Three Tips for Happy Healthy Holidays!

healthy-holidayIt is officially holiday season, a time when we spend extra time baking and cooking for our loved ones.   We celebrate traditions, and many of us (including me with my notorious sweet tooth) indulge a bit more in sugar-laden delights.  I’m never one to frown upon a holiday cookie, so don’t even think I’d want to spoil any of the holiday spirit around eating and being merry.  I do have some ideas about how to make the season just a little more healthy.  I love the number three when trying to organize my thoughts, so here are my three tips for Happy Healthy Holidays 2013.

1.  Have fun experimenting with new recipes through the MyPlate Holiday Makeover series.  This series was recently launched, and it continues through the first week of January.  You can download a simple infographic (and put it on your fridge, if you’d like) with eight tips/ideas for healthier meals this holiday season.  Follow the tips that speak to you.  I like most of them but am unlikely to follow them all. For example, I personally use heavy cream and butter, which I always use from organic/high quality sources.  I do like the idea of boosting the flavor of foods with spices and herbs such as cinnamon, cumin, or thyme and cutting back the sugar and salt.  I also like the idea of brightening up meals with fruits and vegetables and going easy on the sauces and gravies—a little does go a long way.  If you want more information, you can join the (weekly) MyPlate’s Holiday Makeover series to find quick and easy tips to get you through office parties, neighborhood potlucks, and family gatherings.  The MyPlate Facebook Page will feature “Makeover Mondays” throughout the holiday season.  Every Monday, through January 6th, the MyPlate Team will offer its personal recipe makeovers and ideas on holiday recipes.  You can also use a SuperTracker feature to build, save, and analyze your favorite recipes.

If MyPlate (which replaced the Food Pyramid) is new to you, please read the Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange January 2012 newsletter, “Messages from MyPlate” for lots of background information.

2.  My second tip focuses on baking (rather than cooking; the meal make-overs from MyPlate in tip #1 have so-far focused on cooking).  For this tip, I will refer back to 10 suggestions we gave you in an earlier Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange (HKIE) newsletter on healthy baking.  The tips were:

  1. Use the highest quality ingredients you can find
  2. Experiment with different flours
  3. Include nuts for great nutrition (assuming no allergies in your household)
  4. Add/ hide vegetables in the mix
  5. Avoid food colors
  6. Be watchful of bad ingredients you may not be aware of
  7. Avoid trans fats
  8. Make healthy replacements
  9. Use fruits to sweeten
  10. Reduce sugar

In that past HKIE newsletter on healthy baking, we gave readers one example recipe per tip to try.  So that’s 10 new baking recipes for the holidays!

3.  Involve your kids in making healthy holiday foods (because if you involve them, they are more likely to participate in trying/eating the output).   Again I refer to information from a past HKIE newsletter, where a Registered Dietician shared her tricks on cooking with kids:

  • Have kids search for ingredients under the guise of a kitchen scavenger hunt!
  • Designate aprons, old shirts, and colorful bandanas as “cooking clothes”.
  • Read recipe beforehand to find active kid-friendly “ing” tasks (scooping, measuring, crushing, patting, etc).
  • Laugh together about the spills.
  • Set out placemats or plastic cutting boards to designate a work space and keep messes contained.
  • Use a separate bowl if exact measurements are what you need. This way, no tears over spills.
  • Use bowls with high sides.
  • Make clean up part of the cooking activity.
  • Help kids to make food containers fun with decorations such as stickers, drawings, etc.
  • Rate the foods you make and vote on which recipes are the family favorites.
One more important holiday tradition should be giving to causes that are important to you and your family.  As you might know, feeding children HEALTHY foods is one of my own personal life passions, one that I do through my work with Nurture.  If you feel you’ve received some value from the information throughout the year from Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange, I’d love for you to express your appreciation through a donation of any size to Nurture (this link supports Nurture’s work at a national level).  Join me in supporting kids across the nation—of all socio-econonmic levels— in having a happier and healthier New Year in 2014. And to express my appreciation back to you, every donation of $25 or more will receive a free e-cookbook (appreciation cookbook from Nurture), featuring over a dozen of Nurture’s favorite and time-tested recipes.  Just provide your email address when filling out the Paypal form.

Happy Holidays to all!

With deep gratitude,


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This column is for information only, and no part of its contents should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement by the author. You should always ask your physician for his or her recommendation before starting any new health-related activity.

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