A few tips for a happy and healthy holiday season!

Let’s face it, we’re in the middle of eating and shopping season. Some days, it seems like our main form of exercise is usually moving the fork from the plate to our mouths. Here are some ways to enjoy the spirit of the season and favorite holiday foods, while staying healthy, too.

Enjoy seasonal fruits.  Clementines, pomegranates, pineapples, mangoes, oranges, grapefruits and apples are wonderful this time of year.  Keep them on the counter or in the front of the fridge where you can see them!

Move the goodies out of sight:  One of the biggest challenges of the season is a see-food diet, otherwise known as “if I see it, I eat it”. We’re more likely to be tempted by what’s right in front of us. Put the candy dish in a cupboard and move the cookies where you won’t have a constant visual reminder.

Balance: if you are going to a holiday party in the evening, make an extra effort to eat well on other days.  Add in more vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, etc. and move more, too!  A piece of chocolate cake one day or one big holiday meal won’t make or break a diet, but treats every day will add up.

Savor your favorites:  Bottom line, you’re going to eat some treats this holiday season, so you might as well truly enjoy them.   Target things you enjoy most (i.e. no filling up on chips or every day foods) When you eat, really eat!   When we really taste our food (rather than inhaling something while talking and multitasking) food tastes much better, we’re more satisfied and full quicker.

Fill your table with fruit and veggie dishes: Have your holiday meals feature seasonal vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, collards or bean or veggie soups.  Make roasted chestnuts as a snack. Have a fruit inspired dessert, like baked apples, poached pears, sautéed bananas, etc.

Skip the alcohol, or limit it to a drink or two.   Not only does it have a lot of calories, but once you’ve had a few, it’s easier to indulge on other foods.

Get moving! Exercise is a great way to improve mood, reduce stress levels, and burn calories, too.  Head out at lunchtime for a short walk, check out the holiday lights in the evening, start a new family tradition and do something active at family events, dance at party functions, or make a habit of hitting the gym.  You don’t have to wait until January for healthy resolutions.

G-Free Holidays 2012 Newsletter

Naturally Gluten-Free Goodies



Gluten-free and Easy for the Holidays:

I can’t quite believe that it’s December, and yet here we are. For many people, the holiday season is one of the most challenging times to be gluten-free. I’ve highlighted some of my favorite tips for staying SANE and gluten-free here, in the new Simply Gluten-Free Magazine.

And yet there are so many more great recipes out there.

But for many people, it s easier to make some desserts that happen to be gluten free, rather than gluten free adaptations of “normal” foods. Foods that are naturally gluten-free avoid the expensive specialty flours. Personally, I am not a fan of spending a lot for specialty flours when I’m sharing with many non-GF folks. This avoids the inevitable complaints of friends or family who won’t even try GF foods just because they’ve decided they won’t like it. There are a lot of treats which just happen to be GF, or mostly GF. You can find recipes in normal cookbooks, or maybe you have family recipes and didn’t realize they were safe! Here’s a list of treats from people at my classes I’ve marked the desserts that are naturally or easily made dairy free (DF), egg free (EF) and soy free (SF), NF (nut free)because many people are dealing with several issues. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There are many more out there, but these are just to get your thoughts going. Remember, these foods are only GF if you use GF ingredients. And as always, check labels to avoid surprises.

Some of these are healthy, some not, but there are enough options to choose from that you can surely find something that works for your lifestyle that you and your family can enjoy together.

  • Baked apples
  • Candied orange peel (DF, EF, SF, NF)
  • Caramelized bananas or Bananas Foster
  • Candy canes! Dipped in (dairy free) chocolate or plain (DF, EF, NF)
  • Chocolate bark (DF, EF)
  • Chocolate mousse (NF)
  • Christmas pudding/plum pudding
  • Crème brulee (NF)
  • Cheesecake-use any gf cookie crumbs for the crust, or do a crustless cheesecake (NF)
  • Chocolates: make your own with a mold or buy
  • Chocolate covered: strawberries, cherries, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, etc. (can be DF or NF)
  • Clementines (DF, EF, NF)
  • Clementine cake (DF)
  • Custard (NF)
  • Dessert soufflé
  • Dried fruit (DF, EF, NF)
  • Divinity (DF, NF)
  • Flan
  • Flourless tortes
  • Fondue, using chocolate and a variety of fruit and GF cookies (DF*, EF, NF)
  • Fruit crisp (any gf flour or quinoa flakes for topping) (DF, EF)
  • Fruit and whipped cream (EF, SF, NF)
  • Fudge (EF)
  • Gelato
  • Hard candies (DF*, NF*)
  • Hot chocolate (EF, NF)
  • Ice cream/frozen yogurt (check labels!)
  • Jello (DF, EF, NF)
  • Macaroons
  • Mango with sticky rice (DF, EF, NF)
  • Marshmallows (DF, NF)
  • Meringue cookies (DF, SF, NF)
  • Marzipan (some say glucose derived from wheat, so do check labels as always)
  • Nut or seed brittle (DF*, EF)
  • Panna Cotta (EF)
  • Pavlova (meringue cake) (DF)
  • Peanut butter cookies (DF) or a nut free, sunbutter cookies
  • Poached pears (DF, EF, SF, NF)
  • Popcorn clusters or caramel corn (EF)
  • Popcorn cake (EF)
  • Pralines (EF)
  • Pumpkin seeds (DF, EF, SF, NF)
  • Pudding
  • Pudding pie with almond or cookie crumble crust
  • Rice pudding ( EF, NF)
  • Rice krispie bars using puffed rice (EF)
  • Roasted chestnuts. (DF, EF, SF) Not quite dessert, but an amazingly seasonal yummy snack.
  • Sorbet (DF, EF)
  • Toffee (EF)
  • Torte (here’s my chocolate hazelnut torte)
  • Truffles (EF)
  • Watermelon (DF, SF, EF, NF)
  • Zabaglione

Not that these are healthy by any stretch of the imagination, BUT Martha Stewart has a slideshow and recipes of 40 holiday candies, all of which (at a quick glance) are GF. Of course, you need to make sure the chocolate is GF, be mindful of cross contamination, etc. but this is an easy way to keep traditions without venturing into specialty flours and unfamiliar territory.



If you’re not hungry yet, I don’t know what to say!

As always, wishing you and yours a joyful, peaceful and yummy holiday season.

Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Certified WellCoach in Fairfax & Alexandria, VA. Cheryl works with people to feel and look their best with a range of specialties, including Celiac Disease, food allergies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, vegetarian and vegan diets, preventing diseases and “whole foods” eating. Let’s get you on your way to achieving your goals.  Email her or call 571-271-8742.