A sensible guide to treating yourself to holiday treats

Most of the year, I consume very little alcohol and few sweet snacks. But during the holidays it becomes a real challenge to turn those treats down.

After all, they come hand in hand with celebrations, holiday parties and family gatherings. Not to mention gifting. When friends show up to my house with a lovely gift of wine, of course I’m going to partake and show my appreciation.

But many people, especially the new folks following a paleo-styled diet, have a lot of questions this time of year about what they can or can’t have. “Can’t” is a strong word. And no matter what type of diet you may follow, exceptions should be allowed, unless doing so causes a severe or allergic reaction. Just be smart about them.

Of course alcohol should always be consumed in moderation. Safety first — for yourself and others. And if alcohol has negative impacts on you physically, don’t give in to holiday party pressure and consume more than you know is safe for you. I learned many years ago that I have two drink maximum. The effects on my stomach just are not worth that third glass. I don’t feel like I miss out on anything, and I feel so much better in the morning.

But to make it easier, especially on those who are paleo dieters like me, I decided to put together some lists for easy reference. Come to think of it though, no matter what diet you follow, these are sensible, part-time health nut tips anyone can benefit from. And I’ll start with alcohol…

What alcohol would our ancestors have consumed?

Wine is probably the closest form of alcoholic beverage that could occur naturally and likely was discovered by our ancestors when stored fruit started to ferment.

So if you want to be true to your paleo diet but include alcohol in your celebration, wine is a good choice, especially red. Also you can feel good about wine’s reported health benefits when consumed moderately, including:

The spirits you may want to avoid because of grain — and gluten — content (not OK for a paleo diet) are:

  • Beer
  • Bourbon
  • Gin (some brands are processed with grain-based alcohol)
  • Grain-based vodka
  • Whiskey

If wine is not your thing, potato vodka and tequila are grain-free alternative spirits, and there are some gluten-free beers on the market.

It’s best to stay away from cocktails and mixed drinks. Most include fruit juices that are off the charts high in sugar content. Instead, mix spirits with water and fresh lime juice.

What about chocolate?

It wouldn’t be the holiday season without tons of delectable desserts, would it? And my, how chocolate abounds. I think it must be the world’s favorite sweet indulgence. I know it’s one of mine. But again, it’s one of those guilty pleasures that should be enjoyed in moderation — unless you’re eating the right chocolate…

Chances are that your non-paleo friends and relatives will be using milk chocolate in many of their dessert preparations. Full of sugar, milk solids and soy lecithin, steer clear of this very unhealthy choice if you have the willpower — and go for the dark chocolate, even if it means you always have to prepare and bring your very own dessert — like this one.

Dark chocolate, a product of the fermented and processed cocoa bean (seeds of the cacao tree), has a distinctive strong flavor and much more to offer including:

  • Nutrients — dark chocolate is a good source of iron, magnesium, copper and manganese.
  • Antioxidants — that repair free radical damage.
  • Cocoa butter — a healthy fat.

Dark chocolate also provides heart healthy benefits you can read about here.

By preparing ahead of time, and following these tips, you’ll find that your holiday celebrations can be just as joyous and delicious as anyone’s — but all the healthier! What a wonderful gift to yourself — and a great way to ring in the New Year.

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Margaret Cantwell

By Margaret Cantwell

Margaret Cantwell began her paleo diet in 2010 in an effort to lose weight. Since then, the diet has been instrumental in helping her overcome a number of other health problems. Thanks to the benefits she has enjoyed from her paleo diet and lifestyle, she dedicates her time as managing editor of Easy Health Digest™, researching and writing about a broad range of health and wellness topics, including diet, exercise, nutrition and supplementation, so that readers can also be empowered to experience their best health possible.