DAYTON, Ohio — It is not uncommon to experience weight gain during the holiday season. Reasons can vary, but the increased availability of food, less focus on exercise and heightened stress levels are usually the biggest culprits. For those who are trying their best to stay on track with eating a healthy diet, it can definitely be a challenging time.
“It really isn’t hard to give yourself, your family and friends the gift of delicious, nutrient-rich meals over the holidays,” says Shelley Alexander, chef and author of “Deliciously Holistic,” which features healthy recipes and holistic lifestyle tips designed to increase energy and boost the immune system.
“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,” Alexander said.
She advises consuming nutrient-rich, whole foods that don’t have unnatural fillers and other additives, which helps to lessen cravings, in turn making it easier to maintain weight without counting calories.
Alexander offers more tips for quick and convenient healthy eating during the holidays:
• 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 are 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 produce 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 green smoothie. Cut and freeze organic fresh fruit to use in green smoothies, or 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 extra energy-boost when needed.
• For holiday dinners, try to plan on making at least three to four dishes that are both delicious and nutritious. Some of Alexander’s favorite recipes include 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 and spices. She uses healthy sweeteners like coconut sugar or raw honey.
• If you can, 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 on-the-go snacks with a long shelf life. Dehydrators are convenient and easy to use,” Alexander said.
• “Instead of heading to the local supermarket, consider visiting a farmers market, where you can buy fresh, local, seasonal and organic produce, along with other nutritious foods created by farmers and local food artisans,” she said. “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.”
Marjie Gilliam is a personal trainer and fitness consultant.