Evelyn Fuertes Offers Healthy Ideas for Holiday Celebrations

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MM asked our resident health guru Evelyn Fuertes of From Sprouts to Supper in town to help us figure out a healthier way of celebrating the holidays. Here is her expert advice:

The holidays can be stressful for many people for different reasons. Some people have events, including work functions to attend and the pressures to entertain. However, many have lost loved ones or will be alone for the holidays and many more will not be able to celebrate the holidays due to the loss of a home or a job. I would like to encourage everyone to keep them all in our hearts during this holiday season, no matter how stressed we think we are.

1. When planning holiday menus, how do you make sure you provide healthy alternatives to the usual sugar-laden concoctions we think of as comfort food!

Health alternatives can be quite good, think of fresh fruit, dark chocolate and nuts. All heart healthy and quite yummy. One treat that I like to make includes sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, dates, raisins and cinnamon pulsed in a food processor and then rolled into a ball. I like to roll them in a dusting of cacao (chocolate) powder or a nice spiced tea that has been ground fine. If you are looking for low fat you can't go wrong with frozen fruit. I love to make "ice cream" with a frozen banana, frozen blueberries and strawberries.

2. What are the healthiest foods that you can make part of a hearty holiday buffet?

Oh boy there are so many! Side dishes can really make the meal zing. I like a quinoa or millet pilaf. One of my new favorites, roasted kabocha squash adds color and tastes great. Baked sweet potatoes or any other roasted root vegetables are always delicious. Steamed vegetables like broccoli or kale can add some beautiful color as long as they are not overcooked. Adzuki beans and navy beans are packed with nutrients and taste great as spreads. I also would recommend that if you are trying to make the meals healthy reduce the fat and salt that you cook with and add it after the meal is ready, or better yet, let each person add what they want. I like to make a tahini dressing and let people drizzle that over their meal to add a bit of flavor and fat.

3. After the holiday, when people are looking to make their resolutions, how helpful would a cleanse be, like the one you are suggesting on your website?

A cleanse is a great way to get your mindframe back into the healthy lifestyle groove, especially after the craziness of the holidays that begins way back in October. It's also a great way to get people to try new foods and mind/body techniques they might not be familiar with. The real goal of the cleanse is to use it as a springboard taking what is learned and applying it after the cleanse thus maintaining those healthy habits. One of the most rewarding feelings I get is when I have someone that did my cleane last January tell me they still have their greens or morning smoothie every day.

4. Is there a sweet treat that actually provides some healthiness built into it that deserves a place on a holiday table?

If you haven't noticed I am a big fan of fruit, especially berries and kiwi. Fruit dipped in dark chocolate can be decadent yet healthy. A trail mix of dried unsweetened fruit with nuts and seeds can provide a sugar fix without the guilt. While it's not local I also have a special place in my heart for mango. A nice perfectly ripened mango can be the sweetest juiciest treat you have at the holiday table.

The best way to have fruit is to make sure it's ripe and ready. I think some people may be turned off by fruit because it wasn't ripe. For instance, a kiwi is ripe when it's soft to the touch. If I have an organic kiwi I'll eat it skin and all!

5. What about liquor? What are the best selections for a light holiday meal?

Liquor should always be consumed in moderation. If you are drinking and want to make sure to keep it light I would recommend staying away from frozen drinks and eggnog or keep it to just one glass. If you can't do that then using a small glass will help keep the alcohol at bay. Some wine glasses can hold half a bottle of wine! This makes it hard to really know how much you are actually drinking. If the glasses are large fill it only a half or a quarter of the way. Alternating between seltzer and a drink is also a great way to manage your alcohol intake and you can camouflage the seltzer with juice or a lemon wedge to make it look like a drink if you are uncomfortable looking empty handed.

With a little elbow grease a wonderful holiday dinner doesn't have to be a heart attack on a plate. There are many healthy alternatives out there that are delicious and fun to eat! 

With Evelyn's great advice, we can all enjoy the holidays in a healthier way! Happy Holidays to everyone! Let MM know if you try any of her advice or check out the link to her site for more great food ideas.

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