12 Nutritional Tips and Healthy Foods to Share for the Holidays
When I think of an approaching holiday — and there are many holidays to celebrate — there are a couple of cardinal rules that I follow, with the first two being the most important:
1. Eat First
I always go to an event, party or gathering having eaten something nourishing beforehand—a mini-meal if you like. Consider a piece of fruit or a vegetable smoothie with added protein powder, a healthy fat (like coconut oil), some ground flax or hemp seeds, a salad with a little added protein, or some yummy leftovers from the day before. The worst thing for your health is to skip meals and arrive at an event hungry. It’s a great way to consume too many calories and graze continuously while not paying particular attention to what or how much you are eating. Arriving somewhat satiated gives you time to be selective about what you enjoy throughout the event.
2. Drink Lots of Water
Over the holidays, it’s easy to get into the habit of consuming a little too much alcohol (if you drink alcohol), or sugary and calorie-loaded beverages while enjoying conversations and making memories with friends. Try to get into the habit of making the first drink (or two) of the evening a glass of water with a slice of cucumber, lemon, lime, etc., and then alternate between types of beverages, especially if you are the one driving. Even if you are not, your body and your immune system will thank you for it. The added sugars from alcoholic and sugary beverages can not only sabotage your waistline, but your immune system as well. Ever notice how many people are sick after Halloween or in January after the holidays? Start paying attention, it’s quite amazing.
3. A Smart Gift for the Host
Being a nutritionist, closet chef, and foodie in general, I love sharing my favourite foods with friends. And it is so easy to dress up every-day foods for celebrations. Years ago I was turned on to the idea of randomly visiting stores like Value Village, Home Sense, Winners, etc. for beautiful serving bowls, platters and plates offered for sale at ridiculously low prices, then bringing them home to stash away in my gift closet (yes I have a gift closet) for future use. When invited to a special occasion or celebration I pull out an item I’m pretty sure the host or hostess will love, then decide what I can bring to contribute to the evening, and fill or dress it with food. At the end of the evening, the serving piece is left as my host/hostess gift.
4. Combine Nutritious Food with a Hostess Gift
Picture spiced olives (green and black), a colourful fruit or vegetable salsa, or a pesto made with kale, parsley, basil or beets, in a lovely white, cream, black, or wooden bowl and crackers or chips on the side for scooping. How about stuffed mushroom caps, or a variety of grapes, cheeses and crackers or breads displayed on a lovely platter? Simple, yet elegant and healthy.
Get together with a friend or two around the end of November and have a batch cooking day so you are not doing it alone. It makes the day go by much more quickly and provides some amazing friend-time as you prep for the upcoming holidays together. It’s amazing how sharing activities with friends can reduce stress levels, while you share tasks and achieve common goals.
6. Play With Your Food
There are so many clever ways of presenting food in simple, and yet elegant ways. Just try to keep it real using whole, fresh foods wherever possible.
Don’t abandon your exercise or stress-management routine over the holidays. You’ll need it more than ever now to get you through the hustle and bustle, and to burn off the additional calories you know you are going to be consuming. Plus you know exercise helps you keep your sanity.
Make food preparation over the holidays less complicated by preparing ahead as much as possible. Stick with what you know and enjoy yourself. Batch cook and put as much ahead of time in the freezer as possible to enjoy during busy times. These include things like pancakes, meatloaf and frittatas all portioned into individual servings. These are great for quick meals, and can take the stress off on crazy-busy days.
9. Creatively Showcase Smaller Portioned Foods
The other way of dressing up food items is to purchase one of the many varieties of baking cups available, such as minis or extra-large, pleated or blossom topped, round or square, paper, foil, or silicone, (the variety of colours, patterns and embellishments are almost endless) and present the food you wish to share in one of these as a personal serving. Many of these are sturdy enough to hold small items and still maintain their shape. Although these are traditionally used to serve sweets, more and more savoury food items are being served in these lovely disposable containers.
10. Savoury not Sweet
Try to avoid taking sweets to functions —there will be certainly enough of those around without also contributing to it. Also note that many people have become wary of taking small finger foods like nuts from an open bowl because of the possibility of cross contamination. So individual serving methods are becoming more popular. The following savoury items are great ideas to consider:
- a variety of spiced or roasted nuts
- spiced and roasted chick peas
- mini-fruit salads
- dried fruit and nut mix
11. Make Your Own Container
Make your own tortilla cups in mini-muffin tins. Provided that you store them in an air-tight container, this versatile cup can be made ahead of time. Consider stuffing them with a number of savoury fillings like beans and salsa with chili powder and shredded cheese melted on top, or fill with a vegetable, egg and cheese mixture, then bake again for a mini-quiche. I actually love this recipe for its simplicity, and everyone I’ve ever made it for loves it.
12. Elegant Dessert
One of my go-to favourite desserts to enjoy during the holidays in December is extremely simple and elegant. It looks beautiful, tastes fresh and clean, and isn’t going to leave you feeling stuffed.
- small seedless oranges
- small blood oranges
- vanilla Greek yogurt
- a few saffron threads
- fresh mint leaves
- Peel the oranges and set aside
- Portion the yogurt (2 tbsp per guest) into a small bowl and combine with the saffron threads. Stir very gently and set aside to infuse.
- Select a few mint leaves for each plate; slice your oranges into rounds, no thicker than 1/4 inch each.
- To assemble: Place orange rounds in a circle on your dessert = plate, alternating the red and blood oranges and overlapping slightly, and leaving a small hole in the middle. Just before serving, spoon two tablespoons of yogurt mixture into the centre. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.
Holidays mean different things to many different people. It should be a time to celebrate and enjoy with family, friends, neighbours and community. It’s a time to be grateful for so many things—where we live, the privileges we have, the wonderful people in our lives and services we have access to. It’s also a time to be mindful of those who are struggling. Filling someone else’s world with a little extra light and hope and caring in your own unique way is an amazing gift, and will fill your heart just as much as theirs.