Healthy Tips & Treats for the Holidays
We’re so fortunate here in the San Francisco Bay Area to have the latest, leading-edge, natural food artisans & entrepreneurs delight us with their creations. Cafes, bakeries, natural food stores & farmers markets abound with extraordinary, delicious choices – I want to share some of my favorites with you.
More and more, people are waking up to the insidious and harmful effects of sugar on our bodies, minds, children, culture and the world – and asking for sugar-free and healthy alternatives – Join the Revolution!
Here are some of my favorite Tips & Treats – ask for them, look online, find sources near you, and ask your local stores to carry them.
First Off – Scale is everything – Make treats special, make treats tiny! Organic, raw and healthy treats are understandably often more expensive. And so – treat them like treats, and eat tiny portions in moderation on occasion only and savor them. This is key – put a tiny serving on a lovely tiny plate, sit down, be uninterrupted, focus on your food, bless it, give thanks, and enjoy.
READ LABELS. Avoid cane or beet sugar. Did you know beet sugar is one of the top ten GMO’s, “Genetically Modified Organisms”)? Do you know refined sugar is more addictive than cocaine? It is a drug, not a food, it has no nutritive value, and it is the single biggest cause of human degenerative disease. Cane sugar production has cleared rainforest, and as a “slash and burn” annual crop, it contributes to global warming and is not a sustainable crop.
Even “evaporated, organic cane sugar or syrup” – is still sugar. Instead, look for natural, unrefined or less refined, preferably organic alternatives such as raw honey, Grade B maple syrup (less refined and richer in minerals), raw agave nectar (tastes like honey), fruit juice concentrates, maple sugar, date sugar, or coconut sugar – and further exotic treats listed below.
- Coconut Bliss Ice Cream - this is a delicious dairy-free dessert made with coconut milk instead of cow milk. Some of their flavors are sweetened with agave instead of sugar, read the labels. In the freezer case.
- Pamela’s Cookies - makes a butter shortbread cookie sweetened with agave, also gluten free, simple and nice. On the shelf.
- Hail Merry – these are the best raw coconut macaroons made! Incredibly good, in blonde, chocolate or caramel flavors. All organic, raw, gluten free, and sweetened with maple syrup. These make a great healthy gift for anyone who likes coconut, a little bag of about a dozen treats is $4.99. In the frig case.
- Raw chocolate is healthier and more delicious than cooked, processed chocolate. More and more great, local brands are being created out there now in leading edge health food stores. I like Lulu’s, Sacred Chocolate, and Divine Organics are my favorite brands, in dark chocolate. Look for those sweetened with maple or coconut sugar. They are more expensive, and so meant to be eaten in tiny amounts, and savored.
- Cafe Gratitude – Cafe Gratitude, started in San Francisco, now in several locations, is renowned for their extraordinary desserts made with all organic, vegan, raw ingredients. Did you know that anything you make with cow milk can be instead made with fresh, homemade nut milk? It’s so easy to make, and has no cholesterol. Look for their cafes if you are in the area, or their cookbooks (“Cafe Gratitude Desserts”) if you’re not and try your hand at these treats – their raw chocolate mousse, shakes and tiramisu are amazing!
- One of my favorite snacks is fresh apple slices with RAW (not roasted or salted), organic, sesame tahini spread on it. A blend of delicious, crisp, refreshing, creamy and soothing – tahini is one of the top three richest sources of calcium, more than dairy.
- Other wonderful fruit treats this holiday season are Fuyu persimmons, eaten crisp like an apple, sliced and eaten like a mini dessert, or soft rich Hachaya persimmons, eaten soft like pudding. A date is a wonderful treat, you can fill it with soaked crisp walnuts or cream cheese and walnuts. Or make an old fashioned baklava with just honey, no sugar. A dried apricot or dried fig or prune is a tasty treat with a cup of tea. Fresh pomegranates are wonderful, seeds are delicious sprinkled on salads or eaten as is. Apples and pears are great this time of year. And winter citrus will be in soon, tangerines, oranges, tangelos, kumquats, mandarins are wonderful zesty treats.
- Cranberries are wonderful homemade and naturally sweetened with raw honey. You can make a raw relish with cranberries chopped with apples, celery, raw soaked walnuts and a little orange, and sweeten with honey. Or you can cook the cranberries in a little apple juice, cool, then add raw apple, other ingredients if desired and honey at the end.
- Sweeten your own yogurt – with fresh fruit and honey or maple syrup. I always buy unsweetened yogurt, goat is my favorite instead of cow, and more digestible too (even better for lactose intolerant people), or you can try soy or there is now coconut yogurt too. You can make your own yogurt – this is fun for the whole family, to see the magic of cultured food occur before your eyes. Remember to read the labels – some “Plain” and almost all “Original” products are sweetened with cane sugar – look for “Unsweetened”.
- Pumpkin yogurt – So simple, so delicious. I stir 1/2 c of canned plain pumpkin into 1/2 c plain yogurt, then add a little maple syrup to taste, and sprinkle in pumpkin pie spice to taste, mmm. Garnish with a few pomegranate seeds or sliced persimmon and grated nutmeg for elegant serving.
- Breakfast cereals – I buy old fashioned plain, organic puffed corn, rice, or barley in bags from the health food store, and use soy or nut milk and maple syrup on them, great tasting. Add sliced bananas if desired.
- Homemade oatmeal – I use thick sliced old fashioned rolled oats, simmer for 20 minutes for hearty yet still chewy texture, add fresh raw chopped seasonal fruit at the end, a little maple syrup, and soy or nut milk. A sprinkle of cardamon powder is a delightful touch. Or a couple chopped dates adds sweetening naturally.
- Mesquite Seed Powder – A sprinkle of raw organic mesquite seed powder is great – a delicious superfood with subtle maple taste that sweetens and adds nutrients – great on oatmeal.
- Holiday Drinks- a small amount of fresh, natural, unsweetened fruit juice can be a wonderful dessert or treat. Just be aware that fruit juice is already very rich, and so I usually dilute mine with up to 50% water, or add natural sparkling water to make a sparkler. Fresh apple cider with a splash of raw organic cranberry juice and a splash of sparkling water makes a beautiful, colorful holiday beverage. I have small, lovely, stemmed glasses for serving small size treat drinks – learn to savor small portions.
- Kombucha and Chia Seed drinks – many health food stores now carry a wide selection of fruit flavor drinks sweetened with pure fruit juice or agave nectar for a refreshing occasional treat.
- Have healthy herbal, caffeine free teas on hand. I like the brand “Organic India” tulsi teas, caffeine free, mild and very healthful, tulsi is a time honored, ancient Ayurvedic herb, tasting slightly like mint. Jasmine flavor is wonderful. “Choice Organics” makes a wonderful cheerful Northwest Berry flavor for mornings, and relaxing Chamomile Spearmint, to have a few sips before bed. Or find a Chamomile/Lavender blend, also very soothing. (Not too much tea or other liquid before sleep though, it can interrupt our sleep if we have to rise to use the bathroom.)
- Pero is a tasty, healthy instant coffee substitute, caffeine free, made with grains like roasted barley with chicory root (which is very healthful and in the same family as dandelion). Delicious, you can make coffee like drinks with it, add a little maple syrup to sweeten, and add milk or top with whipped cream (sweetened with a little maple syrup) and cinnamon or grated nutmeg.
- Hot spiced mulled cider is always nice for the holidays. The scent of cinnamon is euphoric and lifts the mood! Add water to the cider to dilute, and add mulling spices and enjoy. Or add your own whole spices, steeping with a few cinnamon sticks or star anise adds magic and aromatherapy fragrance to the whole house.
- Chai masala spice tea - culinary herbs are often medicinal herbs and the aromatherapy benefits awaken our ancient sense of scent. I make my own masala chai tea blend, spices only, without tea, caffeine and sugar, and add raw honey and soy or nut milk at the end. Chai is personal taste, lots of great recipes online, or invent your own.
- Make your own whipped cream this holiday season. I only buy organic Grade B maple syrup (richer, more minerals and healthier) – everyone always loves this whipped cream, and no one ever knows the difference! I whip it up first, then blend in a few drops of vanilla extract in, and a little drizzle of maple, not too much, great for topping your natural desserts or drinks. Look for pasteurized whipping cream, rather than ULTRA pasteurized – it is not as highly heated and processed.
- I just had a delicious pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving – my friend took his traditional recipe and substituted sugar with 2/3 that amount of maple syrup instead (and reduced the other liquid a bit) – it was absolutely delicious and most people would not even know the difference!
- Please avoid artificial chemical sweeteners – which have their own potential addictive problems, controversy, and links to health problems. (See Dr. Oz TV show Oct 8, 2012 on The Hazards of Artificial Sweetener Addiction). For those who are diabetic, or must otherwise reduce blood glucose levels, instead try a touch of natural Stevia Plant sweetener – or the exciting new options below.
- Specialty Sweeteners are wonderful! Many raw, natural, speciality sweeteners that are coming onto the market now – are actually being re-discovered, as they derive from healthful traditions in many cultures all around the world. They are each uniquely delicious, nutritious and healthful – most are low glycemic, and some (Yacon) have no glucose/ Raw Jersulalem Artichoke Syrup and Raw Yacon Root Syrup – are two speciality sweeteners that have low glycemic impact. Although similar, Yacon has the more rich, deep, caramel-y taste, and mixed half and half with raw agave nectar, makes a great, healthy “caramel” sauce to drizzle over baked apples, nut milk ice cream, or homemade hot beverages and whipped cream. Raw Coconut Nectar comes from the sap of the coconut flower, is also low glycemic and nutritious, a wonderful, lighter syrup versatile in use. These syrups are all beneficial to gastrointestinal health, digestive flora, and metabolism. Raw Coconut Sugar is the dehydrated crystals from the sap, and can be used in many typical places from beverages to baking. It has a slight caramel flavor, like light brown sugar. Maple Sugar and Date Sugar are two other all natural speciality sugars you may wish to use on special occasions. Date Syrup is wonderful and used in special recipes in Middle Eastern cooking, a “Zaleb” is water, ice, date syrup and splash of rosewater blended into a delicious, fragrant froth, fabulous delight inspired from the ancient past. I also use Raw Lucuma Fruit powder – it is a powdered whole fruit, a Peruvian superfood rich in minerals and nutrients, and adds a subtle, sweet, taste reminiscent of maple. It adds nutrient boost and subtle sweetness to fruit smoothies if desired. Raw Mesquite Seed powder, mentioned before is another powerpacked superfood, as many seeds are, and adds a distinctive, delicious maple flavor. All of the above raw superfoods are available in organic, raw form through speciality health food stores or resources online.
So as you can see, with all these leading-edge new and ancient sources of sweeteners in our repertoire, we now have even less need or reason to turn to unhealthy sweets!
And now, let’s talk about what is even MORE important than food, our first two primary sources of energy – #1 is breath; #2 is water. Our choices here make all the difference!
- Deep Breathe to stay calm – a personal trainer years ago told me it is physically impossible to be tense when we are deep breathing – so if we notice we are becoming tense, stop, take 3 full, deep breaths down in the belly. Slowing down our breath rate stops adrenadine fueled stress. This is helpful to stay calm in the holiday season.
- DRINK WATER! Water is our salvation during the holidays and all the time. Make water our primary beverage of choice! I carry spring water in a steel water bottle in my purse and in my car with me at all times. Fruit, tea or other drinks should be additional treats only, and not a daily replacement for vital, fresh, natural water. I recommend about a cup an hour of water during our active hours of water. High quality spring, well or filtered water is best.
- PREVENT STRESS – Most stress, fatigue, irritability, unclear thinking and poor food choices are actually caused by dehydration – so if cravings arise – stop, breathe, drink water, and wait til you can make a healthier choice, you will be glad you did.
- Regulate your portion size - portions size in America have grown excessively since the 1950′s – 8 oz portions grew to 64 oz “huge gulp” scale – not healthy for people or the planet! Make a commitment to scale down on everyday plate size, cup and glass size – and use them – and your whole family will benefit. Look for lovely, colorful, ceramic tiny plates in Asian markets that are used in sushi restaurants. They are perfect to serve small bite treats. Small portions of treats, in moderation – is one of the secrets to living slim lifelong. (But eating large amounts of salad and fresh veggies is fine!)
- Eat sitting peacefully at the table, with food on plates. Another secret to slim living success with treats is to serve yourself a small portion of food, onto a plate, then sit peacefully and enjoy. Avoid standing, distracted, “on the run”, unconscious eating. Create a clear and serene and enjoyable setting for eating. Don’t watch tv, the computer or read while eating. Have pleasant conversations only, don’t listen to disturbing “news”. Don’t dip from and eat from large containers of ice cream or yogurt – instead, create the ritual of serving yourself the small portion.
- Gratitude and Mindfulness – The simple act of consciously blessing our food each time we eat is a very powerful ritual that does make a difference. Really being mindful of our food and the ritual of eating, being grateful and appreciative, helps us to be fully satisfied with our food, and to nourish ourselves with conscious self-love.
So these are some ideas to get you going! Please feel free to contact me with your questions, ideas, suggestions, or to share your favorite healthy Treats & Tips and I will add them to this section here!
To Healthier Holidays 2014 and a Healthier World for All in 2015!
(c) 2014 Copyright Kimberly Call Design & Consulting, All Rights Reserved