As much as I love the holidays for quality time with friends and family, it is most often centered around food and LOTS of it! And if you guys have several holiday gatherings as we do, the processed foods can add up rather quickly! I’m going to share some helpful, realistic tips that can help you and your family stay on track to clean eating while keeping your table, or plate, real food approved! Of course, this doesn’t mean depriving yourself of any of the classics or holiday favorites but just keep in mind anything can be made in a less processed, healthier form.
Let’s dive into the most simple way to create a real food menu and that is simply making some healthier swaps. No matter where you grocery shop, there is always access to a highly processed version and a much cleaner, less processed version. Most of the time they happen to be beside each other on the shelf! For example “Campbell’s Cream of _____ Soup” which has various forms of highly processed hydrogenated oils, MSG, and modified food starch which is chemically made and added as a thickening agent. Below is a less processed version that we often use, with real food ingredients! Again, you can find the cleaner option at almost all grocery stores in the same section. It is that easy.
Ingredients: Water, mushrooms*, creme fraiche (cultured cream*, [milk])*, rice starch*, rice flour*, sea salt, onion powder*, garlic powder*.
For another healthier alternative, toss the cream of mushroom soup and fried onions for a green bean casserole. Instead, toss fresh beans with olive oil, garlic, and sea salt, and roast them in the oven for a crisp, light, and healthy side dish. Luckily, I have a recipe for exactly this right here. If you still want to enjoy a classic green bean casserole I highly recommend this real food version that includes a homemade cream of mushroom and real fried onions!
Swap Margarine ,highly processed fake butter
Ingredients: Purified Water, Soybean Oil, Palm Kernel And Palm Oil, Salt, Lecithin (Soy), Vinegar, Natural Flavors, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene (Color), Vitamin D3
For real butter, made from grass-fed cows.
Ingredients : Pasteurized cream, salt.
Swap highly processed mayo
Ingredients: Water, soybean oil, high-fructose corn syrup, vinegar, modified corn starch, eggs, salt, natural flavor, mustard flour, potassium sorbate, spice, and dried garlic.
Ingredients : Water, Soybean Oil, Modified Starch (Corn, Potato)**, Eggs, Sugar, Salt, Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Sorbic Acid** and Calcium Disodium EDTA (Used to Protect Quality), Natural Flavor, Vitamin E. **Ingredients Not Found in Regular Mayonnaise.
For a non-processed, real food approved Mayo
Ingredients: Avocado Oil, Organic Eggs, Organic Egg Yolks, Organic Vinegar, Sea Salt, Organic Rosemary Extract.
Ingredients: Avocado Oil, Filtered Water, Egg Yolks, Organic Whole Eggs, Organic Distilled White Vinegar, Organic Mustard (Distilled Organic Vinegar, Water, Organic Mustard Seed, Salt, Organic Spices), Salt, Organic Rosemary Extract.
Ingredients: Avocado Oil, Certified Humane Free Range Egg Yolks, Water, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Lime Juice Concentrate, Mustard Flour, Mustard Extract, Black Pepper, Lime Oil.
Reading labels is another important factor. During the holidays, grocery stores are the ultimate trap with tons of processed junk around every corner. Shop smarter and wiser by planning your grocery store trip during the least busy times/hours of the day. You are more likely to make better choices and choose healthier options when you have a little more time to read labels and not be rushed.
Focus on Produce.
One of my favorite tips would be to focus on produce. It seems most dishes are centered around being sweet or creamy, which usually means full of refined sugars and processed dairy. Ditch the refined sugars and processed cheeses(Velveeta is a huge one here) and focus on more vegetables whether it’s for an appetizer or main dish! Use real fruits and vegetables and cut down on the processed glazes, creams, and dips. I have a delicious homemade recipe for Maple Glazed Carrots and they are always a hit! If you aren’t about skipping the dairy, opt for a raw or organic version! I love the raw cheddar cubes in this tasty Kale and Apple Cheddar Salad . Plus, it is a great way to get in some greens and also makes for a vibrant and colorful dish for the table.
Things to consider and be mindful of.
- Eat normal meals throughout the day before attending a gathering or event where not so healthy options will be at. That way you aren’t relying on your main meal to be there and avoid overeating on things that are super processed.
- Eat a lot of what you know is good, and a little of what you know is bad or are unsure about. Try simply sampling things instead of large portions for these foods!
- Sign up to bring healthier, real food approved dishes. It will be something you know your spouse, kids, and self will have an option to eat there and be comfortable with!
- Another option that our family does quite often is to simply eat before you go. There is nothing wrong with this! If you know options are limited go ahead and eat the normal foods you feel most comfortable with at home and that way the pressure is off on eating foods that you aren’t so comfortable with when you arrive.
- If you are tempted to eat more of the processed foods and sugary treats at gatherings, try socializing away from the food table. Find an activity to do that doesn’t involve food or eating. Go outside, get some fresh air, and perhaps go for a little walk!
- Lastly, lose the guilt while choosing indulgences wisely. These may sound opposite to one another but what I am trying to point out is you can indulge in dishes and desserts while still eating real foods. Choose a satisfying dessert for a treat but look to see if there are any options without all the artificial dyes and possibly one made from real food ingredients. This is my favorite pecan pie and best of all it is delicious and is made without highly processed corn syrups and sugars!