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Healthy tips for the holiday season


October 18, 2017 | View PDF

Wow, October is here already. The fall weather sure sets in fast, which reminds me of warm comfort foods. I thought it would be helpful to discuss some ways to eat healthy around the holidays, especially for your kids and family. With all of the Halloween treats and baked goods, it can be hard to cut down on the amount of sugar and fat in the diet around the holidays. I like to use substitutions for things while cooking, and still get the same great flavors of fall.

One of my favorite things in the fall weather is warm soup. It is very easy to roast all of the vegetables in a baking dish with chicken broth, add some spices, and add to the food processor to create a soup. A good substitute for cream or cheese is nutritional yeast, and it can be found in the health food store, it is very high in B12, which is great for energy. Try making your own red pepper/tomato soup, or "cream" of mushroom soup.

Other baking ideas to cut down on oil, is to use applesauce in place of it for the same great consistency. You can bake with raisins or dates to replace sweeteners or eat plain fruit for a sweets craving. Baked apples or peaches, for example, make an excellent holiday dessert. Just add a drizzle of honey and cinnamon and bake for about 20 minutes, the oven naturally brings out the sweetness of the fruits.

Halloween trick-or-treating can be a little bit "tricky" for eating healthy. Limit kids to 1 piece per day for about 2 weeks, and stick the rest in the freezer out of reach. Halloween candy has so many additives and preservatives.

For some Halloween snacks, try hummus and veggie sticks (use an empty pumpkin for the hummus dip). Another idea is to make a pumpkin out of a peeled clementine, and use a piece of celery as the stem. Fill an empty clear kitchen glove with popped corn and use candy corn for the fingernails. Make a blueberry spider or snake design in yogurt for a scary snack. Fill a stemless wine glass with one layer of pineapple, one layer of clementine slices, and top with yogurt to make a "candy corn" breakfast. Nonfat yogurt makes a great substitute for sour cream, especially for dips, just add seasonings for the same great taste and less calories. There are so many ways to make eating fun and healthy too.

Here are some tips and ways to watch your weight with all of the calories around the holiday season. If you are going out to a social event, eat a little first so you are not overly hungry upon arrival. Skip the carbohydrates including the breads, potatoes, pastas, and baked goods. Try to snack on the appetizers with more fiber like the veggie sticks, fruits, and proteins like poultry and eggs. Limit the amount of alcohol to 1-2 glasses at an event, the calories can really add up fast. Try to remember that juice and alcohol convert readily to sugar and are stored as fat in the body. Skip the desserts, or only have a taste to satisfy your sweet tooth. Try putting your meal on a salad plate instead of a large plate to trick your brain into eating less than it thinks you did. Replacing a craving with a healthy alternative works better than deprivation alone, the brain will only crave it more.

With the gloomy weather setting in, let's not forget about exercise. Exercise is going to warm up your body's circulation, lift energy and mood, and maintain weight through the holidays. Joining a local gym or doing a home exercise program can be a great start to increasing your physical activity. It can be fun to join a class or the YMCA to bring some socialization and competition to your workouts. Even 20 minutes 3 times/week can get your body moving and building muscle, which in turn burns more calories. Trade two hours of TV or Netflix binging for exercise, you won't regret it. Vitamin D3 levels in the Pacific NW population are normally low or low normal. Low vitamin D can greatly affect mood, and energy levels. It is important to get a baseline blood test to know if the D3 you are getting from food or vitamins is sufficient, it may surprise you. I hope all of these tips helps get you through the holiday season on a healthy note, your body and mind will thank you later. Check out my food blog called, FoodLove at for more healthy recipes.

Dr. Allison Apfelbaum is a Naturopathic Doctor at The Northwest Center for Optimal Health in Marysville, WA, located at 316 State Ave. in Marysville, WA. Contact us at 360-651-9355 (WELL),, or


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