Whether it was your abuelita’s corn tamales, your Mutti’s Strudelettes, your tate’s matzo pancakes, or your family’s Christmas paella, your holiday memories are doubtless intertwined with memories of the aroma and tastes of very special foods.
What if your preferred holiday treats were delicious, but you’ve long since realized how really, truly unhealthy they were?
Given the present easy availability of healthy ingredients, it’s very a snap to make appropriate substitutions.
For those actively engaged in improving their health, paleo options abound. For others, there are lots of simple adjustments that work very well and deliciously.
In our home, we make holiday pumpkin pies with Japanese pumpkin (kabocha), coconut milk, and coconut oil. It makes a very tasty alternative to those packaged (sugar-packed) pies mass-produced from canned pumpkin.
If you haven’t tasted fruit yogurts or coconut ice creams lately, you’re probably not aware how much these products have improved in taste and texture. Oh – and they make great pie toppings! For a topping, try cacao nibs.
It’s not hard to dream up many ways to re-create the “real thing” with better alternatives. (Hmm – what’s “real” about white sugar?)
Another delightful to add a sense of celebration to your festive table is to make everyday foods more colorful.
To honor Marcel’s Cuban heritage, we often make nutritious Cuban cabbage salad. It couldn’t be easier to prepare. To finely chopped cabbage, simply add a dash of sweet onion and minced cilantro, and dress with olive oil and lemon juice. For the holidays, we add dried cranberries and pistachios. Voila, a festive (and very healthy) dish!
Japanese chefs have perfected the art of serving food beautifully – by serving on small plates chosen for their size, shape, and color, and artfully placing exquisite bites to bring a sense of occasion.
No wonder the Japanese tend to the slender side – they delight in their dinner, while decreasing their calorie consumption.
There are many ways to create our own healthier food traditions. Instead of baking sugary cookies with the kids, for example, what about making your own chocolate?
To 1 cup (melted) coconut oil, add 1 cup cacao powder, with ¼ cup or more of honey, to taste.
Add other ingredients according to whimsy: pistachios, dried cherries, vanilla, and/or spices.
For an immune boost, include a little turmeric powder. Spread the mixture thin on a flat pan and harden in the fridge or freezer.
Here’s a quick, easy substitute for those high-cal, sugar-filled Starbucks treats.
Golden Milk starts with any of the common milk substitutes – coconut milk, almond milk, hemp milk, etc). Add a healthy fat (ghee, coconut oil, or macadamia nut oil) to activate the curcumin, and sweeten with stevia or a little locally sourced raw organic honey.
You could re-create the same rich, sweet recipe with macha (green tea), and derive the anti inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic benefits of the tea.
For a cold drink, mix a spoonful of liquid bioflavonoids, immune-boosting elderberry syrup, or tart black cherry juice with sparkling water. Add a twist of lemon or lime, or top with fresh mint leaves.
I hope I’ve got you thinking about how simple it is to make holiday food fun, festive, and healthy.
Find out more about Dr. Connie’s work HERE.