Gratitude
Being thankful for what you have can be a tremendously powerful tool for staying emotionally healthy during this time of shopping, gift-giving, and all-around consumerism. I go through my mental list of things I am thankful for on a daily basis, and it really helps me keep my head and heart in an uplifted, emotional state. A simple way to start is: “I am so happy and grateful for…” Nothing is too small to be included in this list- if you are grasping for something, you can be thankful for the clothes you are wearing, the shoes on your feet, the car that you drive. This exercise helps you remember how wonderful your life really is. Try it and see how it feels for you.

 

Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”This is a super-simple and delicious recipe to use in place of mashed potatoes, and it is always a crowd pleaser.Ingredients:1 head of cauliflower
1 Tablespoon ghee
sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Chop the cauliflower up into 2 inch pieces.
2. Place in a wide pan filled with about 1/2 inch of water.
3. Bring to a boil on medium high heat and cook until soft (about 10 mins).
4. Strain the water from the cauliflower.
5. In the pan, use a potato masher to smash down the cauliflower until it looks like little rice grains.
6. Stir in the ghee and salt and pepper.
7. Enjoy!

Sweet Potatoes with candied pecans– this dish is kind of a mix between candied yams and mashed sweet potatoes. I left the skins on them because I like the added texture the skin provides, but you can peel the sweet potatoes if you prefer.Ingredients:Sweet Potatoes:
5 medium sweet potatoes, chopped into 2 inch chunks
2 Tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon orange zest

Pecan topping:
1 cup pecans (halved or chopped)
1 Tablespoon ghee
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:
1. Place the chopped potatoes in a large pot.
2. Pour in filtered water fully covering the potatoes.
3. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are soft.
4. While the potatoes are boiling, preheat the oven to 350F.
5. Place the pecans in a small bowl.
6. Add the ghee, maple syrup, and sea salt and stir until the pecans are well-covered. (I used my hands to do this because the ghee was a little hard to spread with a spoon.)
7. Spread some parchment paper on a baking sheet.
8. Place the pecans on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
9. Remove the pecans from the oven when they are done and set aside.
10. Once the potatoes are done, strain out the water.
11. Using a hand-held immersion blender or a mixer, mash up the potatoes until smooth and creamy.
12. Add in the ghee and orange zest and stir until thoroughly mixed in.
13. Pour the pecans on top, and VOILA! It is ready to serve!

Sweet potatoes ready to boil

Toasted pecans
Pecans ready for the oven
Orange zestOrange zest is just the grated peel from an orange.

 

Finished sweet potatoes
Mmm mmm. The finished product. Enjoy!
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Sending you much love,

 

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