Between holiday planning and the new year approaching, December tends to fly by. This issue of Start Healthy encourages you to live well in the here and now, with wellness-centric gift suggestions, tips for staying on track with spending, simple, good-for-you meal ideas, and baking swaps to make your holiday meals healthier.
When it comes to stocking stuffers, typical gifts include candy, office supplies, and packs of socks. But wouldn’t a gift that promotes your loved ones’ health be so much better? Enclosed are a handful of ideas for healthy gifts perfect for filling your recipients’ stockings with love.
Speaking of gift-giving, the prospect of getting the perfect presents can sometimes make us lose sight of how much we’re spending. The tips inside can help ensure you don’t go over budget and help you recover from any potential spending frenzy.
The kitchen tends to be a busy place this time of year, and remembering to make healthy meals is a challenge when you’ve got a full holiday meal to prepare. The recipes in this issue are perfect for making ahead and enjoying in a pinch when you don’t feel like cooking. Plus, a guide to healthy baking swaps provides plenty of inspiration to give your favorite seasonal dishes a more nutritious twist.
Wishing you and your loved ones a healthy and happy holiday! As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
For many people, stockings are a quintessential element of the holiday season—each one hung from the mantel and filled to the brim with candy canes, chocolates, and other seasonal treats. However, a stocking full of decadent delights isn’t the healthiest gift. Maintaining good habits during the holidays is tough, but you can support the wellness of your loved ones by choosing these health-minded stocking stuffers.
Infuser water bottle
Drinking enough water is a healthy habit that affects everything from your blood pressure to your joints. However, you can make water even more nutritious by adding your favorite fruits and herbs. Infused water is a healthy and tasty way to avoid sugary drinks like soda and also offers health benefits ranging from improved metabolism to increased relaxation. Add an infuser water bottle, like the Zing Anything Citrus Zinger Sip, to a family member’s stocking, which will allow them to easily infuse water with citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges. Another option is the OMORC Sport Fruit Infuser, featuring an infuser rod that your loved one can fill with their favorite fruits or vegetables to create a flavorful and healthy beverage.
Personal water filter
A must-have for any outdoor enthusiast on your shopping list, this device comes in both bottle and straw form and allows you to treat water collected from streams, springs, or waterfalls, making it safe to consume. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, for example, has a microfiltration membrane designed to remove 99.9 percent of waterborne bacteria and provides up to a thousand gallons of safe drinking water. These straws are light, have no expiration date, and don’t need batteries to filter water.
After a challenging workout or long day at work, nothing beats a deep-muscle massage, and you can help a loved one enjoy this experience at home by adding a massage ball to their stocking. Regularly performing self-massages can help ease anxiety, headaches, and muscle pain. The TriggerPoint Foam Massage Ball targets smaller muscles like the pecs and calves, and the SKLZ Dual Point Massager features a unique foam design created specifically to target your back and spine.
Chilly winter weather can easily wreak havoc on people’s lips, leaving them dry and chapped. Help your loved ones avoid this uncomfortable weather-related condition by adding lip balm to their stocking. Many lip balms also contain sunscreen, making them an excellent gift for the outdoor enthusiast or athlete on your gift list. Several companies produce all-natural lip balms, including Burt’s Bees, All Good, and Dr. Bronner’s. It’s a thoughtful gift, especially for someone you want to meet under the mistletoe.
This is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Typically delivered once a month, there are subscription boxes for virtually every interest and lifestyle. If you have a loved one planning to make healthy changes in the new year, order a subscription from a company that focuses on nutritious eating or self-care. Just add a card with the subscription info to their stocking, letting them know what’s coming their way. Some popular options include:
Sound sleep accessories
A sound night’s sleep makes you feel good and is vital for your health. Getting less than seven hours of sleep a night can negatively affect your memory, concentration, mood, and immune system. If you know someone who struggles to fall asleep, a sleeping mask like the Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask may be beneficial, as it blocks 100 percent of light with a comfortable mulberry silk fabric. You can also choose a pair of Fulext Sleep Headphones, a Bluetooth headband that drowns out exterior noise as the wearer drifts off to sleep.
Electronics cleaning kit
Personal hygiene and cleanliness have been at the forefront of people’s minds recently. However, it can be easy to overlook the importance of cleaning your cell phone regularly. Scientists at the University of Arizona found that cellphones can carry ten times more bacteria than a toilet seat. With an electronic cleaning kit, you can help your loved ones keep all their electronic devices as clean as possible. The WHOOSH! Screen Cleaner Kit comes with a specially designed cleaner and microfiber cloths that help disinfect tech by removing fingerprints, dirt, gunk, and dust.
A hot cup of tea can be the perfect beverage on a winter’s day, and most teas are low in calories. Best of all, studies have shown that drinking certain types of tea can boost your immune system and ward off inflammation. Using a tea infuser eliminates the need for tea bags, helping reduce waste going to landfills. While there are numerous tea infusers to choose from, a novelty version can help make every cup of tea fun to drink. The Baby Nessie Tea Infuser holds loose-leaf tea in the body of a mythical lake monster, and the Genuine Fred Slow Brew Sloth Tea Infuser is perfect for lethargically sipping a favorite brew.
If you’re looking to truly hang your stockings with care this holiday season, add one of these gifts that can positively impact a loved one’s mind or body.
The holidays should be full of joy, so don’t let the potential for significant spending on gifts and travel linger over your head. Instead, use these tips to look ahead and bounce back to a comfortable financial situation if you end up spending more than you intended.
Review your repayment strategy
Try to get ahead by looking at any financial damage you’ve already done, and devise a payment plan that works for your budget. The payments need to be effective at downsizing your debt promptly. However, finding the resources to pay off debt can be hard when other bills need immediate attention. Here are a few tips to boost your repayment strategy.
A simple way to start repaying debt is by reallocating funds where you can. For example, if you’re struggling to pay for the gas in your car, it’s time to reconsider the monthly gym membership you don’t use. Instead, you can exercise at home. Take inventory of your memberships and subscriptions, and be sure to review the background spending you might have forgotten about. Reallocating funds can lift the burden of meeting daily financial demands so you can focus on repaying your debt.
Sell old items
Come the new year, go through your home thoroughly and note the items that you don’t need or want anymore. Your gently used home decor, furniture, and technology could be worth money to someone else. Sites like Facebook Marketplace can help you find the right buyers online. Commit to reaching a set dollar amount of sold items each month to give yourself comfortable room to pay all your bills.
Downsize your daily spending
Habits can be difficult to break, especially daily ones you love, such as buying coffee. But if you commit to reducing your everyday spending, you will see the reward of putting that money toward paying off your debt.
When you and your friends or family plan an activity, consider carpooling. Whenever someone else drives you, put a few dollars from what you would have used for gas toward paying off your debt. Alternatively, consider utilizing public transportation more often if you have access to it.
Ditch the drive-through
Make your coffee and lunches at home, and whenever you feel the urge to go out for food or drinks, put what you would have spent toward paying off your debt. If you typically buy coffee five times a week, you could save upward of one hundred dollars a month by making your own.
Lower your utility bills
Since you don’t pay your utilities on a daily basis, these bills can be easily forgotten. Get into the practice of shutting off lights, fans, space heaters, and other electronics when you’re not in the room. Turn off your television, and unplug any cords that aren’t in use. Every little bit can help you reduce the costs of your utilities, especially during the holiday season.
Alternatives to help you avoid overspending
When people overspend, it’s usually because they don’t prepare and neglect to limit themselves. Here’s how you can avoid overspending this season.
Commit to downsizing your shopping list by gifting handmade items and coupons for experiences. For example, you can give a loved one a free home-cooked meal and a movie night. Similarly, if your friend or family members love a particular home decor style, you can craft a piece of art for them to hang on their wall at home.
Shop as early as you can for the best deals on gifts. Prices can be higher during the holidays because of increased demand for some items. Keep your eyes open for coupons and sales in the mail or your email inbox. If you already have a gift in mind, search for it online, and use a browser extension like Honey to track down the best pricing. Additionally, you can set alerts for when the item drops below a certain price.
This holiday season doesn’t have to be full of money woes—you can plan ahead to pay off your gifts and expenses if you find that you often spend more than you’re comfortable with.
For many people, a great deal of time is spent in the kitchen in December. Between baking seasonal treats and prepping for holiday dinner, which can begin weeks in advance, there is often little time left for prioritizing healthy meals. That’s where these recipes come in.
The three nutritious, meal-prep-friendly recipes below are perfect for simplifying your dinners this month, so you can spend more time enjoying yourself!
This hearty, veggie-based grain salad is full of color and texture, and it can help you make the most of the delicious flavors of the season.
There’s no question that fried rice is a delicious takeout staple, but it’s also not the healthiest option. Make your own version at home with farro, a nutrient-dense whole grain, in place of the rice.
Brussels sprouts are a popular holiday side, but they can also make for the perfect base for a winter salad, as is the case in this healthier take on the classic Caesar.
recipe by patterson watkins
photos by patterson watkins
When it comes to simple dishes that pack a punch of flavor and nutrients, grain salads are hard to beat. This seasonal recipe combines whole-grain couscous with winter veggies like brussels sprouts and butternut squash, rounded out with a tangy maple-mustard dressing.
recipe by patterson watkins
photos by patterson watkins
If you have yet to try farro, it’s a great whole-grain option for adding a bit more nutrients to your dinner. The chewy texture and nutty flavor add a lot more to your dishes than plain rice, as this healthier take on fried rice shows.
recipe by patterson watkins
photos by patterson watkins
If you’re a fan of Caesar salad, then you’re going to love this slightly healthier and more flavorful take, made with hearty brussels sprouts and a creamy, homemade, low-fat Caesar dressing.
“I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.” — Erma Bombeck
As one of America’s foremost humorists, Bombeck was joking about her family, but there’s certainly a kernel of truth in there for most of us, especially during the holiday season.
It’s at this time that our food inhibitions tend to be lowered, when people’s “No pain, no gain” motto is often replaced by “Eat, drink, and be merry.” And, yes, this can make us quite merry—and then quite remorseful after the season is over.
Fortunately, you can have your cake and eat it too. The key is to make wise choices, whether you’re the one making the food or enjoying it.
If you’re in charge of any baking during the holidays, you’re also in charge of choosing the ingredients. By implementing some simple swaps, you can make a big difference in how healthy your food is without sacrificing flavor.
All-Purpose Flour → Nonbleached Flour
White flour is the usual choice for baked goods, but by choosing whole-grain, whole-wheat, or even a nut-based flour, you’ll amp up the nutritional benefits.
Oil/Butter → Applesauce
A form of oil is usually a necessity for most baking projects, but that doesn’t mean you lack choices. Avoid margarine if possible, and instead of vegetable oil, opt for a healthier version such as canola oil or sunflower oil. You could also swap the oil for something like applesauce, which adds a touch of healthy sweetness while also keeping your treat moist.
Refined White Sugar → Raw Sugars
When sweetness is needed, you can swap out white sugar for any number of things. Bananas, for example, are a high-potassium, fiber-rich substitute. Agave, honey, and even maple syrup are all good liquid options that are nowhere near as processed and have nutritional benefits.
In addition to making your guests homemade snacks right out of the oven, you’ll also have to consider other aspects of the traditional holiday spread that may not be quite so healthy. Some simple substitutions can result in healthier versions of these classics.
Store-Bought Eggnog → Homemade Eggnog
Although many people consider it delicious and a must during the holidays, most store-bought eggnog is high in fat and calories. If you’re going to offer this traditional treat to your guests, whip up this healthier vegan version.
Dips → Greek Yogurt
Dips are delicious but tend to be on the fatty side—which counteracts the benefit of pairing them with fruits and veggies. Instead, serve Greek yogurt mixed with ranch dip mix or fresh herbs with your vegetables and yogurt mixed with honey, peanut butter, or fruit preserves for your fruit.
Stuffing → Whole-Wheat Stuffing
If possible, make your own stuffing. Doing so will allow you to include more nutritious ingredients, such as whole-wheat bread or extra veggies. Either way, use unsalted butter, which can help you control the sodium in your dish.
Mashed Potatoes → Mashed Cauliflower
Some people prefer stuffing as their carb of choice, while others love potatoes. To kick up the nutrients, make mashed cauliflower instead—it has far fewer calories and carbs, packs more vitamins than potatoes, and is just as delicious.
Not everyone will be hosting, and therefore making, the food for the seasonal spread. For most people, that means the best course of action is choosing the food on your plate wisely. Here are some swaps you can make for healthier holiday eating.
Soda → Water or Flavored Sparkling Water
Frankly, soda brings nothing to the table nutritionally. The healthiest alternative, as always, is water. If you want a little flavor, add a squirt of fresh lemon juice or opt for a variety flavored with real fruit essence.
Dark Meat → Light Meat
In general, light poultry meat is better for you than its dark counterpart simply because it has almost three times less fat. It’s all relative, though: both are better options than red meat like ham.
Milk Chocolate → Dark Chocolate
Invariably, you’ll find a dessert table with ample choices of sweets like cookies and chocolates. Look around for dark chocolate, which can offer more health benefits.
Pecan Pie → Pumpkin or Fruit Pie
If there are a variety of pies available, stray away from pecan because of its fat content. Pumpkin or fruit? They both have positives and negatives, so take a thin slice of your favorite while avoiding crumb toppings.
There’s an old saying that says we eat with our eyes first, and this tends to be especially true during the holiday season. All the food, combined with abundant festive flair, can be hard to resist.
The bottom line, however, is that it doesn’t matter how many food swaps you make if you don’t also mind your portions. A good place to start would be to download the USDA’s Start Simple with MyPlate app to your phone, which can help you keep tabs on what and how much you should eat for a balanced meal. Also use a smaller plate, if possible. Doing so will help you keep your portions in control and will give you the visual sense of filling up without overdoing it. (Just don’t circumvent all this good by using the same plate for seconds and thirds.)
Gift swapping is one of the most enjoyable activities of the holiday season, but when it comes to the holiday spread, food swapping should top your list. By making smart holiday-food swaps, you’re giving yourself and your loved ones the best gift of all—better health.