The holiday season is traditionally both a time of celebration and a time of low immunity. White flour, cane and beet sugar, and processed foods can suppress the immune system's response to the stress of travel, evening engagements, and raucous gatherings.
Enjoy the season and make time to relax and sit quietly with a cup of ginger tea. As you sip, try to keep your tongue resting softly behind your front teeth. This practice loosens tension in the jaw, hence relaxing the whole body.
Then, take time to prepare these wholesome snacks. They will support the immune system during this time of transition into deep winter as well as stave off any cravings related to rich holiday eating. Keep these nutrient-dense recipes on hand. You might even share them as party favors. They are perfect for traveling, too! Pack them in light-weight containers and remember to drink twice as much water as you usually do during the course of your journey.
How to Reduce Sugar Cravings
Often, when we crave sugar, our body is de-hydrated. Stop, notice your craving, and try to drink a glass of water before reaching for sweets.
Reach for fruit
Keep fruit handy for when sugar cravings hit. You'll get fiber and nutrients along with some sweetness. And stock up on foods like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.
Move your body
When a sugar craving hits, walk away. Take a walk around the block or go somewhere to change the scenery. It may take your mind off your craving.
Waiting too long between meals may set you up to choose sugary, fatty foods that cut your hunger. Instead, eating every three to five hours can help keep blood sugar stable and help you avoid irrational eating behavior. Choose protein, fiber-rich foods like whole grains and vegetables.
Eat a bit of what you're craving
Enjoying a little of what you love can help you steer clear of feeling denied.
Combine sweets and protein
If the idea of stopping at a cookie or a baby candy bar seems impossible, you can still fill yourself up and satisfy a sugar craving, too. "I like combining the craving food with a healthful one," Neville says. "I love chocolate, for example, so sometimes I'll dip a banana in chocolate sauce and that gives me what I'm craving, or I mix some almonds with chocolate chips."
As a beneficial bonus, you'll satisfy a craving and get healthy nutrients from those good-for-you foods.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Choose 2 large sweet potatoes (jewel yams) for a 9x13 glass baking dish.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Chop sweet potatoes in half, first length-wise then width-wise.
- Chop each section into cubes. Throw cubes into baking dish after they are chopped.
- When the bottom of the dish is covered with one layer of diced sweet potatoes, sprinkle over the top 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon each: cinnamon, nutmeg, and coriander.
- Pour ¼ cup olive oil over the top and toss with a spatula until sweet potatoes are well-coated.
- Slide dish into oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove dish from oven and toss potatoes with spatula.
Bake for 15 more minutes, cool and enjoy!
Note: Get Creative! These are perfect with scrambled eggs and spinach for breakfast or mixed with a spoonful each of almond butter and maple syrup for dessert.
Home-Made Energy Bars
You will need:
- ¼ cup dried, unsweetened apricots
- ¼ cup dried, unsweetened dates
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds OR walnuts, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup almonds, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup nut butter (almond, cashew, or tahini)
- ¼ cup honey
- 4 tablespoons shredded, unsweetened coconut
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- Boil 2 cups water.
- As water boils, coarsely chop all dried fruit and place it in a small mixing bowl.
- Pour boiling water over fruit.
- Soak for 15 minutes and drain.
- Meanwhile, mix honey, nut butter, coconut, cinnamon and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
- Chop walnuts/almonds and pumpkin seeds.
- Toast all seeds and nuts. Add to mixing bowl and mix.
- Add soaked dried fruit to the above ingredients.
- Oil a glass baking dish: 7x11 is a good size.
- While the mixture is still warm, press it flat into the dish with wax paper. Chill for 1 hour.
- Slice into squares.
- Cover with plastic wrap or store in baking dish in the fridge. Keeps for 2 weeks refrigerated.
Super Food Energy Treats
You will need:
- 1 cup nut butter
- 2 Tablespoons honey (more or less to taste)
- 1 teaspoon each: cinnamon and cardamom powder
- ½ cup coarsely chopped almonds
- 2 oz unsweetened shredded coconut
- ¼ cup raisins
- Mix nut butter and honey until smooth.
- Add spices, coconut, nuts, and raisins - mix in well. Mix in enough coconut to make dough thick.
- Roll the dough into small balls. You can also spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and cut into squares.
- Store the balls in baking tins in a cool place. They will last for 3 weeks.
This is based on a recipe by Rosemary Gladstar.
Writer Lisa Mase is a culinary medicine coach, food writer, translator, and folk herbalist living in Vermont. For articles and recipes, visit Lisa at www.harmonizedcookery.com.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.