Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Surviving the Holidays. Seriously Good Tips. Plus Recipes.

A 2014 Drambuie Christmas Toast with my husband.

Drambuie would “not” be in the healthy category (I don’t think). “BUT IT’S THE HOLIDAYS!”


I’m sharing with you some key holiday survival tips. What do I mean survive?

Well, basically, some tips to help feel well during the holidays by not eating too crappy. It’s easy to succumb to the excuse “It’s the holidays” and make it a free-for-all, right? (Guilty.) But when we let our hair down too many times and go crackers (that’s another way to say “cray-cray”) then, sadly, we welcome a weaker immune system and lower energy. Sigh. Am I a buzz kill already?

No! I’m not! I promise.

We still need to have fun. After all, “It’s the holidays!”

Here are few tips to help you survive.

Three words to help.


  • Plan.
  • Expectations.
  • Practice.

Over the years, I’ve found that planning, having appropriate expectations, and practice are smart elements to surviving the holidays without (too much) frustration and stress.

Holiday Tip #1… Plan.

This is the time of year when I start planning for the holidays. Why? Because when the holidays come, I like to enjoy them. How do I do that? By starting early.

  1. Get your calendar and think ahead to the holidays… Halloween, Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year… and start brainstorming on the healthy foods you want to eat and share with family and friends. Are you attending any parties? If so, do you need to bring a dish? Or perhaps you might want to bring your own snacks or food, or plan to eat ahead of time so you’re not tempted while you’re there. Are you hosting any holidays yourself? Those are all things to consider.
  2. Get out your favorite healthy cookbooks, and start picking out the foods you want to make for the various occasions. Start writing your shopping lists, and make a note for things you might need to order online, allowing time for shipping. Ordering online can save money and opens up your options, but requires that you don’t wait until the last minute.

Holiday Tip #2… Expectations.

Sometimes the biggest source of stress for people following a healthy diet during the holidays is figuring out what to tell loved ones, who go out of their way to make special holiday foods filled with not only tradition, but unhealthy ingredients.

I find that the easiest way to deal with this is by letting people know far in advance… like weeks or months. If you tell people early on, when they’re not expecting it, it doesn’t seem as much of a big deal to them, and it gives them plenty of time to deal with it. Then, a friendly reminder a week or two in advance helps ensure all goes according to plan.

If you’re looking for help with what to say, here’s how I’ve handled it in the past. I sent an email to family and friends, where I shared my excitement about wanting to feel better, improve my health, have more energy, reduce headaches, stay in shape, etc., and as a result, I was eating differently during the holidays. I asked for their assistance in helping me maintain my willpower…

… You see, people love to help.

When you enlist their support, and show them how they can help you, it takes them off the defensive – it’s brilliant.

I’m also quick to put them at ease that my unique dietary requirements won’t create any extra work for them. In fact, it’s less work because I’ll bring my own food.

And, be sure to tell them you’ll bring extras in case anyone else wants to try. (This is a tactful, unimposing way to expose others to a whole new world of delicious, healthy foods.)

Note: Pay special attention to Mom, who may need a separate, loving talk so she doesn’t get bummed out that you won’t be partaking in her annual peanut-butter bread. Better still, enlist Mom to help you make some of her traditional holiday dishes… but in a healthier way. Consider what substitutions you can make for processed sugars and gluten. Make it a special event. Remember, do this well before the holidays, when you have plenty of time to practice, and the two of you can play in the kitchen. The memories will last you a lifetime.

Or… just eat the peanut-butter bread and fuhgeddaboudit. 

Here's a time when I just said fuhgeddaboudit.

Here’s a time when I just said fuhgeddaboudit.

Pro-tip for people with kids: Want to get your immediate family (especially the little ones) to eat a bit healthier this holiday season, too? Get them involved with the food. Show them different healthy recipes and ask them to pick out which ones to make for the holidays. Or have them help in the kitchen. The closer they are to the food-making process, the more they’ll like it.

My little helper (old pic).

My little helper (old pic).

And, keep in mind, you’re creating memories and traditions that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Awwwwww.

More on Expectations… To survive the holidays while having a blast, remember that the holidays are supposed to be a busy time.

They always will be.

It’s the nature of the beautiful holiday beast.

So, when you’re at the mall, or driving from one place to the next, remember to chill out in spite of the crowds and traffic. The way I look at it, the busy-ness and crowds are actually fun (except for those snarky peeps who don’t realize that it’s the holidays and happiness abounds for all… for those people, give them an extra big smile, compliment their hair, and spread the love).

Plus? Amazon.com. ‘Nuff said.

Personally, I love like the excitement and energy, but for those who get a little freaked out with the hustle-n-bustle, now is a good time to master the art of mindful breathing and meditation is perfect.


–> Check out this great post on HOW and WHY I meditate. <–





While I’m on the topic of finding ways to prevent holiday frazzle, here are two other USEFUL ideas:

  1. “Take Five!” to be Grateful – Set your calender to remind you to spend five minutes, every other day, thinking of a few things (or people) for which you’re grateful. They can be the same things every time, or they can change. By setting a reminder on your phone, you’ll never forget to do it. This is powerful stuff and sets you straight if you find yourself in a tizzy. It activates a different part of your brain and forces the freak-out center of your brain to take a break. Then, say an
  2. Volunteer – Want to kick your gratefulness up, like, ten billion notches? Get your ass down to a homeless (or women or animal) shelter to volunteer during the holidays (or any time of year for that matter). There are few things that will make you remember to be grateful for what you have, and you’ll be helping people (or animals) who can use some love during the holidays. Need I say more?

Holiday Tip #3… Practice.

Practice is the third key to navigating the holidays with sparkle and ease. Practice those dang recipes!

Now is the time to go all out and make some of those gourmet (mostly healthy) recipes you’ve always salivated over. But, the trick is to give yourself time to practice and master them. After all, odds are you’ll be showing these beauties off to friends, coworkers, and family… so now is your chance to shine some light on the awesomeness of healthy food.

That’s why we start this process early every year. To have time to practice recipes which will save us time and frustration, during a period when we need to do just that. It’s not wasted effort, you’re making meals!… I mean, the best part is that you get to eat your practice!

Pro-tip: Make a note about which recipes freeze well because another way to save time during the holidays is making some foods ahead and freezing them. Some foods that freeze well: soups with cream or butter, stews, gluten-free brownies / cookies / cakes (including cheesecake), and even some pies.

Ready for the freezer. I'm way ahead of schedule.

Ready for the freezer. I’m way ahead of schedule.


Oh. Have you tried my gluten-free pumpkin pie? It’s good.

Pumpkin Pie (Gluten-free Grain-free Almost-Paleo)

Pumpkin Pie (Gluten-free Grain-free Almost-Paleo)


Bonus Tips for Staying Healthy & Energized During the Holidays

Hydrate to Health – I still make a point to tell people to drink up (I am loving spring water these days). In fact, if you find yourself drinking a bit of tasty alcohol, then definitely be sure to drink an extra glass or two of water. It’s also helpful during the dry winter months in keeping your skin extra soft and pretty.

Exercise to Empower – I know it might seem hard to find time to exercise during the holidays, but here’s the mystical thing about it. When you take time to exercise, you actually get more time in your day. (Same goes for meditation. Just sayin’.) Weird, I know.

Well, it’s not really that strange if you think about it. When we exercise it makes us feel great, energized, strong, and on top of the world. When that happens, our brains get focused and clear, allowing us to operate more efficiently such that we find more time in our day to get things done. Just like the guy in the movie Limitless (only without the drugs), we get more creative, less foggy, and better able to multi-task. So… if you think you can’t afford the time to work out, you actually can’t afford not to. Do it.

My favorite forms of exercise are yoga (especially heated), spin, and pretty much any group exercise classes where we can all complain cheer together. Really, I’m kidding. I’m that freak in the class with a smile plastered on my face because I love being there.

Oh and if you need some tips on how to add more movement to your life, check out the post where I shared that we got rid of our couch.

Rest to Rejuvenate – Just as it’s important to find time to exercise during the holidays, it’s equally important to rest. I take mini-breaks during the busy days, where I simply close my eyes for five minutes and breath (that meditation just keeps creeping into this post – yeah, it’s life changing).

It doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life, if I take a five minute break, then I’m calmed, centered, and ready to take on the next chunk of my day (until I need another five minute break).

Watch the sugar – which can magically seduce you when stressed.

Let’s be honest, during the holidays, most of us are probably going to have at least something naughty. Watch yourself, though. Sugar can cause inflammation which can cause lots of problems. If you want to really feel good, JUST SAY NO (or maybe just take a bite and then walk away).

Recipe Time!


Yield approximately 3 cups

Recipe adapted from my vegan days to support my current non-vegan life. This recipe is refreshing and lively, and people rave about it. It doesn’t only taste good though… there’s some nutrition. Hello — cranberries! Cranberries have vitamin C, dietary fiber, vitamin K, manganese, and more.

  • 2 cups fresh organic cranberries
  • 2 oranges, peeled, seeded and sectioned
  • zest of an orange
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup raw honey or grade-B maple syrup (more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons green onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

Process the cranberries and oranges briefly in a food processor, fitted with the “S” blade. Transfer to a bowl and add the other ingredients. Stir by hand.


Yield 20 nuggets

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
  • 4 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons raw honey or grade-B maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups dried, unsweetened cranberries (divided)

Process the nuts and salt in a food processor, fitted with the “S” blade, until coarsely ground. Add the vanilla, dates, agave, and 1 cup of the dried cranberries, and continue processing until the mixture begins to stick together when pressed between your fingers. Use a tablespoon size scoop and roll into balls. Then, gently flatten a bit and press a dried cranberry on top. These freeze well, too.

My husband also loves my recipe for Rudolph Cherry Cobbler. It’s gluten-free. He asks for it every holiday.

I hope these tips inspire you to have the best holidays ever. :)

Holiday lights. Puuuuurrrrty.

Holiday lights. Puuuuurrrrty.

Holiday Soup (Raw) Recipe: HARVEST SOUP

Oh and there’s this one: Carrot Apple Halloween Soup

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

PS. This post wouldn’t be complete without admitting what I do for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals nowadays. I treat the time during the holidays (the weeks in November and December, specifically) usually much like the rest of the year. I’m pretty dialed in with my diet and lifestyle. Yeah, I have my cheats flexible meals, but usually I’m on point.

For me, that means that I make three meals a day for my family from scratch almost every day of the year.

That means —> the last damn thing I want to do for holiday meals is to be in the kitchen cooking. If I make a holiday meal I’ll pretty much never get a break. And, let’s be honest, holiday meals are the biggest meals of the year. Geeeesh!

So, I went on strike a bit.

I talked my family into going to some of the fancier resorts in the Scottsdale area and indulging in the huge ass buffets they offer. It’s all gluten, not grass-fed, and probably pesticide-ridden.


I don’t have to cook. Ahhhh. (I really like cooking, just not every single meal of my life – I need some breaks.)

Turns out… scary actually, my family loooooved the idea. Huh. Was my cooking bad?

No, it turns out that my family wants a break from all the uber healthy foods I serve meal after meal after meal after meal after meal… you get the point. They want to let their hair down for a couple of meals without guilt.

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