Wednesday Blog: A Healthy Holiday Season

November 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm Leave a comment

As we gear up for Thanksgiving, many things come to mind – family, friends, appreciation, and last but certainly not least…food. Thinking about the holiday meal can make a mouth water – turkey, stuffing, yams with cranberries, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie…YUM!

But did you know that the average American gains 1-2 pounds over the holiday season AND these are pounds that usually stick?1  This may not seem like a big deal, but over the years it increases our risk of becoming overweight and/or obese which can then increase our risk of other conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. And, this epidemic is now affecting our children. In fact, “in the past 30 years, the occurrence of overweight in children has tripled and it is now estimated that 1 in 5 children in the USA are overweight.”2 Does that mean we can’t enjoy a delicious and satisfying holiday meal? By no means! On the contrary, not only can we enjoy such a meal, but we can do so guilt free knowing that what we are eating is contributing to our health not detracting from it.

How can we go about having a Healthy Holiday Season? The best way to approach this is twofold:

1) Reconfigure our plate focusing on whole plant based foods; specifically, fruits, vegetables (including starchy vegetables), whole grains, and legumes, and  2) eliminate extraneous ingredients that don’t add much taste but do add a lot of calories; items like oil, butter, and highly refined processed foods. In this way, we can create healthier versions of the foods we love: mashed potatoes (with nutritional yeast and nondairy milk rather than oil and butter), baked yams or mashed sweet potatoes (with nutritional yeast and spices over oil and butter), stuffing (using whole wheat bread or whole grains, nuts, and spices instead of highly refined white bread and butter), and pumpkin pie (using a date and nut crust, pumpkin, spices, and non dairy milk instead of refined flour, oil, and white sugar).

What are some advantages to making these modifications and including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes? 3,4,5,6,7,8 For starters these are the foods that not only provide us adequate macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) but are rich in fiber and very important micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals). These are also the foods that have been shown to promote overall health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of obesity and diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  And, making these changes applies to and benefits everyone in the family from babies to children to parents to grandparents.

So, as you get ready to enjoy the holiday season, make it a happy and healthy one for all of your loved ones by giving them the food that will allow them to thrive, not just survive!

Happy and Healthy Holidays to all.


By: Alona Pulde, MD.  Alona is one of the founders of the Whole Foods Market Wellness Club and a board-certified practitioner of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and Family Medicine Physician specializing in nutrition and lifestyle medicine. Dr. Pulde is lead author of the book, “Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole: Your Guide to Optimum Health.” She also developed the Lifestyle Change Program used for patients in the film Forks Over Knives, as well as in her clinic, Exsalus Health & Wellness Center. Dr. Pulde is currently working on the development of Wellness Clubs for Whole Foods Market as their Global Medical Executive of Health and Wellness.


1N Engl J Med 2000:342;861-867


3Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 50:193–208 (2010)

4J. Nutr. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.132944;

5J. Nutr. 140: 1932–1936, 2010

6Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.29106;

7Appetite. 2011 Aug;57(1):38-44.

8Epub 2011 Mar 22; J. Nutr. 140: 1932–1936, 2010.


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