10 food hacks for a healthier holiday

The holidays are coming! Try these healthy food hacks to enjoy the best of the season.
Friends or family celebrating a healthy holiday dinner together

Life gets busy during the holidays. Between party planning, gift buying and attending parties, your healthy lifestyle may temporarily be put on hold. This year, try these 10 holiday health hacks to maintain good habits throughout this hectic month.

1. Reach for frozen vegetables. Skip the washing and chopping. Straight from the freezer to the stove, frozen vegetables like broccoli, kale, peas, peppers and mushrooms take minutes to prepare, require minimal clean-up and are just as nutritious as fresh.

2. Put fruit in your sightline. Place a bowl of juicy clementines or apples on your countertop to replace the cookie jar or candy bowl. 

3. Make time for meals. Carve out time in your busy day to sit down for your meals. Grabbing a bite in the car, in front of a computer, or on the run makes you more likely to overeat, since you’re not paying attention to how full you feel. Take a 10-minute break from distractions and enjoy every bite.

4. Set that slow cooker. The one you received as a gift last Christmas? It’s time to put it to good use. Just imagine: you add a few ingredients in the morning, and come home after a busy day to the fragrant aroma of a fully prepared dinner. No need for take out! Try our slow cooker Pork roast with vegetables, Carrot squash soup, even Stuffed apples.

5. Drink water…but make it glam. Never spend money on flavoured water again (save your dollars and buy holiday gifts)! Make your own jazzy water by adding a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange, strawberries, mint leaves or a festive cinnamon stick. This great-tasting water can replace soda pop, which packs on needless calories and excess sugar (a can of pop has 10 tsp sugar; Heart & Stroke recommends not exceeding 12 tsp of added sugars a day).

6. Think about proportions. No matter if you’re at a restaurant, buffet or home-cooked dinner, consider how to divide your plate to make a balanced meal. Fill half your plate with vegetables, and round it out with one-quarter grains and one-quarter protein-rich foods, such as fish, poultry, tofu, lentils or beans.

7. Give and get healthy gifts. When your cousin asks what you want this year, request a gift that makes healthy eating more fun. How about a hand-held mandolin to thinly slice vegetables, or a spiralizer to make vegetables into long, springy noodles? A reusable water bottle is a great gift idea too!

8. BYO nutritious snacks. When rushing from office to mall to holiday event, it’s easy to get trapped by the aroma of cinnamon buns or the lure of the vending machine. Beat those cued cravings by keeping healthy snacks in your car, desk or bag. My go to: a pre-portioned ¼ cup mix of almonds, raisins, sunflower seeds and a few dark chocolate chips. Non-perishable, portable and delicious!

9. Be a food snob. If you don’t love something, don’t eat it! Scan party tables, buffets, food courts and restaurant menus for the items that you really enjoy. Once you take a bite, rate the food on a scale of one to 10 (in your mind). Commit to a decision that only the top rated foods are worth eating! That will put an end to mindlessly munching on foods you don’t love.

10. Use the 80-20 rule. If you eat well 80 percent of the time, there’s room for 20 percent indulgence. Rigid or limited diets don’t work, especially around holiday time. This plan allows for balance and moderation. If you can remember this 80/20 split throughout the holidays, you can have your cake (and cookies!), and eat it too.

Your holiday gift could mean a life-saving research breakthrough! Donate to the Heart and Stroke Foundation in honour of someone you love and send them a special holiday card. Donate now.