How to Keep Your Holiday Tradition and Skip the Food Coma

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Mandala Reflections is excited to introduce guest blogger, Elisabeth Meyer. This post will hopefully be the first of many, because Elisabeth is an amazing cook! But most important, she is real. Read on to hear how she finds balance amidst extravagant holiday eating.    

For many of us, the holidays are a time to celebrate with loved ones…and lots of indulgences come along with all of the celebrations!  If you’re trying to eat healthy or stick to a specific diet, this time of year can feel stressful.   I know it always has been for me:  I would obsess over all the unhealthy food I was eating.  Mind you, I still ate it – but I felt terribly guilty about doing so.

I have a new, more balanced philosophy this holiday season:  I am going to eat the foods that are special treats for me, eat healthy when I’m at home by myself, and stop worrying so much about all of it.  For me, this means I will eat the special foods that my family makes at this time of year (lasagna on Christmas Eve, my grandfather’s homemade kolache, my dad’s French toast the day after Christmas) and any special foods that are offered at other celebrations (homemade Christmas cookies, for example) without guilt or regret.  I’ll skip the treats that I don’t get too excited about but often eat anyway just because they’re available (candy canes at the office, store-bought cookies and cakes).  And when I’m home alone in between the merriment, I’ll make the healthy foods that I’m accustomed to eating the rest of the year.  I can’t tell you how much better it feels to eat the foods I love and allow myself to really enjoy them, and consciously pass on all the extra junk that I never enjoy that much anyway.

In between the indulging and the abstaining, one of the things that keeps me grounded and tied to my commitment to eating healthy, whole foods is having whole grains for breakfast almost every day.  Breakfast is an easy meal to commit to eating healthily during the holidays, because most of the partying happens later in the day, and hot cereal is such a great way to start off the morning in the wintertime.  I like to cook a large batch of grains at the beginning of the week, and keep them in the refrigerator to reheat in small portions all week long.  A couple of my favorite recipes are below:

Cinnamon-Berry Quinoa

(makes 4 servings)

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 cup quinoa (tip:  if you rinse quinoa before you cook it, it will eliminate some of the bitterness that people often associate with quinoa, and make it taste much better!)

2 cups frozen berries (fresh berries are great too, but not seasonally available for most of us in December!)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Chopped pecans and agave nectar or honey, to taste

Combine milk, water, and quinoa in a saucepan.

Bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Turn off heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Stir in berries, cinnamon, and pecans.

Add agave or honey to taste just before serving.

Cranberry-Ginger Oatmeal

(makes 3 servings)

1 cup old-fashioned oats

2 cups water

¼ cup raisins

¼ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup sunflower seeds (shelled and unsalted)

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Bring water to a boil.

Add oats, raisins, cranberries, ginger, and a pinch of salt.

Reduce heat to low.

Cook until water is absorbed and oats are creamy – about 7 minutes.

Add sunflower seeds and syrup.

Serve with milk if desired.

Elisabeth Meyer owns and directs an early childhood center in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, where she teaches cooking classes for children and families that focus on natural, whole foods cooking.  She is also a holistic health graduate student at St. Catherine University, where she focuses her studies on child nutrition and a (lapsed) blogger at Cooking in Cathedral Hill, where she blogs about her favorite recipes and experiences in her own kitchen.

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