Just because it’s the holidays, doesn’t mean we should throw out everything we know about health and nutrition. By substituting a few common ingredients used in our favorite recipes, we can greatly improve the nutrient content of our meal and lessen the impact on our body and our waistline.
Many of the traditional ingredients used to make holiday meals are laden with trans-fatty acids, high-fructose corn syrup, toxic preservatives and sugar. These ingredients are known to lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hyperactivity disorder, and, of course, weight gain, making it imperative to eliminate them. Therefore, no matter what the time of year it is, we should always strive to make better choices. Lucky for us, we have come up with alternatives that taste just as decadent as their toxic counterparts. And do you know what that means? A shorter New Year’s resolution list and more reasons to be thankful this holiday season.
Editor’s Note: The cookies pictured are made from a gluten-free mix by Betty Crocker–the times they are a’changing.
Breadcrumbs: Grains and Seeds
Ditch your typical bread crumbs, and opt for a wheat-free blend instead. Most conventional bread crumbs not only contain pesticide-laden wheat, but also some of the most toxic ingredients found in processed foods. This includes high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats and the preservative potassium sorbate.
Processed Vegetable Oil: Coconut Oil
Vegetable oil is typically made from soybean oil, which is a genetically modified food (GMO). GMOs are believed to alter our genetic makeup and to interfere with normal physiology. In addition, soy is a known phytoestrogen, which can lead to hormone imbalance. Choose coconut oil instead, because it not only has a high smoke point (its fats are more impervious to high heat), but it also has many health benefits. It supports the thyroid, aids in weight loss, and is a natural antibacterial and antifungal.
TCM Pick: Coconut Oil by Artisana
Cheese: Nutritional Yeast
Instead of conventional cheese, try nutritional yeast instead. Nutritional yeast tastes just like cheese, but does not contain the antibiotics and hormone-disrupters that conventional cheese does. Plus, nutritional yeast is a great vegan source of protein and B vitamins, including the coveted B12.
TCM Pick: Flake Yeast by Bob’s Red Mill
Dairy Milk: Plant Milk
With so many options available, there is no need to stick with conventional cow’s milk. By choosing coconut, almond or rice milk, you can avoid exposure to hormone-disruptors and antibiotics, without skimping on the flavor.
Pre-made bread rolls: Gluten-free rolls
Not only are pre-made bread rolls made with white flour, they also contain trans fats, artificial colors, MSG, toxic preservatives and soy. Switch to gluten-free or organic, sprouted-wheat versions instead. You will not only avoid the health damage, but increase your nutrient intake as well.
White Flour: Coconut Flour
While white flour is the standard for baked goods and desserts, it is an unnecessary health hazard. White flour is stripped of its nutrients, making it very difficult to digest, often leading to blood sugar issues, impaired digestion and allergies. Choose coconut flour instead. It has a richer taste and also contains healthy fats key for weight loss and cardiovascular health. Plus, coconut can withstand the high temperatures used in baking so its fats do not go rancid.
TCM Pick: Organic Coconut Flour by Edward & Sons
Processed shortening: Organic ghee
Crisco, also known as shortening, is essentially a solid form of trans fats. Trans fats are known to increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Use organic ghee instead, which contains the right kinds of fats, without the health risks.
Refined milk chocolate: Raw Cacao
Refined milk chocolate may taste good, but it also contains a slew of ingredients that are not so good for you. Genetically modified soy, conventional dairy, and of course white sugar are what we are trying to avoid, so fortunately raw cacao is an amazing substitute. Raw cacao not only tastes similar to its refined alternative, but it also contains magnesium, antioxidants and stimulates the production of neurotransmitters that make us feel happy and in love!
TCM Pick: Raw Cacao Powder by Navitas Naturals
Sweetened Condensed Milk: Coconut cream
Sweetened condensed milk may make your desserts taste delicious, but it also adds unnecessary calories, sugar and hormone-disrupting dairy to our diet as well. Stick to coconut cream which provides the same flavor while also helping us to burn those extra calories.
TCM Pick: Organic Coconut Cream by Native Forest
Conventional pre-made crust: Organic whole wheat pre-made pie crust
Conventional pre-made pie crusts are another hidden source of trans fats, artificial colors, and toxic preservatives. Artificial colors have been shown in research to lead to hyperactivity disorders such as ADD and ADHD, and toxic preservatives such as BHA and BHT are potential carcinogens. Therefore, trade up for organic whole-wheat crusts, or even the gluten-free ones, without the additives and health-compromising fats.
TCM Pick: Whole Wheat Pie Crust by 365 Whole Foods Market