*Quick thank you to our guest author for today, Amelia Brown. She is a Certified Functional Nutrition Coach & Occupational Therapist, as well as a member of our wellness professionals-only affiliate program at Sound. We are grateful to her for sharing her tips & tricks to enjoying the holiday season with good-for-you swaps (sparkling teas included 😉).
The holiday season is the best time of the year- a time for gathering, nourishing and celebrating all of the abundance in our lives. It is also a time when routines are disrupted by busy social calendars, and we’re all tempted to consume far more sweets and alcohol than normal. If we aren’t mindful, this quickly translates into cravings, inflammation, fatigue, mood swings, and diet spirals. The good news? It is entirely possible to enjoy the holidays, and the foods that you love, without feeling deprived, or compromising your health. Here are a few health promoting strategies and swaps to help balance your blood sugar and mindset, setting you up for success during the holidays!
Elevate your favorite holiday dishes
One thing I talk about with my health coaching clients is how we can make the traditional meals that we love more nutrient-dense and balanced. In other words, elevate vs eliminate! When modifying a meal, I’m looking to increase the nutrient density, and balance the sugar and starches with what we know our bodies need - proteins, healthy fats and fibrous vegetables. This helps us feel our best. Here’s why.
Vegetables are full of fiber and phytonutrients that benefit our biology in countless ways. They boost immunity, reduce inflammation and have anti-cancer and anti-aging benefits. Protein is the most satisfying and nutrient dense food, ounce for ounce. It supports every cell, neurotransmitter, and hormone in our bodies. Healthy fats are essential for hormone production, brain health, immune function and metabolism. Fat also enables us to absorb all the fat-soluble vitamins from our greens. Both protein and fat slow the digestion of food, release hormones that make us feel satisfied, and naturally elongate our blood sugar curves.
In other words, prioritizing proteins, healthy fats and vegetables naturally reduces our cravings and crashes; regulates hunger hormones; and enables us to feel calmer, more relaxed, and satiated.
The key to cultivating nutrient-dense, balanced meals starts with simple ingredient swaps. Below you'll find a list of healthy swaps that you can incorporate into any recipe, as well as a mini round-up of some full, holiday-inspired recipes that you can make for your next gathering. All of these recommendations and recipes still provide those nostalgic holiday flavors, while increasing protein, healthy fats and vegetables and pulling back on the added sugars. A recipe (see what we did there 😏) for a better mood, increased satiety and less inflammation!
Go-to ingredient healthy swaps:
- Almond or coconut flour in place of white flour
- Coconut, avocado or olive oil in place of vegetable oil (think soybean, corn)
- Full fat coconut or almond milk in place of regular milk
- Maple syrup, dates, or monkfruit in place of regular sugar
- Coconut whip cream in place of regular whip cream
- Grass-fed butter or ghee in place of conventional butter
- Pasture-raised eggs in place of conventional eggs
- Free-range turkey in place of conventional turkey
- Primal Kitchen gravy in place of conventional gravy
- Evolved chocolate chips or Hu Kitchen gems in place of semi sweet chocolate chips
- Dry Farm Wines vs conventional wine
- Bread SRSLY sourdough or AWG grain-free bread in place of traditional dinner rolls
Go-to recipe healthy swaps:
Swap the packaged hot chocolate for this version: Warm unsweetened vanilla almond milk and froth or blend with 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (my favorite brands: Be Well by Kelly collagen protein or Truvani pea protein). Need a little extra sweetness? Add 1 soaked date or a few drops of monkfruit before blending.
Swap a cocktail or two for my favorite mocktail: a Sound Rose Tea with frozen berries and mint. Hydration is key when enjoying alcohol and sweets, making Sound sparkling water the perfect addition to your night.
Swap the traditional pumpkin desserts for this paleo pumpkin bread (i), these pumpkin bars (ii) or this pumpkin pie (iii). Crunched for time? Grab this Simple Mills pumpkin bread mix instead.
Swap the 50 g of sugar (thats >12 tsp of sugar folks!!) in a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte for this delish version at home.
Swap traditional mashed potatoes for some cauliflower mashed potatoes!
Swap traditional stuffing with this recipe using my favorite gluten free sourdough bread, Bread Srysly!
Swap out traditional cookies for any of these paleo holiday cookie recipes- here’s a comprehensive roundup!
Swap cinnamon rolls for breakfast for this delicious cinnamon roll smoothie. It’s no coincidence that we wake up the day after Thanksgiving, or any heavy meal, hungry and craving something sweet. This is a direct result of a blood sugar spike and subsequent dip. This smoothie by Kelly Leveque is the perfect way to hit the craving, while simultaneously re-balancing blood sugar levels.
Bring the nutrients to the party
The best way to make sure that you’re getting some of these healthy alternatives on your plate is to be the one who brings a delicious salad, vegetable side or protein to the party. Commit to adding a few vegetables and a protein to your plate before anything else. I bring some variation of this salad to Thanksgiving every year (pictured above 👆), and it’s always a hit!
Go-to Thanksgiving salad:
-Organic kale (Approx 12 oz. I use 3/4 of a bag of the Whole Foods chopped kale to save myself a little time, but any kale works!)
-Pecans (8 oz)
-Pomegranate seeds (4 oz)
-Two medium sized sweet potatoes
-Organic goat cheese (if dairy-free try Miyoko’s Creamery Sharp English Cheddar)
-Grass-fed butter or olive oil
-Salt and pepper
- Wash, chop and remove stems from kale. Place in a large bowl. Massage with avocado oil.
- Preheat oven to 300. Toss pecans in grass-fed butter or olive oil, salt and pepper, and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 15 min, tossing halfway through.
- Preheat oven to 400. Wash two medium sweet potatoes. Chop into crouton-shaped pieces and toss in avocado oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes. Shake halfway through.
- Top bowl of dressed kale with pomegranates, roasted pecans, sweet potatoes, and goat or dairy-free cheese.
- Dress with my favorite home-made vinaigrette. Toss and enjoy!!
-1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1 TBS apple cider vinegar
-1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
-2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots (optional)
-1 small garlic clove, minced
-salt and pepper to taste
- Combine and whisk in bowl. Tip: double the recipe and store the remaining dressing in the fridge for the week.
Cultivate a healthy mindset
It’s inevitable that we will all indulge some over the holidays. I encourage my clients to stay away from the “all or nothing” mentality. Every day and meal is an opportunity to gently re-route to healthy foods that make you feel your best. The seemingly small swaps go along way and some effort is always better than none. Wishing you a happy and healthy holidays!!