Could this be the year you survive the holidays guilt free, without concerns over what or how much you ate, and feeling that a major detox is required afterwards?
This absolutely can be the year, and I promise you that you will not be missing out. Rather, I’m going to share with you some simple, nutritionist-approved tips for making your favourite recipes healthier. These are strategies that I regularly use myself and with my clients, and they don’t just work during the holidays, but all year long.
1) Use Good Quality Fats & Oils
We tend to over-consume processed oils and under-consume the anti-inflammatory, good quality ones which is a huge factor in heart disease and a whole host of other inflammatory conditions. This includes arthritis, colitis and anything ending in ‘itis', really. A simple fix for this is to ensure you’re using the highest quality of each in your holiday recipes.
When you’re cooking at a high heat, use coconut oil, grass fed butter or ghee. Why? Because these fats are more stable at high heats, and don’t break down when cooked. When oils are broken down, or undergo oxidation, they produce free radicals and harmful compounds to the body.
Secondly, if you suffer from indigestion of any kind, you may need to add butyrate, found in butter and ghee, into your diet, as butyrate feeds the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut and helps reduce digestive symptoms.
2) Use Good Quality Chocolate
I would never tell you to stop eating chocolate, especially around the holidays! Good quality chocolate actually contains lots of beneficial nutrients, particularly magnesium. Instead of baking with milk chocolate though, select a dark chocolate that is greater than 70% cocoa and with minimal ingredients. The higher the percentage of dark chocolate, the less sugar it has.
3) Replace Your Refined Sugar With Natural Sugars
Holiday baking tends to be one of the biggest culprits of the holiday season, but rather than eliminating it altogether, there are some little tweaks you can make that will make a big difference.
If you’re baking a cookie recipe, unsweetened apple sauce will be your new best friend. For a quick comparison, 1 cup of sugar has 700+ calories, while 1 cup of apple sauce has around 100. You can use equal parts sugar to applesauce, but for each cup of applesauce you would need to reduce the other liquids in your recipe by 1/4 cup. For muffin or loaves, you can even use the applesauce to replace some of the oil. Mashed bananas are also a good substitute, and will replace some of your liquid, but not as much as the apple sauce.
Lastly, if the recipe absolutely requires granulated sugar, then try using coconut sugar instead. It is slightly lower on the glycemic index, so doesn’t spike your blood sugar quite as much. It is still sugar, just a slightly better alternative.
4) Use Nutrient Dense Flours
As a Celiac myself, I have been using nut flours like almond and coconut flour, for quite some time in my baking. The end result is a bit more dense, but still delicious. These nut flours metabolize more slowly, as opposed to refined flours like wheat, rice, or potato, which quickly break down into sugar in your body. This results in a spike and subsequent crash in blood sugar, not to mention extra weight around the belly area. After removing gluten from their diet, many of my clients also report more energy, better digestion and clearer skin, and the extra protein and fiber in the nut flours also keeps them full for longer.
When you substitute flours, you may need to add more baking powder to get the bread to rise more, and for coconut flour specifically, you should substitute about 1/4-1/3 of a cup for each cup regular flour, and then add the same amount (1/4 or 1/3 cup) liquid to the recipe, since coconut flour is quite dry.
5) Use Beans In Sweet And Savoury Recipes
Gluten aside, there are many grains that can leave your stomach feeling bloated and puffy. You may not typically think of beans as a good substitute in recipes, however in cooked form they can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes. My favourite brownie substitutes black beans for flour. You won’t even taste the beans, amidst the moist and chocolaty flavour.
For savoury recipes, white beans like cannellini or navy beans can give the dish a creamy texture. For example, if you were looking to make a blended soup thicker without adding a ton of cream, blend in a can of cannellini beans instead. You’ve then just increased the protein and fiber in the recipe too!
6) Hide Veggies In The Dish
Hiding vegetables in the dish can work incredibly well for those who have picky eaters at home. For muffin or loaf recipes, try adding grated zucchini. The flavour is so subtle that nobody will even notice.
During the holidays, mashed potatoes are a popular side dish but one that is high in calories and hard on your waistline. A perfect way to sneak in some extra vegetables as a replacement is to steam and mash cauliflower instead. I like to add sautéed garlic, grass fed butter, salt and pepper. So delicious! If it just isn’t that age-old favourite flavour you were going for, try subbing half potatoes and half cauliflower.
7) Make a Mocktail
With multiple nights of parties throughout the holidays, alcohol can leave you feeling sluggish and soft around the waist. My favourite way to deal with this is to make a kombucha mocktail. I find that half the battle with alcohol is the awkward feeling that you don’t have a drink in your hand, so pour yourself some kombucha in a fancy glass. With the natural carbonation of kombucha and the sweetness, both you and your friends will easily forget that your drink is sans alcohol.
8) Sub real food for condiments
Sauces, particularly ketchup and BBQ sauces can have loads of hidden sugar in them. A great substitute, once the dish is cooked and a way to get some extra Vitamin C, is to use fresh tomato salsa instead. The best quality salsa is usually found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, near the hummus.
For mayo or creamy type recipes, mashed or whipped avocado is a great option. You might even enjoy using avocado as the base for a chocolate pudding recipe. Avocado is an excellent source of healthy fat and Vitamin B6, something your body craves during busy and stressful times.
If even after these healthy tips and tricks you find yourself in need of a reset, hop on over to my website and for a free one week meal plan to get you back on track. You can find it at www.healthyeatingandliving.ca/free-meal-plan.
Grain Free Peppermint Brownies
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 25 mins
1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp warm water)
2 cups chickpeas (or 1 15oz can)
½ avocado (medium sized)
½ cup raw cacao powder
2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
8 pitted medjool dates (I like Natural Delights)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp peppermint extract
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup mini dark chocolate chips, plus enough to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 350F. Place all ingredients, except for the chocolate chips in a food processor and mix until very well blended. Move ingredients to a bowl and fold in the chocolate chips. Line 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper. Place batter into pan, and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting, as otherwise it will crumble. Enjoy!
Mandy King is a Holistic Nutritionist and the founder of HEAL. She works with health conscious women who want to take control of their health to stop feeling tired, fix their digestion and lose the weight once and for all. She helps them create a lasting, lifestyle change that not only helps them look good in their skinny jeans, but feel good and have the energy to do whatever they want so they can worry less and have more time and confidence for what matters. Click here to grab her FREE one week meal plan.email newsletter to get more recipes and health tips!
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