by Tandis Bishop

Let’s face it: the holiday season is focused around food. We are not just talking about eating food – but feasting on rich, sumptuous holiday dishes, sweets, and beverages. We all look forward to it around this time of year. With that joyful anticipation also comes a little bit of apprehension of straying from your healthy regime for the next couple months. Feasting can be challenging for those who may have specific dietary needs due to food allergies or sensitivities. The good news is that you can enjoy many of your favorite holiday dishes while maintaining your healthy lifestyle. Local, fresh, and seasonal food is an excellent way to create healthy holiday dishes.

Local: from farm to fork

Using local ingredients means fresher ingredients, grown here with our rich Hawaiian soil, air and water. Local food minimizes transportation and processing, which maximizes freshness, flavor, and nutrient content.1,2,3 Local ingredients can be used in many holiday dishes. Locally grown foods in Hawaii include: pineapples, coconut, papaya, apple bananas, macadamia nuts, local raw honey, Okinawan sweet potato, squash, tomatoes, ginger, eggplant, bell peppers, onions, cucumbers, green beans, leafy greens, herbs, cabbage, sprouts, avocados, and sugar snap peas.

Fresh: made from scratch

We can all agree that nothing beats a delicious holiday meal made from scratch. The holidays can be hectic and overwhelming. But keep in mind your health and the health of your loved ones when shopping for holiday ingredients. Opt for fresh produce and unrefined ingredients rather than processed, convenient foods. If you do need to buy a packaged item, look for ones that are minimally processed and have natural ingredients without artificial flavors, additives, refined sugars, and hydrogenated oils. The more fresh ingredients you can use in your holiday cooking the better.

Seasonal: celebrate the harvest

Historians state that the first Thanksgiving feast was held by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indian tribe of Massachusetts to celebrate the colony’s first successful harvest.4 Fall and winter fruits and veggies are the perfect food for holiday feasting. They are also usually cheaper as they are in abundance this time of year. Choose seasonal produce such as sweet potato, a variety of squashes, pumpkin, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, turnip, grapefruit, and tangerines.

Allergen-free: feasting for everyone

With the increasing awareness and diagnoses of food allergies and sensitivities, more people are looking at alternative ingredients to accommodate their dietary needs. The increased demand has been heard by many healthy food manufacturers that now produce a wide array of gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, fish-free, and nut/soy-free products. Many holiday recipes can be adjusted using products such as Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free baking mixes and all-purpose flours, Pamela’s gluten-free mixes, and Daiya dairy-free cheese. There are allergen-free alternatives for virtually every ingredient. In addition, most local, fresh, and seasonal foods are allergen-free!

Maintaining a healthy diet through the holiday season is easy, simple, and absolutely delicious. Like the way our grandmothers used to cook! Holiday recipes for everyone can be found on our Recipes page. So go ahead – feast to your health and the health of your loved ones with local, fresh, and seasonal food!

Footnotes: 
  1. Harvard School of Public Health. Is local food more nutritious? Retrieved on October 30, 2013 from https://chge.hsph.harvard.edu/
  2. Heaton S. Organic Farming, Food Quality and Human Health. A Review. Soil Association, 2001.
  3. Worthington V. Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables, and grains. J Altern Complement Med. 2001; 7(2): 161–173.
  4. Scholastic. The First Thanksgiving. Retrieved on October 30, 2013 from http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/feast/