Healthy Holiday Eating

 Holiday Food: Macro-Style!

The Strengthening Health Institute is the global leader in macrobiotic health and lifestyle education. It is also the home of world-renowned macrobiotic chef, and instructor, Susan Waxman. The holidays are usually coupled with enjoying time with family and bonding – usually over large, traditional meals.

Because of this, it can also be a time where some find themselves reverting back to childhood eating habits that result in extra pounds around the waist and a lack of mental clarity. healthy holiday eating may not be commonplace for you at all. So, we decided to ask Susan for some of her holiday tips to help maintain a healthy diet, while still taking part in all of the fun that family gatherings and parties with friends can bring during this time of year.

If you are worried that you are the only one who has difficulty maintaining your usual macro lifestyle around this time of year, trust us, you are NOT alone!

Holiday Surprises You’ve Come to Expect

If your Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holiday celebrations are similar to ours, the focus is likely on enjoying time with loved ones. Depending on the circumstances, these meals can either reduce or increase the stress of holiday parties, shopping, traveling and other unpredictable activities. But, for us these meals often bring a halt to some of the more chaotic aspects of life and our focus shifts to large family meals at some point.

For some, this is an opportunity to indulge in rare “special” meals that fit well with their macro lifestyles. For others, it might mean they have to either hide their passion for healthy living and eat things they normally wouldn’t in order to keep from offending their loved ones. Or, some may just simply eat separate food from the rest of the party. One thing most food-conscious people have come to expect is the surprise of what will be served at these gatherings – especially if you haven’t talked to or eaten with the hosts in the past.

How to Prepare for Healthy Holiday Eating

Whether you have healthy holiday eating habits or if they change drastically from your usual diet, it may be a good idea to give the coming meals some thought on your approach. We asked Susan about how she prepares for this time of year and she said that she will often host dinners or offer to bring plates to dinners in order to avoid unknown food choices. When it comes to traditional holiday meals, Susan says, “I always have two family dinners one featuring traditional dishes I grew up with and the other featuring dishes I can have a bit more fun with. I have taken some family recipes and simply changed a few ingredients to create a healthier version of the dish.” Not a bad idea!

Two examples of simple, yet festive, dishes are light vegetable salads and rice dishes. “Walnut rice” is a favorite holiday rice dish because it is very easy to make. A simple layer of lightly toasted chopped walnuts placed on top of freshly cooked brown rice will give you a phenomenal taste you can bring to any pot luck party.

Susan continues, “I like to cook some dishes that I consider to be a bit more festive and special, that I wouldn’t make on a regular basis. I like to choose more unique ingredients and some more time-consuming dishes that I consider special. I do still make something light and fresh to go with the meal.”

Often, a seafood dish and dessert can help add to the special nature of the holidays. Poached pears in port wine finished off with a sweet reduction sauce or fruit crumbles are a good touch without indulging in unhealthy food.

What to Remember About Food

Most likely, if you are reading this article, you have either stopped eating animal food, don’t eat it often, or are considering at least reducing your intake. So, there is no reason to completely ignore your consciousness in order to please your loved ones. Remember that if your loved ones say it would make them happy for you to “eat the way they do” for a couple of days, you can also let them know that it would make you happy if they “allowed you to remain food-conscious” without making you feel bad. After all, you eat the way you do because it makes you feel better, right?

“I stopped eating animal meat at a very young age and I have never missed it since,” says Susan. That may be your story, or you may still crave food you associate with your childhood — and that’s okay. But, we do recommend that you do not try to re-create the holidays by serving Tofurkey and other ultra-processed foods to take its place. It is okay to indulge in those family meals if it does please you, just remember to do so in moderation so you don’t end the holiday season feeling like you lost control of your routine.

Natural cycles are normal for a macrobiotic diet and even the worst holiday eating can always be improved. Susan continues, “Cooking macrobiotic for me just means using the finest quality organic ingredients and combining ingredients with intention and purpose for a unique quality of energy, of course one of those intentions is a good-tasting meal.”  So, as long as you are still thinking about your meals with intent, you should be fine!

New Year’s Healthy Holiday Eating Dish Ideas

The New Year’s holiday is unique because a lot of people have friends over to cook. When doing so, we frequently choose something light or just side dishes. These healthy holiday eating ideas include:

  • White bean and wild mushroom bruschetta
  • Fresh Arugula salad greens with Sautéed squid
  • Wild mushroom Risotto
  • Simple Pasta withTruffles

Our first foods of the New Year are generally a more eclectic version of traditional dishes for ‘good luck’. Some good examples of individual ingredients to use when trying to change up traditional dishes include:

  • Soba in hot broth with mochi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Black eyed peas
  • Seasonal greens

For us, New Year’s Day marks Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade, a big event in South Philadelphia that brings people from all around the globe to share good music, conversation and food. People also generally party most of the day and unexpected house guests are common. So, we have a lot of fun coming up with fresh ideas on how to prepare food this time of year. Take a look at Susan’s three-bean chili; it can spice up any party!

As you can see, food is a big part of our lives during the holidays and, most likely, it is for you too! So, go enjoy your holidays with the people that you love and try to simply focus on the intent of your meals.

If you have any fun stories about macrobiotic or otherwise healthy holiday eating, please share them with our community below!