Education

Blog

Grinch Prevention: Love During the Holidays

Does the holiday season, at times, leave you feeling a bit “Grinchy”? We all have expectations that our holiday season will reflect what we see in those greeting card commercials: everything is pristine with a blanket of fresh white snow; families are sitting at the holiday table enjoying an exquisite home-cooked meal; and the lights from the perfectly decorated Christmas tree glisten in the background. But as the classic holiday movie, A Christmas Story, shows us, it’s not always quiet and calm. Through a series of plot twists including flat tires, smoking furnaces, altercations with bullies, busted glasses, a battle with a lamp, and a Christmas turkey devoured by the Bumpus’ hounds, we are reminded that the holiday season is really about family and love, amidst all the chaos the holidays tend to bring. Read on for a few suggestions to help you maintain the holiday cheer during this time of year.

Most of us attempt to show love through food and gifts. If the budget is extra tight this year, or you simply don’t have time to make your famous holiday cookies, consider other ways you can show loved ones you care. Consider spending quality time together playing a board game, performing acts of service for your family members, or simply sitting down for an intimate conversation with your significant other in front of the fire. For example, I have a friend that lives in North Carolina, who I only see once a year. Our gifts to each other are the gifts of time. Last year, when my friend visited, she helped me build my apartment furniture while watching the Cowboy’s game. This year, we plan to see a movie. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s about spending quality time together. Reevaluate your focus on what you feel the holidays represent, and can you share this vision with others.

There is much pressure this time of year to find the perfect present, be cheerful, and attend all holiday parties and family functions with a smile on our face. Learn to say “no” once in a while, whether it’s to buying gifts or hosting an event. Also, don’t let the business of the holidays be an excuse to take a break from engaging in healthy behaviors that typically help manage stress. Parties, travel, and shopping often give way to little down time. Make some time for yourself this holiday season, and try to find something that clears your mind and restores a feeling of peace. This could be as simple as taking a 10-minute walk, enjoying aromatherapy, listening to music, reading a book, or practicing diaphragmatic breathing. Remember, the holidays don’t have to be perfect. Traditions and rituals can change. Find ways to celebrate together without the excess stress.
Lastly, lend a hand and practice gratitude this holiday season. Researchers have shown that being kind to others releases “feel good” hormones. 1 Additionally, kind people experience more happiness and have happier memories.1 If you’re struggling to find happiness this season or simply not feeling like yourself, consider who could benefit from your generosity. This could be helping a friend move; volunteering at a local charity; or small, random acts of kindness, such as holding the door open for someone. Small acts can help you remember the true ‘reason for the season.’

There is a reason why Andy Williams calls this “The most wonderful time of the year.” Find what makes the holidays magical for you, whether it’s taking a moment for yourself, helping others, or showing your loved ones you care. Even the Grinch realized “Maybe Christmas…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps…means a little bit more.”

By Ron Beckstrom, MS, RD, HFS
Genesis PURE Product and Research Specialist

References

1. OTAKE, K. SHIMAI, S. TANAKA-MATSUMI, J. OTSUI, K. & Fredrickson, B. L. HAPPY PEOPLE BECOME HAPPIER THROUGH KINDNESS: A COUNTING KINDNESSES INTERVENTION, J Happiness Stud 7, 361–375 (2006).


This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice.

Cookies for Santa

Each Christmas during my childhood, there was the large tree in our living room, decorated with exquisite ornaments and lights, carefully guarding a cornucopia of presents – a perpetual reminder of the joyous, frenzied opening of gifts to come on Christmas morning. There was also a smaller tree in my bedroom, which was, in some ways, a more treasured part of my Christmas experience than its larger counterpart. Not only did this small tree provide a soft, comforting glow as I drifted off to sleep each December night; it also guarded a small assortment of presents. Unlike those under its larger counterpart, however, these presents could be opened on Christmas Eve. Any child will tell you, the only thing better than opening a present Christmas morning, is to open it on Christmas Eve!

I have my mother to thank for the Christmas memories of the small tree and my parents to thank for many other traditions that I’ve implemented in my own house with my daughter. Some traditions, like the tree, remain exactly as they were when I was a child. Other traditions, such as roasting hot dogs in the living room fireplace for Christmas dinner, were slightly modified to accommodate my lack of fireplace and more refined palate. We now brave the snows and have our Christmas dinner campfire in the mountains, roasting a healthier alternative to the hot dogs I had as a child. Still other traditions I’ve left behind in my childhood, having little desire to bring them back with my daughter. One example is the cookies for Santa.

Few deny that Americans eat far too much sugar. The holidays seem especially laden with fudge, caramels, chocolates, and, of course, cookies. The idea of making a batch specifically so my daughter and I could put some out for Santa seemed like an unneeded contribution to the seasonal glut; so I did away with it. Holiday traditions are fluid, constantly evolving to accommodate the times. Just as Santa saw the need to improve the illumination on his sleigh and included a ninth reindeer in his team, you too can make changes to traditions and even age-old lore. Could it be that, due to the ever rising consumption of sugar in America, it is time to do away with traditions that promote even more consumption of sweets?

Before completely eliminating a tradition, it may be prudent to examine its origins and the symbolism behind that tradition. Some believe the tradition of leaving cookies for Santa is related to the ancient pagan tradition of leaving hay for Odin’s horse during the winter solstice. It was said that Odin would reward those that left hay by giving treats to all that lived within the house. While similar, the current meaning behind the cookies for Santa I view as more of an expression of gratitude rather than a barter for toys, as was the case in ancient pagan festivals. Perhaps my original plan to completely eliminate this tradition was a bit short sighted and hasty. A modification, which continued to honor the principle of gratitude, while eliminating the cookies, may have been more appropriate.

It is never too late to change tradition. My daughter’s first Christmas included no cookies for Santa and each Christmas since has been the same. Now she’s six; and I intend to bring back the “idea” of cookies for Santa, with modifications, of course. I plan to talk about how some children leave cookies out for Santa as a way to say thank you for the presents. With her help, I’d like to find another way we can say thank you to Santa – one that won’t lead to a sugary stomach ache for Santa…or us. Perhaps a nice handmade card or participation in a program like Adopt an Angel may be even better ways to bring gratitude back to our Christmas. This holiday season, I encourage all of you to look critically at your traditions, be they related to Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, or any other celebration. Do any undermine your health goals? Could they be modified to healthier traditions that still honor the season? May your traditions be a source of joy, a reminder of noble virtues, and a bolster to your health and happiness.

By Ron Beckstrom, MS, RD, HFS
Genesis PURE Product and Research Specialist

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice.

Happy and Healthy Holidays

Chanukah was always a special time in our home. Each year, we made a mess baking and decorating cookies from scratch and always set off the smoke alarm while we fried latkes (potato pancakes). Chanukah wasn’t complete without a heated dreidel competition with large pieces of chocolate gelt, or chocolate coins, on the line. It was the first of a perfect, and filling, eight nights. On Christmas Eve, we would join other Jewish families in stuffing ourselves with Chinese food and then enjoyed our coma-induced stupor at a movie. Another fond memory includes decorating my friend’s Christmas tree. We spent the evening indulging in decorated Christmas cookies and hot chocolate with lots of whipped cream and marshmallows. As you can see, my holidays, much like many others, always revolved around food. No matter which holiday you celebrate, this is a time when you may find yourself indulging more and exercising less. If you’d much rather spread a healthy holiday spirit, verses adding on the annual holiday weight gain, read on for some new, fun, and creative ideas for your stocking stuffers, holiday gifts, and holiday treats.

  • For a creative, healthy snack for the kids, have them help make Grinch kabobs! Place green grapes on a toothpick, place a slice of banana on top and then finish with a triangular slice of strawberry for the Santa hat.
  • For a cute lunchbox snack, make string cheese snowman. All you need is a pack of string cheese, orange and black Sharpies or markers, ribbon for the scarf, and black card stock cut in the shape of a top hat. With the string cheese still in the plastic package, glue the top hat on top of the string cheese. Use the black Sharpie for the eyes, mouth, and buttons, and the orange Sharpie to draw the nose. Finally, tie the ribbon around the Cheese Stick plastic as a scarf!
  • For an unconventional twist to the traditional candy cane, have your kid’s alternate slices of bananas with strawberries for a healthy, fun snack.
  • Instead of the traditional packets of hot chocolate, make your own by melting a dark chocolate square (82% or higher) in a cup of warm almond milk and spice it up with cinnamon. You can even sprinkle in some Mila for a nutritional boost.
  • Think beyond the traditional cookies or fruit cakes for your neighbors and friends. Consider making a donation to a charity in your friend’s name or send the kids over to do some chores. You could also choose a healthier holiday gift such as homemade pumpkin or apple butter in mason jars.
  • Think outside the traditional candy for your stocking stuffers. For the athlete, give sport cards or tickets. For girls, try mini nail polishes, lip gloss, or scented lip balm. Small travel games are perfect if you plan on going on vacation and warm, fuzzy socks are always a treat, especially if you live in the colder climates. For the exercise enthusiast or for someone looking to start a new exercise regime, a wearable activity tracker, heart rate monitor, portable media player, or headphones make great gifts. Oranges, apples, pomegranates, and nuts make delicious stocking stuffers and, of course, Mila bites are the perfect size for any stockings!
  • In your baking recipes, experiment with appropriate sugar substitutions such as:
    1. Fresh Fruit juice: This one requires a bit of trial and error. Try ¾ cup of fruit juice for every 1 cup of sugar. Reduce the other liquid ingredients by 3 tablespoons. 
    2. Applesauce: Swap 1 cup unsweetened applesauce for 1 cup sugar. However, for every cup of applesauce, reduce the amount of liquid by ¼ cup. Unsweetened applesauce can also be replaced for oil or butter in breads, muffins, or boxed mixes.
    3. Pureed banana: Combine 1 cup ripe, mashed banana with a few tablespoons water and puree until smooth, adding water for a smooth consistency. You can use this to substitute for 1 cup sugar in your recipes.
    4. Stevia: Substitute ½ cup of Stevia for every 1 cup sugar. You may need to add fruit puree for additional moistness.
    5. Agave Nectar: Replace 2/3 cup agave nectar for every 1 cup sugar and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup. Also lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees since agave browns faster.
    6. Real maple syrup: use ¾ cups real maple syrup in place of 1 cup sugar: baked goods will brown faster so bake for less time or lower the oven temperature by about 25 degrees.
    7. Raw Honey: Substitute 1 cup of raw honey for 1 cup granulated sugar. Note that cooking with honey may take away some of the beneficial properties. If you do choose to use honey, reduce the liquid by ¼ cup for each cup of sugar replaced and reduce your cooking temperature by 25 degrees.

Have a very happy, healthy, and safe holiday season and a fantastic New Year!

 

By Amy Kurtz BA, BS, CI-CPT, Certified Health Coach
Genesis PURE Wellness Education Specialist
 

Navigating the Holiday Table

Over the years, media and articles have reported that Americans gain, on average, 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The good news is that recent studies have shown the average is closer to only 1 pound. Unfortunately, according to studies, this is a pound that is never lost. Over time, that annual pound may lead to obesity. While avoiding weight gain during the holidays may seem as believable as Santa’s ability to visit every home on Christmas Eve, I am confident you can avoid packing on the pounds this December with the help of the following tips.

  1. Eat breakfast: Don’t try to “save” your calories for your big meal. Not only are you likely to overindulge when you do eat, but your body may be more apt to store your food as fat. Eat a healthy breakfast with plenty of protein to help you avoid the urgency to eat more than you need later in the day.
  2. Bring your own dish: Rather than trying to decipher what’s in each dish, or being fearful of missing out, bring some healthier options. This is an especially helpful tip for those with food allergies and/or sensitivities.
  3. Keep serving dishes off the table: Leave food on the buffet or in the kitchen rather than serving family-style. Once you’ve finished eating, wait about ten minutes before deciding whether you really want that second (or third!) helping of food. Often, when we have the food in front of us, eating becomes automatic, or occurs without awareness; before we know it, we are uncomfortably stuffed! The change of scenery and having to go to another room for more food may help you slow down to determine if you are really hungry.
  4. Use smaller plates/bowls: History shows that our plate sizes have increased dramatically over the years. Smaller plates generally require smaller servings. The brain also tends to trick us, as it associates a big white space on a big plate with less food.
  5. Slow down: Time and time again, studies have shown that it takes about 20 minutes for our brains to register it’s full. So slow down, chew your food well, and take time to chat with family or friends before deciding whether you want another slice of pie.
  6. Watch out for holiday favorites: Steer clear of that ham with a honey glaze or turkey covered in gravy. Instead, choose skinless turkey and avoid the sauces. Instead of serving a traditional pie, invite guests to make their own parfait with seasonal fruit and plain yogurt or serve baked apples sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg.
  7. Find appropriate substitutions for refined sugar in your baking recipes: Try reducing the amount of sugar by half. Use unsweetened applesauce or mashed, ripe bananas in your recipes. While the fruit contains sugar, it is less refined and provides fiber, vitamins, and minerals that processed sugar does not. Use spices to add flavor, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
  8. Don’t lose sight of what the holidays truly represent: Enjoy the time with your family and friends. Don’t just linger around the appetizers, bar, or dinner table. Reminisce with old friends and make some new ones. Pause and remember why you are celebrating. This is a time to celebrate and spread holiday cheer!

If you do choose to indulge at events, choose wisely and make sure you stay on track with your diet and workout regimen throughout the rest of the season to keep those unwanted pounds at bay. Happy and healthy holidays!

By Amy Kurtz BA, BS, CI-CPT, Certified Health Coach 
Genesis PURE Wellness Education Specialist

This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice. 

 

Tags

Archive