Navigating the Festive Feast: Healthy Vibe Nutrition for Holidays and Everyday Wellness

Published on: 11/21/2023
People gathered around a dinner table celebrating with a festive feast
Are you eagerly anticipating the holiday season yet feeling a twinge of anxiety about maintaining your healthy eating habits? The joy of festivities can sometimes be accompanied by a worry that our nutritional choices might veer off course, affecting not just our physical well-being but our mental health as well. If you’ve found yourself on a guilt trip after indulging in a bit too much during celebrations (#relatable 😊), you’re not alone. In this blog, we’ll share the art of savoring the holidays while fostering a positive relationship with both our food choices and mental well-being. Let’s explore practical strategies to not just survive but truly enjoy this season, embracing a healthy vibe that extends beyond the holidays and into our everyday lives. The Holiday Nutrition Conundrum
One of the most common challenges to maintaining your healthy routine during the holiday season begins with a wonderful break in your work, school, or day-to-day schedule. Yes, this break is so needed, but some mental preparation will help you enjoy the break, and still feel good about your food and exercise choices. Take a deep breath, be fully present, and remember to schedule your time to exercise and meal prep, amongst the chaos. Pause and make some notes now in your calendar or reminders (however you best manage yourself!), avoiding feeling guilty later for not taking of yourself. Strategies for Healthy Holiday Eating
We have discussed mindful eating techniques here, which include being completely present during your festive meals and celebrations. To start, do not show up for your holiday meal or party starving! Pregame with a produce + protein snack 1-2 hours before your eating adventure. This will be your armour for protecting your mind from all the choices it needs to manage, and help you stay mindful and grateful.

A step for success (yes, here it is again!) is to focus on creating a balanced plate – 50% produce (green beans, Brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, etc), 25% lean protein (turkey, tofu, chicken), 25% grains and starches (stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc). You can have it ALL, just aim for balance. For example, instead of a full serving of stuffing and a full serving of sweet potatoes, go for a generous tablespoonful of each. Practice awareness and savor each bite while paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues. 

Balanced Indulgence
This might be my new favorite holiday term. Embracing moderation and avoiding extremes (overeating or undereating), yet surely indulging. We absolutely should enjoy the festive food and treats of the season, without compromising our overall well-being. 

Cultivate a positive mindset. Shifting away from guilt to embracing self-compassion, and compassion for all those around you, both near and far. There is so much joy during the holiday season. Food is a big part of it, but not the only part. Lean into the special time with family and friends, get outside, and appreciate your surroundings, the air that you breathe, and the steps that you take.

Healthy Habits Beyond the Holidays
The holidays can be quite busy, but plan for some time for you to pause, and think about how you can incorporate at least one new wellness practice into your everyday life. Set realistic and sustainable nutritional, exercise, or mindset goals for the short term, leading into the long term. Remember to keep them SMART and attainable, setting a time limit that works for you. Starting small is key for building powerful long-term habits. Some examples might include:

  • I will walk for 10 minutes after lunch at least 4 days a week, for the next 3 weeks.
  • I will sign up for a yoga class at least once a week, for the next 4 weeks.
  • I will bring a produce + protein snack with me to work, 5 days a week, for the next 5 weeks.

In conclusion, empower yourself during the holiday season to be grateful for family, friends, and nature, savoring the present and the delicious times. Zoom out to the big picture. Take the time to appreciate your whole being in all its facets. Prioritize time for you and your health goals, while being kind to you and all others. Embrace a healthy vibe, including balanced indulgements ☺️, not only during the holidays but throughout the year ahead. Cheers 🍹❤️

The recipe theme this month is for your post-Thanksgiving healthy vibe – embracing veggies and leftover turkey or any favorite lean protein!

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WARM BARLEY, BUTTERNUT SQUASH, AND ARUGULA SALAD
This is a tasty and satisfying dish, filled with greens and whole grain. Add your favorite lean protein and you have a balanced plate in a bowl! You can easily get creative with the recipe and leftovers, adding different veggies and/or proteins. Barley, a versatile cereal grain, boasts a rich nutritional profile, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This recipe combination of nutrients supports heart health and inflammation reduction, an awesome addition to a health-conscious diet. You can substitute quinoa for a gluten-free version. INGREDIENTS
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into bite-size pieces (or purchase and avoid this work 🙂!)
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pearled barley
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cup chicken broth, low sodium
½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese, crumbled
5 ounces arugula
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Options: 1-2 Tablespoons toasted walnuts or pine nuts, leftover turkey, chicken, veggie sausage PREPARATION
To roast the squash: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper. Place the squash cubes on the baking sheet and toss with one tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the barley and cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the lemon juice through the broth. Bring to a simmer, stir, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. When most of the broth is absorbed, remove from heat. Place in a large mixing bowl.

Add cooked butternut squash, Parmesan cheese, arugula, a tablespoon of olive oil, and balsamic vinegar to the barley. Stir well and add salt and pepper to taste. Options: Top with toasted nuts, leftover turkey, or other lean protein. Makes 4 side-dish servings or 2 main-dish servings.


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CARAMELIZED ONION QUESADILLA
The caramelized onions take a little bit of time, but they are worth it! Onions are high in fiber, vitamin C, and quercetin, a powerful flavonoid antioxidant, giving quite the nutritional vibes. Leftover turkey is a perfect protein choice here, but any lean protein works.INGREDIENTS
1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil + olive oil spray
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
½ cup vegetable broth, low salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese, reduced fat
12 ounces leftover turkey (or other lean protein), chopped, divided into 4 even servings
4 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas
Optional additions: fresh guacamole, low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt, balsamic glazePREPARATION
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and shallot and mix well. Continue to cook for 45-60 minutes, or until onions and shallots are golden brown or caramelized. 

Increase the heat to medium-high heat. Add the vinegar and stir constantly until most of the vinegar has evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add the broth, thyme, and pepper, continuing to stir constantly for about 2 to 3 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the onion mixture from the heat.

Place a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with olive oil. While the pan is heating, lay the 4 tortillas on a clean surface. Add ¼ cup onion mixture, ¼ cup cheese, and ¼ serving of turkey (about 3 ounces) on half of each tortilla. Fold in half, pressing gently to flatten. Add the tortillas to the skillet (depending on skillet size, may may need to do two at a time). Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until slightly browned. Remove and place on serving plates, cut in half, and top with optional toppings. Makes 4 servings.


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COLLARD GREENS AND TURKEY TIME
Collard greens have been one of my favorite greens since my first job. The chef and my friend, Carl, would make them weekly and always put aside a bowl for me. I could not get enough! If you are not a fan, or think you are not a fan 😌, give them a try. They are similar to kale and rich in antioxidants, folate, fiber, and potassium. Traditionally they are made with a smoked turkey leg. I took a shortcut here, using leftover smoked turkey, which is still quite delicious.INGREDIENTS
½ Tablespoon olive oil
½ yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth, low sodium (or vegetable broth)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
32 ounces collard greens, washed, stems removed, chopped into bite-size pieces
6 ounces leftover turkey (or deli-style smoked turkey)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Hot sauce, to tastePREPARATION
Place a large pot over medium heat and heat olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the broth and red pepper flakes, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and bring broth to a simmer. 

Add the collard greens, pushing down to make sure all are covered with the broth. Place lid on pot and simmer for 50-60 minutes, adding leftover turkey about halfway through. The collard greens should be completely tender and tasty. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and place in serving dish. Serve with any hot sauce variety desired. Makes 6 servings.


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With a longstanding dedication to healthy cooking and eating, I promote nutrition with a rebellious twist: the belief that perfection is not required for success on your wellness journey. 

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