Tips for Staying Healthy and Natural Through the Holidays

by Guest Writer

It’s officially “holiday season,” which seems to be a time of over-consumption, especially of things that are not so good for our bodies. With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, it’s interesting to consider what kind of food has kicked off the season. According to the Calorie Council, the average American may have consumed more than 4,500 calories. That’s disgusting. It’s even more disgusting when you think of the chemical, dyes and whatnot that were likely in that meal. So, how can you get back on track this holiday season?

Every year, I have the pleasure of hosting Christmas for my family. If you would like to use organic and natural foods, then the first thing I recommend is playing hostess for the holidays. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it. You won’t have to worry about what you’re feeding your family because you’ve selected everything yourself. Since I have a large (Italian) crowd at Christmas, I try to keep things simple. I make stuffed shells, meatballs and sauce. You can pick up cans of organic tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and tomato puree at most health food stores and in the natural/organic food aisle at many larger grocery stores. A couple of brands available in many stores are Muir Glen Organics and DelMonte’s organic line.

While you might like to do everything for the holidays, it’s nearly impossible. You will have to ask others to bring something. This is a good time to refer to the Dirty Dozen—the fresh foods that contain the highest levels of pesticides. My recommendation is to assign foods that have the smallest amounts of pesticides to people who you may not be likely to choose organic.  Specifically, assign the Clean 15 to your guests. I like to ask someone to bring eggplant parmesan, apple pie (even though it’s a member of the dirty dozen, the apples will be peeled before they make their way into the pie eliminating the pesticide exposure), and a vegetable dish like sweet corn or sweet peas.

The holiday season is riddled with goodies, as well. While I try not to let my kids overdo it on sweets, I’m a firm believer in moderation. If the goodies can be somewhat good for them, it’s certainly a bonus. Part of the holiday spirit is baking cookies. If you already have some favorite cookie recipes, and are already using organic ingredients in most of your cooking and baking, then it’s likely that you won’t need to do much to make organic cookies and treats. For the most part, you can simply substitute your organic ingredients for their non-organic counterparts in the recipe. Since you’re cupboards are probably already fully-stocked with organic ingredients, this will be an easy endeavor. I found a great recipe for gluten-free gingerbread man cookies.

Finally, when you’re shopping, keep an eye on what it is you’re buying. Many of your favorite brands now have healthier versions with less additives. For example, Pillsbury makes a line of biscuits that contain no trans fat, no high fructose corn syrup and no artificial colors or flavors. Betty Crocker has a whole line of gluten-free baking mixes. Why they don’t just forego the additive version, I’ll never understand, but the option is there. If more people buy the natural version, eventually it might be the only version and that’s a good thing.

I used the word before—moderation. The holiday season seems to be a time that we traditionally over-do things, and there’s really no reason for that. If you stay conscientious about what you and your family are putting into your bodies over the next few weeks, life will be much simpler. You can avoid temper tantrums brought on by artificial dyes that are in so many foods. You can avoid that sick feeling you’ll get in your belly from artificial sweeteners, and you can also avoid all of those other hidden dangers that lie in many processed foods. This holiday season, do like they did in the old days—before pesticides and hormones were added to foods, consume foods au natural.

Enjoy a Happy Healthy Holiday Season!

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