Updated by Sarena-Rae Santos in November of 2023.
Some of the most common things I hear just after the holidays are comments about how much weight everybody gained from all the good food. I’m not a proponent of obsessing over food. I don’t overeat, and I don’t starve myself. If I want a piece of chocolate cheesecake, I eat it, and I enjoy it. No guilt.
One of the ways I can thoroughly enjoy my food without worrying about my waistline is by trying to have an 80/20 or 90/10 rule. That means that 80-90% of what I eat is nutrient-dense and completely guilt-free. The other 10-20% is allowed to be more indulgent (still no guilt!!). If I know that most of my food is healthy, I can give myself a little grace with the rest.
The best way to have delicious and healthy holiday foods is to make them yourself from real food (as opposed to processed food)! If you don’t cook much, check out Kate Tietje’s cookbook, Wholesome Real Food Favorites for recipes. If you have favorite holiday foods that are less than healthy, check out these ideas for swapping out the not-so-good ingredients for better ones! Don’t have any recipes for holiday foods? Check out Earthley’s guide, Holiday Recipes: Whole Foods for the Whole Family.
- Healthy Fats: This is where people make the biggest mistakes, especially during the holidays. They believe that if they eat low, unsaturated, or even man-made fat (margarine), they can get away with eating more. Not true! What we need to do is switch to healthy fats, such as butter, coconut oil, cream, lard, and tallow. Think that’s crazy?? Kate has done an excellent post explaining healthy fats and why we need them (this type of fat won’t make you fat)!
- Unprocessed Sweeteners: I know that the biggest craving for most of us during the holidays is the sweet stuff! Don’t worry; I won’t tell you to avoid all sugars. The first thing to do is to ditch all those fake sweeteners (except all-natural stevia, if you like it) and everything containing high fructose corn syrup. Then, use all the plain ol’ white sugar to Rosemary-Mint Sugar Scrub because you won’t be eating it!!! Buy raw, local honey, grade B maple syrup, rapadura/sucanat, or other sugar alternatives. These sweeteners have minerals to help you process the sugar and a much better flavor than artificial sweeteners. Want to know more? Check out our posts Everything You Need to Know About Sugar! and
- Herbs and Spices: The third big downfall I see during the holidays is artificial flavorings. Artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and “flavor enhancers” are often dangerous, not to mention a sad replacement for the real thing! Instead of “seasoning packets,” marinades, and sauces full of artificial ingredients, consider using herbs and spice! Did you know that many people have adverse reactions to all this artificial junk? Some of them even cause weight gain!
- Unrefined Salt: If you read our blog, Everything You Need to Know About Salt, you know regular table salt has been stripped of everything except sodium chloride, which causes us to retain water! If you want to fit into your special holiday clothes, this is less than helpful. Around my house, we consider unrefined Celtic sea salt a healthy food! This is such a simple switch that makes a huge difference.
So, what will this look like regarding your favorite recipes? Here are some examples of refined foods gone real!
Chocolate Chip Cookies: These are something that we make every year, and I knew I needed to re-create. Turns out that we like them even more with the healthier ingredients! Try out these kinds of swaps in your favorite holiday cookie recipe.
- Freshly ground whole wheat instead of white flour.
- Half butter, half coconut oil instead of “Smart Balance.”
- Rapadura instead of white sugar.
- Dark chocolate chips instead of regular.
- Eggs from a local farm instead of from the store.
- Celtic sea salt instead of processed salt.
Sour Cream Dips: I used to buy sour cream and seasoning packets to make sour cream dip. I’m not sure I could even eat that now! Bleck! Now, we make our own sour cream and mix it with various things to make delicious dips!
Turkey: Rather than buying turkeys injected with mixtures of refined salt and other stuff, we use a butter and herb mixture under the skin. Juicy and flavorful! Looking for a delicious Turkey recipe? Try making our Brined, Slow-Roasted Turkey.
Chocolate: I don’t know about you, but I love chocolate during the holidays! Not all chocolate is unhealthy, some variations of chocolate have amazing health benefits. Instead of buying pre-made candy, I’ve learned I can satisfy my chocolate cravings with healthier treats! Try Earthley’s Cocoa Calm with our Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups or Chocolate Stress-Reducing Balls (because we all need stress relief around the holidays).
I hope that our healthy switches help to get your creative juices flowing! To learn more about easy switches and baby steps to eating healthier food, check out our blog, 10 Healthy Food Swaps.