Janelle Sorensen is the Chief Communications Officer for Healthy Child Healthy World. Simultaneously, she takes care of her sweet little girls, cooks, cleans, gardens, reads, bikes, hikes, crafts, laughs, speaks using silly voices and accents, drafts environmental policies, works on a Master's Degree, and tries to keep up with social media. Well, typically not all at the same time.

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Healthy Eating for the Holidays: Better for You, Better for the Planet

Depending on whom you ask, the typical Thanksgiving dinner has roughly 4,000 calories (twice as many as an average adult needs for an entire day). This marks the beginning of a holiday season during which most people put on about 5 to 7 pounds. It’s sheer gluttony – and it’s not good for your health and it’s not good for the planet. I love holiday food just as much as the next person (maybe even more – I’ll openly admit I have almost no will power when it comes to good food). But, I really want to be smarter – for my kids, the planet, and me. Here are the tips and tools I’m going to try this year. Join me in making this holiday season healthier for everyone!

Tips:

Shop smart.

If you’re in charge of getting the groceries, the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to shop during off hours. Avoid the chaos of holiday grocery shopping, so you can focus on finding the healthiest foods (and not simply tossing things in your cart so you can make a fast escape). Find the greatest deals and discounts on natural and organic foods before you head out, so you can have the healthiest foods for less. Try to keep your purchases from the perimeter of the store – where all the fresh, whole foods are. Whole foods are healthier (since they haven’t been processed and don’t have unpronounceable chemical additives) and they are also better for the Earth since they don’t have so much packaging.

Go local.

Look for local, seasonal foods. One of the best gifts you can give to your community and the planet is to support your local food system. Take an Eat Local Challenge and use Local Harvest and the Eat Well Guide to find your local options (you can even map out a trip and find local foods along the way if you’re traveling).

Pile on the produce.

Whether you’re cooking or eating, make mealtime heavy on plant-based foods. And, instead of drenching veggies in buttery gravies and saturating fruits with sugary glazes, try something simpler and healthier. For example, toss veggies in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast them and enjoy – it’s super easy and super tasty. Raising animals for meat is incredibly water and energy intensive, so the less you eat, the smaller your impact on the planet. Also, meats can have a variety of contaminants or additives (like nitrites) that pose health risks. When you do buy meat, make safer healthier meat choices.

Spoil your dinner.

You likely won’t really spoil your dinner, but have some healthy snacks before mealtime and make sure your kids do too. You’ll be less apt to pile your plate sky high if you’re not feeling ravenous. And, your kids will probably be distracted by all the commotion, so you want to make sure they’re fueled up for the fun.

Watch out for brightly colored foods and candy!

Holiday treats like candy canes and candied fruits can be hard to resist. But many sweet treats have artificial colors, flavors and preservatives that have questionable safety records. Use the Brain Food Selector to find out which foods have risky dyes. Learn more about food additives at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Additional Tools:

Eat Healthy

Bookmark this site because it’s your one-stop shop for finding ways to make every bite fast, frugal, fun and eco-friendly. Eat Healthy has easy recipes; tips for eating right on a budget; information about how to reduce your exposure to chemicals in food, cookware, and containers; and much more.

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas by Anna Getty

Anna’s essential eco-holiday guide has mouth-watering recipes, super fun eco-crafts for the whole family, and tons of great tips for creating stylish holiday traditions without making a deep impact on the planet.

Wishing peace, joy, and good health to all this holiday season!

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