Around our country the holidays are often a time of frenzy, bustle and indulgence. It’s a time when stress is high and health habits that we’ve cultivated may fly out the window.
It’s not uncommon for someone to drop their workout routine, regularly stay up late into the night and find that they’ve put on five-ten pounds through November and December.
The problem with this pattern, particularly this year as we continue to face rising numbers of COVID-19 infections, is that we can lose our resilience.
A high sugar diet, stress and lack of sleep dampens immunity and makes us more susceptible to viruses that we are exposed to. If you’ve ever been burning your candle at both ends only to be bedridden by the flu or another illness, this is exactly what happened.
Choose to make this year different. Instead of setting health resolutions for January, why not maintain your good health habits, and even pick up a few more, over the holidays? A healthy holiday will set the tone for the new year and ultimately long-term vitality and resilience.
As we head into the rest of the holiday season, think about how you align your life with healthy living and support your body, mind and spirit throughout. It’s not just about food, but a truly integrative lifestyle approach that extends through the festivities of the season.
Keep reading to learn tips and strategies for:
- Staying active through the holiday season
- Giving yourself the best holiday gift: self-care
- Navigating food this holiday and maintaining your Paleo goals
- Trying a new recipe – Holiday Roasted Pasture-Raised Turkey – Yum!
Let’s dive into the tips!
Dr. Shippy’s Healthy Holiday Tips
Dr. Shippy’s Every Life Well Paleo Protocol is a foundational strategy for supporting immune resilience and overall wellness. It’s a starting point for personalizing the diet and a springboard for building more nourishing lifestyle habits over time. It’s also more than a diet, it’s really a wellness lifestyle that incorporates how to live a less toxic life, in mind and body.
During a stressful holiday season it is easy to get derailed by social pressures (sometimes even from close family members) traditions, commitments and even our own mindset and expectations. Here are some tips to help keep your health habits in place, or even to build new ones. Don’t worry, all the food tips below, as well as the holiday recipe, are Paleo, delicious, and won’t leave you feeling deprived.
Exercise And Movement
Let’s face it, your exercise routine is probably one of the first habits to slide when things get busy. You may also not be able to go to your local gym due to COVID-19.
Now that the weather is colder and the days are shorter in many places, motivation to get outside dwindles. Add in the holiday season and exercise just got harder to fit in.
Even with all of these obstacles, the benefits of movement are far reaching. Exercise boosts mood, metabolism and even decreases the effects of stress. This holiday season try these tips:
- Make a schedule… and stick to it. Along with everything else you have going on, schedule your movement time into your calendar so you make it a priority. Consider what is realistic to accomplish and that some movement is better than none.
- Take movement breaks. Break up sitting, working from home and sedentary activities with short breaks for dancing, body weight exercise or stretching. This is a good habit to build now since you may be largely at home, and indoors, for months to come.
- Be resourceful with your workouts. Call or email local gyms, spin or yoga studios to find out if they are offering online classes – many are. There are also some great new fitness apps and online instructors available since Covid.
- Create new family traditions. So many holiday traditions are centered around food, but consider making some movement-based ones this year. What about a family walk through a neighborhood decorated with lights? Or a hike in the forest for the winter solstice?
The Gift Of Self-Care
Self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. There are so many ways that we care for ourselves that lowers stress and increases resilience. Identify your favorite tools and practice them regularly.
- Sleep. This holiday season, don’t neglect the basics. When you don’t sleep well or enough, you may crave sugar, stress hormones increase and immunity decreases. Prioritizing sleep will make all of the other strategies listed here work so much better.
- Meditate. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, chi gong and the like are important tools for relaxation and stress reduction. Go ahead and give yourself an extra dose in the coming weeks.
- Connect. Connecting with friends and family will likely look different for many of us this year. Some may appreciate the slower pace to the holidays with less travel and less social gatherings, while others may feel more lonely or miss out on the benefits of sharing time with others. Consider what you need this year to connect with your tribe and don’t be afraid to reach out when needed. Also, be sure to check on friends and family.
Paleo Food Tips for the Holidays
A lot of emotions, habits and feelings come up around food during the holidays. You may consume certain food out of nostalgia or tradition even if it doesn’t make you feel well. You might also let go of dietary changes that you made, over indulge and feel guilty about it.
Patients often tell me they feel like they need to be perfect and then throw in the towel after they make a minor indiscretion. Have you felt stress around food increase through the holidays?
There are many benefits to using food as medicine for immune health in a realistic and balanced way. Give yourself permission to enjoy food, find healthy alternatives to your favorite holiday food traditions, and continue to focus on nourishing your body.
A compassionate mindset is incredibly supportive, along with these specific tips:
- Try new recipes or recreate favorites. It’s the perfect time of year to test drive new Paleo recipes or adopt a Paleo version of your classic holiday favorites. This will increase your nutrient density, balance your blood sugar and support your health through the holidays, while still enjoying the flavors you love.
- Plan ahead. Think about previous holidays and where you’d like to do something different around food. Maybe you have a family member who is a food-pusher or an event where there aren’t many good options for you. Then, come up with a strategy ahead of time. Maybe you need to tell your pushy Aunt, “No thank you. I’m choosing to not eat that right now” or “I’m allergic to that.” Maybe you need to eat a meal before going to an event or bring a Paleo dish or two to your family gathering. Taking time to think it through ahead of time, will set you up for success with your goals.
- Have some supplements on hand. If you are eating out (or ordering in) or aren’t quite sure what was in something that you ate, pop some digestive enzymes or liposomal glutathione to give your gut and detox pathways a little help. In addition, keep taking your immune supportive supplements throughout the winter to improve resilience. A few to consider are vitamin D, liposomal vitamin C and B Immune packets. If you are concerned that you are not getting enough daily antioxidants or phytonutrients, try Exceed Greens + Reds Organic Superfood or Paleo Detox Protein, two of my favorite quick and easy ways to boost your daily intake of nutrients.
There’s no need to sabotage your health in the name of the holidays. If you are in a cycle of falling “off the wagon” in December and then trying to get back on in January, make this year different.
Pick out a few areas where you really commit to sustaining or implementing simple, yet nourishing habits. You’ll increase your resilience this winter and beyond.
As time passes and you have more holidays under your belt, your confidence will only go up. Your healthy year-round lifestyle will naturally continue through the holidays without much of a struggle.
You’ll trust your body’s cues more, know what works for you (and what doesn’t) and what habits are essential to prioritize to maintain your health and resilience. You have the power to start the year feeling happier, healthier and more resilient!
Honey Spiced Glazed Turkey With Paleo Gravy
Pasture-raised turkey is a great holiday option; not only does it check the box for a traditional holiday feast, but pasture-raised means good for you and the planet.
A true pasture-raised turkey spends its life outdoors eating grasses and grubs, which makes the meat incredibly nutrient-dense. Pasture-raised turkeys also tend to be smaller and leaner than the plump Thanksgiving turkeys you may be used to from a typical grocery store, but a dry brine along with a slow and thoughtful cooking method produces a tender and flavorful bird.
Adding herbs and spices like turmeric boost the nutritional value and make this traditional dish unique and special.
Enjoy this turkey with your favorite paleo sides such as mashed cauliflower, sweet potatoes, grain-free stuffing, sautéed green beans and Brussels sprouts with bacon. Don’t forget at least one Paleo dessert such as pumpkin pie or paleo apple crumble!
Prep time: 12-48 hours
Cook time: 3 hours
Makes: 4-6 servings plus leftovers
For the turkey:
- 1 whole pasture-raised turkey, about 10-12 pounds (for a larger turkey, adjust cooking times)
- 3 tablespoons coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
- ½ tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- ½ tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- ½ tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 large parsnips, chopped
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 rutabaga, chopped
- 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 4-6 sprigs of fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary, sage
- 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
For the honey – spice glaze:
- ¼ cup Earth’s Balance (dairy-free) butter or Miyoko’s butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
For the gravy:
- 3 cups turkey or chicken bone broth (gluten-free)
- ¼ cup Earth Balance or Miyoko’s vegan butter
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¼ cup cassava flour or tapioca flour
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- ¼ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Fresh rosemary sprigs
- Mix the salt with the sage, rosemary and thyme and rub over the defrosted turkey. Make sure the salt coats the whole bird. Cover the bird and let it sit in the fridge for 12 hours or up to 2 days.
- When ready to cook the turkey, unwrap it and place it in a baking dish. Insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F
- Arrange the parsnips, celery, rutabaga, garlic and sprigs of fresh herbs around and under the turkey and rub the turkey with the ghee or olive oil.
- Roast the turkey uncovered for 1-2 hours. Then, tent the turkey with foil, return to the oven for 1 more hour (or longer if you are cooking a bigger bird). The internal temperature should be a minimum of 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh.
- Next, melt the ghee and honey over medium heat in a saucepan. Stir in the spices and seasonings and stir until combined. Baste the turkey with the glaze, return to the oven for 15-30 minutes until the honey – spice glaze has gently colored the turkey a beautiful golden hue.
- Allow the turkey to rest, loosely covered in foil, while preparing the gravy, before carving (at least 15-20 minutes).
- Strain the drippings from the turkey and combine with the turkey stock for a total of about 3 cups liquid. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the ghee and whisk in turmeric, cassava or tapioca flour. Whisk often for about 10 minutes or until the color begins to slightly darken.
- Add the white wine to the gravy, turn up the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the alcohol cooks off.
- Then, add the drippings and broth. Add the fresh thyme. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, whisking occasionally, or until the gravy reaches desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Enjoy the turkey and roasted vegetables along with all of your favorite sides topped with Paleo gravy.