Dr. Archer’s Healthy Holiday Eating Guide

Little girl on Santa's lap

I’m posting this a little late in the game, but better late than never! As many of you know, I recently joined Eastside Natural Medicine as a naturopathic family physician. Because I love every minute at Eastside Natural Medicine, I’ve been trying to guard my time, making sure my energy goes there before it goes into my blog. Our family has also been a little overtaxed this season with a surprise mold situation that happened in our home this past November. Operation Mold will be history soon, and I look forward to sharing all about it in the New Year. All this to say that after we did the big website re-do, archerfriendly got put on the back burner. I’m hoping to get back to business in January, which means I might need to spend less time on Facebook


1. Respect your food allergies and reactions.

This is a big deal for those that are seriously allergic to a food or have severe food reactions. If you know that a certain food gives you the skitters, unbeatable grog-head fatigue, or death-like migraines, is it really worth it? The unpleasant symptoms I’d experience from eating like a normal person is enough of a deterrent for me.

2. Splurge without breaking the health bank.

Eat as well as you can, yes, but splurge in a way that won’t cost you too dearly later. If I drank eggnog like the Wendy’s Eating Husband drinks eggnog (I think he’s at about 6 gallons now this season), I’d totally break my blood sugar bank because that would be way, way, way too much sugar for my poor little workaholic pancreas. However, putting organic eggnog in my coffee a few times out of the month of December won’t break the bank. It’ll just shake it for some coins to jingle out.

3. Eat a protein based breakfast.

Your breakfast sets your metabolism for the day. Don’t drink an 8 oz glass of eggnog for breakfast every day in December, like the Wendy’s Eating Husband. A protein based breakfast will help stabilize your blood sugar in a way that will help your metabolism deal with all those mid-afternoon chocolate chip cookies you’ll eat on Christmas Eve. Protein for breakfast will also prevent the late morning shakes. The late morning shakes make you want sugar ASAP, thus perpetuating a blood sugar roller coaster of a day. (By the way, if you get the late morning shakes, we need to talk.)

quinoa gingerbread men cookies

4. Throw protein down the hatch at the same time you eat something sweet.

This applies to everything sweet you may possibly eat over the holidays. Whether it’s cinnamon rolls at a Christmas morning brunch or chocolate cake on New Year’s Eve or a mid-afternoon snack of leftover Christmas cookies, eat some protein with that sugar! The protein will help your body to decrease the post-sugar insulin surge. The lucky benefit of this? The sugar coma won’t be as bad after over-doing all those carbs. Quick proteins to pair with your sweet treats include almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cheese, nitrate-free meat, and eggs.

5. Eat organic at home.

When you’re eating holiday food that’s especially taxing on your body, it becomes even more important to eat organic. Because organic food has less chemicals, there’s less for your body to process when you eat it. This is especially important if you’re veering from your normal diet for a few weeks.

6. Homemade trumps store bought.

Do I need to say anything else? If you’re making homemade food, it most likely will have significantly less chemicals and junk in it. You can decrease the sugar in it. You can use organic butter. You can save your body from all the preservatives that goes into food from the store. Plus, something has to be said for all the love that goes into homemade food.

7. Bake with whole grains in place of refined flours.

Take a risk and replace processed flours with whole grain flours in all your holiday recipes. If you’re not gluten-free, use organic whole wheat flour in place of refined white flour. If you’re gluten-free, things get a little trickier with the substitutions, but it’s not impossible. Try whole buckwheat flour (which technically isn’t a grain) or brown rice flour in place of white rice flour.  You can even skip the whole grains all together, and try some whole foods based grain-free recipes. The main point here is to ditch the refined flours and replace them with something healthier. This step alone can make your Christmas cookies 50% healthier. Or more.

8. Replace a ¼ cup of flour with ¼ cup of ground flax seeds in all your holiday baked goods.

If you’re not going to swap out whole grain flour in your Great-Grandma’s Christmas sugar cookie recipe, at least do this! She won’t be so mad. Ground flax seeds are also known as ground flax meal, and they offer fiber, protein, and a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Adding ground flax seeds to your chocolate chip cookies is a sentimental way to tell your insulin receptors that you’re thinking about them and wishing them a Merry Christmas.


9. Load up on the veggies.

With so many Christmas treats competing with our actual caloric needs, it’s easy to eat more junk and less vegetables. Keep that veggie intake especially high during this season. Kale, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables will help your liver detox all that alcohol you will be drinking on New Year’s Eve. Red frosted reindeer cookies got nothin’ on a bowl full of lightly steamed broccoli! Keeping your veg intake high during this season will help you feel awesome when you have the longest to-do list in the world, and you’re drinking too much coffee, because you’re not getting enough sleep. The vegetables may also keep you from getting sick, because who wants to be sick for the 80’s themed New Year’s party?


10. Drink as many green smoothies as possible.

This is an easy way to fulfill tip #9. When I used to make green smoothies for myself, I could easily put half a bunch of kale in one green smoothie. Now that I have kids, they are less inclined to drink them when I put as many greens in as possible. But if you can do it, seriously pack those greens in. Given most holiday snack buffets, it might be your only chance for greens all day long! Green smoothies made with raw greens (kale, spinach, chard, arugula, collard greens, mint) provide your body an easy way to obtain micronutrients and they help your body detox in major ways. They will also help to protect you from colds and flus.

11. Stay hydrated with filtered water.

Water will help your body detox from all the junk you’re stuffing down the pipe. For every cup of coffee or alcohol that you drink, your body needs an additional glass of water. Drink a large glass of water when you first wake up on Christmas morning and do the same when you first arrive at your New Year’s Eve party. If you have chronic kidney failure, seek the advice of your nephrologist in terms of how much water you should be drinking.

12. The less sweeteners, the better.

Pick the treat with less sugar. While I’d obviously love for you to avoid sugar over the holidays, you’re not going to (and neither am I). But it is possible to minimize exposure. You can eat the sugar cookies without the frosting. You can check eggnog labels and get the one that scores the lowest sugar grams. Oh wait, I’ve done this for you: Trader Joe’s Eggnog has 20g of sugar per ½ cup in comparison to Horizon Organic’s Eggnog, which has 17g of sugar per ¼ cup. I know this because I’m planning on drinking eggnog in my coffee on Christmas Day, and have already done so today. See, I’m not perfect, but the eggnog is the biggest source of all the sugar I’ll be eating over the holidays.

13. Take 15 Minute Walks after meals

This could be a really fun family activity — daily Christmas light tours on foot! Walking after a meal, especially if that meal was carb heavy, can help to lower your blood sugar for the next 3 hours! This makes me want to walk after every single meal, year round.

Christmas light neighborhood walk

14. Treat yourself as well as possible, no matter what.

Your inner self talk has a strong tie to your physical well-being. Those words you speak to yourself are powerful. No matter what you eat or do or don’t do, surprise yourself with kindness. Negative self-talk is poisonous for your health, perhaps even more poisonous than junk food. Even consider the tone you use with yourself. Your self talk may sound OK, but are you giving yourself the stink eye? Ease up! If this is the only healthy behavior you can manage to do this holiday season, you’ll be healthier than most of us!


What are your best tips for staying healthy over the holidays?

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