Holiday eating can often leave nutrition and digestion compromised. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are a few tips from the Weavers Way Neighborhood Nutrition Team to keep you healthy and energized throughout the holiday season.
Ditch fast food and soda. During the holiday season, what you really don’t have time for is food that undermines your immune system. Having healthy snacks on hand is key. Try raw-food bars, nut-butter packets, whole fruit or seed chips with hummus or another healthy dip to keep you full on the run. Beware “granola” bars full of processed grains and sugar. A cup of protein-rich yogurt is faster and far less costly than drive-through. If you usually drink soda or sugary coffee, try green tea or chai instead. Brew with organic orange peels for added flavor and better digestion. In addition to caffeine, green tea provides powerful plant compounds and antioxidants, plus the calming amino acid L-theanine. Miss the bubbles? Sparkling water doesn’t strip minerals from your body like other carbonated beverages.
Add fresh greens and garlic to everything. Canned foods, takeout — anything you heat on the stove can be made more nutritious on the fly. Garlic and hearty greens such as kale keep a long time and are ready when you are.
Fold leaves in half to pull from the stem with ease, tear into pieces and stir into your dish. Keep stirring to wilt, or add a splash of water and cover to steam.
Garlic is one of the most antimicrobial foods on the planet. Raw or lightly cooked, garlic is antiviral, antifungal and antiseptic, and a host of scientific evidence shows its benefits for heart health. Important: To activate the enzyme so helpful to the heart, smash or press the garlic and let it sit exposed to the air for 10 minutes before cooking.
Upgrade your fats and proteins. When the weather chills, we naturally crave heartier foods for insulation. For many, this means bingeing on carbs to satisfy hunger. What many people are actually hungry for are nutrient-dense veggies, fats and proteins. Unlike commodity grain-fed, grass-fed animal products are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Organic animal products exclude the antibiotics, hormones and GMO feed of conventionally raised meat, but only grass-fed animals have the healthy, alkaline fats that keep skin glowing and the mind calm. Truly pastured eggs and dairy are a healthful upgrade to foods you likely already eat. Vegan? Try coconut butter and milk for hearty fats that keep you feeling full.
Consume raw, fermented foods daily. Raw organic apple cider vinegar has been a one-stop health shop for centuries. “ACV” eases indigestion, provides immune-enhancing probiotics, reduces inflammation by improving food breakdown, and makes a tasty salad dressing mixed with olive oil, garlic, a squeeze of lemon and finely chopped peppers. Miso paste, another ancient fermented food with the same health benefits, imparts deep flavor to soups, broths and dressings. Add a tablespoon of miso at the start of cooking, and another tablespoon after removing from heat to preserve the delicate living compounds. Pickled vegetables make an excellent pre-dinner snack.
Enjoy smoothies! A powerful blender will make easy work of consuming fruits and veggies. The basic ratio should be at least 60 percent greens / 40 percent fruit. There are loads of smoothie recipes online. Some people digest best when fruits, grains and fats are consumed separately, so experiment with veggies and fruits alone, with yogurt and with oats, until you find the combo that leaves you feeling great. In cooler weather, try using warming ginger tea in place of water to maintain appropriate body temperature.
Finally, with all that hugging and handshaking, don’t forget the simplest magic of all:
Wash your hands!
The Weavers Way Neighborhood Nutrition Team is a group of nutritionists, dietitians and other wellness practitioners working to bring nutrition inspiration and information to members. For a list of programs, visit www.weaversway.coop/events.