By guest blogger Hallie Klecker (Daily Bites Blog)
If you eat gluten-free and are wondering how to stay healthy this season, don’t fear! While navigating the gluten-laden waters of the holiday season can seem stressful at first glance (believe me, I’ve been there), approaching it with a positive attitude and a few tricks will take you a long and very merry way.
I’ve now lived through enough gluten-free holiday seasons to have developed a few tips and tricks for surviving the season with grace, sanity, and style while having quite a bit of fun, too. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be well on your way to a happy and healthy gluten-free holiday.
1. Stick to whole foods.
In the midst of the season’s cocktail parties, potlucks, and overnight stays with family and friends, it’s easy to get sucked into Candy Cane & Egg Nog Land. I’ve found that the easiest way to stick with a healthy gluten-free diet (or any diet, really!) is to emphasize whole and natural foods whenever possible. Putting the focus on veggies, fruits, lean proteins, and raw nuts and seeds helps me feel my very best. And that’s a gift that’s truly priceless.
To make social settings a bit easier to handle, I always bring my own dish to pass that I know is safe and healthy for me. It’s often something simple like a veggie platter with Spiced Carrot Hummus, Garlic Herb Crackers, and some olives.
2. Stay hydrated.
With cocktails and sugary treats floating around like snowflakes in the winter sky this time of year, dehydration can happen in an instant. The added stresses of the season (shopping, traveling, etc.) can also suppress our immune systems, setting us up for colds and flus in the new year. Staying hydrated with pure, filtered water will fend off those nasty bugs, help to counteract the negative effects of alcohol and sugar, and give you increased energy, too.
3. Indulge wisely.
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a few treats around the holidays, so long as you do, do so with wisdom. Eating gluten-free automatically takes many traditional holiday indulgences off the table so to speak, since favorites like pumpkin pie, gingerbread, and iced sugar cookies are usually laden with gluten. So that gives us gluten-free eaters an advantage right off the bat, opening up the potential for us to make our baked goods and treats a little healthier.
Try incorporating whole grain gluten-free flours into your baking recipes for added fiber and nutrients, like I do in my Chocolate Buckwheat Cookies. Nut-based flours like almond and coconut flour also pack in a whole lot of nutrition with a much lower carb content. One of my favorite treats made with coconut flour are these Two-Bite Orange Walnut Crumble Cakes.
4. Stay active.
Don’t let this season be an excuse to park it on the couch for a month eating sugared nuts and watching holiday movies. That’s all good and fun, but our bodies were made to move! Exercise will not only improve your mood, but it will keep off those unwanted pounds, too. Anyone, whether they eat gluten-free or not, can benefit from daily activity all year round.
Try making new traditions. Instead of watching movies all weekend, go ice skating or take a brisk walk through your favorite neighborhood to see the lights. Sign up for a holiday race and start training to get in shape so you can run or walk it with confidence!
(Oh, and if you do have a weakness for sugared nuts, try these healthier Maple Spiced Pecans. They’re one of my family’s favorites.)
5. Commit to stressing less.
Much of the stress we encounter during the holiday season is brought on by ourselves. Staying healthy through the holidays while eating gluten-free is a challenge, yes. No doubt about that. But the challenge only balloons into a bigger one when we stress over the details in every spare moment. Plan ahead, do what you can in social settings, and stick with healthy habits throughout the season. The rest is out of your control. So take each day as it comes and try not to pile any extra stress onto your plate.
Above all, remember that the holiday season is a time for counting our blessings and sharing in the joys of the season with those we love.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and delicious season! ~Hallie
Hallie Klecker is the author of Super Healthy Cookies and The Pure Kitchen, both gluten- and dairy-free cookbooks focusing on fresh ingredients and whole foods. She writes the recipe blog Daily Bites, where she shares her passion for cooking with whole, natural foods. Hallie is a certified Nutrition Educator and former personal chef. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!