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Festive Fixings

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Festive FixingsThe countdown to Christmas is on. It’s just over a week away! Are you feeling the (time) crunch? I wish I could say my to-do list was ta-done leaving me free to ease into feeling festive. But it isn’t. And I imagine I’m not the only one in holiday-hustle mode, so I’ll get straight to the point.

This month’s missive is a collection of Festive Fixings. These recipes offer fast fixes to the dilemma of what to serve alongside the centerpiece of your holiday feast, be it turkey, ham or what have you. I’ve included a few suggestions each for appetizers, salads and yummy vegetable side dishes. I hope that one or more of these Festive Fixings finds a place on your holiday table! Sign up to my newsletter to receive my Festive Fixings recipe collection and all recipes to come. And read on for some re-gifts from last year.

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The Greatest Gift

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail The Greatest GiftWe’re in the bell lap of 2022 and the holiday season is officially in top gear. A few years ago I offered up some timeless tips on how to Feast Festively Without Piling on the Pounds, which you may wish to revisit. This year, however, I thought I’d do something different and jumpstart the season with some holiday wisdom by way of analogy. During the gift-giving season, I think this analogy really drives home the point that a healthy body is truly the greatest gift of all.

I hope the perspective it offers will help you navigate the holidays as you make choices about what you eat and how you spend your time. Staying healthy has a lot to do with eating nutritiously, yes. But it also involves prioritizing exercise, rest/recovery and mental health. And if there is one thing I’m discovering as the years tick by, it’s that my body is less forgiving than it used to be. It is far better to avoid the “potholes” in the first place! Because, truly, the gift of a healthy body is the greatest gift you can give yourself this holiday season! And be sure to read to the end of the post for my personal gift to you – my collection of Healthy Holiday Recipes.

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Festive Feast For Four

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Festive Feast for FourI am a believer in the 80% rule.  As in, eat healthily 80% of the time and you may indulge a bit the other 20%.  Another 80% rule to keep in mind over the holidays is the Japanese principle of hara hachi bu, which roughly translates to eating until you are 80% full.

One indulgent meal is unlikely to have a lasting effect on weight or fat mass.  While you may notice an extra pound or two on the scale the next morning, this is typically due to water retention as a result of a higher than usual intake of carbohydrate and sodium-rich foods.  And it will resolve itself within the next day or so.  Unless, of course, you continue to eat carbohydrate and sodium-rich meals.

Which is what we often do during the holidays.  Sometimes this is due to the “what-the-hell-effect” (i.e., I’ve already blown my healthy eating pattern out of the water so why stop now?).  But often it’s because we have copious quantities of food left over which we feel we must consume as quickly as possible.

One way to avoid this is to send leftovers home with your guests.  Another is to simply make less food in the first place.  The pandemic has meant smaller gatherings for many of us.  So this month I’ve offered up a Festive Feast for Four.  Not only is cooking a turkey breast simpler and faster than a whole bird, it means far fewer leftovers.

I hope you enjoy this flurry of festive foods, flavours and colours!

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Dishing It Up for the Holidays

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Dishing It Up for the HolidaysFor me, Christmas and clementines are inextricably linked.  The holidays in my family have always been heralded by the arrival of a crateful of clementines.  Although my mom made fantastic Yule logs, mince tarts and pies, my holiday treat of choice was a clementine with a few favourites from the splendid array of cookies she baked in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  My perfect plate included a chocolate yum yum, pecan puff, rum ball and a shortbread wreath.

While my mom passed away years ago, my happy memories of her and our Christmases cooking together remain.  As do the clementines.  But I’ve never mastered her cookies.  So these days I’m more likely to pair my clementines with super dark chocolate from Giddy Yo Yo and a few walnuts.  Clementines are great dipped in chocolate too, like this.  And I might add a Mabel’s shortbread (or two).

My darling clementine

But my darling clementines aren’t just for dessert any more.  I love to adorn a winter cheese board with them!  They are a classic with roast meats like duck, chicken or pork and work beautifully in tagines.  My traditional Christmas Eve tourtière wouldn’t be the same without the spinach, clementine and toasted almond salad I serve with it.  And the thick slices of Pulla Bread we enjoy Christmas morning (as a nod to my Finnish heritage), simply buttered and accompanied by a few clementines, starts the day in a festive way.  The mimosa helps too, though this year I might sip on this Clementine Fizz.  😉  Come the holidays, I’m always grateful for a crateful of clementines.  Read on for 41 more ideas of what you might do with yours.

Happy holidays!

Dishing It Up for the Holidays

  • Be grateful for a crateful of clementines
  • Fall in love with veggies for the holidays
  • How to De-Seed a Pomegranate
  • 7 Healthy Eating Habits for the Holidays
  • The 2021 Well Holiday Gift Guide from The New York Times

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Holly Jolly Brain Candy

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Holly Jolly Brain CandyMy Holly Jolly Brain Candy collection of confections is unapologetically chocolate-centric.  I’m a card-carrying chocoholic and, hey, if ever there was a time when we could use more chocolate, this is it!!  It’s natural to turn to sweet treats to cheer ourselves up in times of stress and holidays are often focused around feasting.  But as you know from my Food For Thought post, excess sugar (particularly refined sugar) leads to inflammation in the brain, not to mention the rest of you.  So rather than reach for commercially prepared, processed candies and confections, why not make your own?

These are all quite simple to make.  And instead of gobbling heaping helpings of refined sugars and poor quality ingredients, you feast on high quality dark chocolate and natural sugars like dates and maple syrup.  And they contain fibre and healthy fats.  Fibre is food for our gut microbes, which are involved in brain health and behaviour, including our reactions to stress and anxiety.  And both fibre and fat slow the digestion and absorption of sugar which helps keep your blood sugar stable.  And when it comes to the absorption of sugar into the blood, slow and steady wins the race!

Let’s compare Turtles and may the slowest Turtle win

Compare my Dark Chocolate Turtles to Nestlé TURTLES Classic Recipe, for example:

My Dark Chocolate Turtles:  Dark chocolate, dates, pecans.

Nestlé TURTLES Classic Recipe: Milk chocolate (sugar, modified milk ingredients, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, soy lecithin, natural vanilla flavour, salt), caramel (glucose, sugar, modified milk ingredients, water, modified palm oil, salt, natural vanilla flavour), pecans.  May contain peanuts and other tree nuts.

My turtle is an entirely different species.  Each one of my turtles has two grams of fibre where there is zero fibre in Nestlé TURTLES Classic Recipe.  And with mine there’s not a “modified” anything in sight.  Yes, they require a little more work than opening up a box, but not much more.  And that’s a good thing as you are less likely to mass produce them and binge.

These treats contain brain-boosting antioxidants, fibre, phytoestrogens and healthy fats from dark chocolate, dates, oats, chickpeas and nuts.  Read on for more about the brain-healthy benefits of dark chocolate and dates.

And if you don’t feel like cooking, simply serve up a spread of some of your finest dark chocolate, clementines and a bowl of whole nuts and get some exercise in with a nutcracker.  Decorate your platter with a few sprigs of holiday evergreenery and you have a quick, nutritious and festive treat!

I generally don’t encourage a lot of sweets because even natural sugars are still sugar.  But at this time of year, everyone indulges.  So I hope you choose instead to enjoy these healthier treats (in moderation of course, just as you would alcohol) so you don’t do your head in…or your waistline.  😉

Happy holidays to you and yours and wishing you all a healthy New Year!

Sign up here to receive the Holly Jolly Brain Candy recipes.

Holly Jolly Brain Candy

Dark Chocolate Turtles (I prefer these to Nestlé’s version as I can use superior quality dark chocolate and they are more nutritious; have some fun playing with the variations suggested in the notes or create your own classic recipe)

No Bake Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies (nothing but yummy chocolate, oats, coconut, vanilla and sea salt; make sure your vanilla doesn’t contain water or your melted chocolate will seize when you add it)

Coconut Chickpea Blondies (chickpeas, almond butter, maple syrup and cinnamon star in these scrumptious squares, making them higher in protein and fibre than in sugar; and if you don’t tell about the chickpeas, no one will ever guess, trust me)

Pistachio Pomegranate Bark (back by popular demand from my 2018 Holiday Collection, the ruby red pomegranate seeds, green pistachios and dusting of shredded coconut adorning this dark chocolate bark make a very festive presentation; and pistachios are one of the most vitamin B6-rich foods around, important for regulating mood; if you buy them in-shell you are less likely to overindulge)

Join The Nutritional Reset community here to receive this month’s collection of confections today (as well as each menu of the month to come)!  

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New Year’s Eve Nosh

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail New Years Eve NoshCongratulations to us!  We’ve made it through December and all the holiday parties!  Just one more to go.  I find that by New Year’s Eve, however, I just want to relax and “be” at home.

I do like to make a special dinner to give thanks for all the gifts of the past year and offer a toast in excitement and anticipation for the year to come.  But I want it to be super colourful and flavourful with minimal work required, much of which can be done in advance.  And this menu fits the bill.

So ring in 2020 in smooth and stylish fashion with these succulent cinnamon and orange infused braised lamb shanks in the starring role.

Sign up here to receive the recipes and have a very happy, healthy and delicious New Year!

New Year’s Eve Nosh

Salad: Fennel, Radicchio & Grapefruit Salad (you may substitute orange for grapefruit if you wish – clementines are fantastic this time of year)

Main: Braised Lamb Shanks (this slow braised dish will perfume your house with festive scents of orange and cinnamon and requires very little last minute attention)

Side: Cauliflower Mash (feel free to use frozen cauliflower here to save time – read on to find out why it is especially good to eat on New Year’s Eve)

Dessert: Chocolate Nutty Baked Pears (a little like fondue-on-a-plate, these pears can be baked well in advance and rewarmed;  when ready to serve, just garnish with pomegranate seeds and drizzle with chocolate)

Join The Nutritional Reset community here to receive this month’s menu today (as well as each month to come)!  And read on for some nutritional tidbits about a few foods featured in the recipes…

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Feast Festively without Piling on the Pounds (regifted)

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Healthy Holiday EatingThis post proved so popular last season that I’m re-gifting it, along with some extra tips and an all-new collection of healthy holiday recipes that will expand your festive repertoire, not your waistline. 

Did you know that the average North American gains 7 to 10 pounds during the holidays?  Fear not – you can feast festively without piling on the pounds!

Click here to join The Nutritional Reset community and I will email you Healthy Holiday Eating, a selection of festive recipes which show that you can eat meals that are both healthy and delicious – not only at the holidays but all year round!

Read on for a few healthy eating strategies to make this holiday season your sveltest yet…

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Feast Festively without Piling on the Pounds

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhailDid you know that the average North American gains 7 to 10 pounds during the holidays?  Fear not – you can feast festively without piling on the pounds!

Click here to join The Nutritional Reset community and I will email you Healthy Holiday Eating, a selection of holiday recipes which show that you can eat meals that are both healthy and delicious – not only at the holidays but all year round!

And read on for a few healthy eating strategies to make this holiday season your sveltest yet…

read more