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A Clean, Gluten-Free and Healthy Holiday Season

By Amie Valpone, Culinary Marketing Consultant & CEO of the gluten-free blog, The Healthy Apple.

When it comes to making healthy holiday choices, things can get complicated. Restaurants and food stores are stocked with processed foods and the items on sale are often the worst for us. This time of year, our schedules can get a bit hectic and crazy; we’re running around wrapping gifts, shopping for last minute presents, traveling and baking hundreds of Christmas cookies. If your head’s not spinning already it surely will be in a few weeks. It’s important to sit back, take a deep breath and take full control over your body and actions. Now, I’m not talking about refraining from buying those Cole Haan boots staring you in the face; what I’m referring to is focusing on maximizing nutritional value and taste while minimizing imbalance and unhealthy foods.

I’ve created a fun holiday recipe below that will help give you a clean outlook on your holiday schedule. No matter how busy your next few weeks become, remind yourself that taking care of you is most important as you’ll most likely be taking care of everyone else this holiday season. If you’re not at your healthiest, well rested, well fed and relaxed…you can kiss that mistletoe good-bye because you’ll end up drained, exhausted and not able to ice that gingerbread house. Oh, the horror!

It’s not every day you hear someone talking about Clean eating or asking their waiter for a Clean meal but that shouldn’t stop you from achieving this way of living. Especially this time of year when the snow is on the ground and the winter chill is in the air. Many of my clients give-up on Clean eating in the winter because it’s “too hard” but honestly, just do your best by eating a rainbow of colors, a varied diet with healthy fats, whole grains, lean proteins and lots of fresh veggies that are locally grown and seasonal. It’s important that we touch on all of our tastes, as well; some of us like salty, others sweet, some sour and others bitter. Why not start combining all of these flavors into your meals and snacks?  This will help keep your taste buds happy and satisfied.

Staying out of the inner aisles of your food store and filling up your basket with real food will do wonders not only for your health but for your well-being. Don’t you just feel better sipping on hot tea with lemon rather than a Diet Coke? I mean, come on. Picture yourself at a spa, you are waiting to get your facial and massage and you have your choice of a soda or water with lemon. Which would you choose? Many years ago I would have gone for the soda but not today. I feel better about myself when I order the water with lemon and turn down the soda.

This is what Clean eating and Clean living are all about. Try it for yourself. When faced with two options, one healthy and one not healthy, ask yourself what you’d choose if you were at a spa. I like to use this scenario because we tend to ‘take care of ourselves’ at a spa and treat ourselves to feeling rejuvenated and relaxed; it’s the perfect time to take care of your body emotionally and physically with pampering treatments, healthy food and balance. Eating whole, unprocessed food is something many of us don’t do enough of.  It’s not the healthiest choice to reach for a processed power bar for your on-the-go lunch or a packaged box of highly processed crackers with a laundry list of ingredients you cannot pronounce. Yuck.

I’m not asking you to eat Clean 100% of the time because Clean eating is about doing what’s right for you and your body.  What’s important is to realize that Clean eating is a way of life, not a diet and certainly not deprivation. Throw out those processed foods and add in some fresh ones without a nutrition label. Pick up fresh fruits and veggies for your holiday dinner, add them to your main course or serve them on the side with fresh lemon and herbs. Why not think outside the box and try a side of balsamic glazed asparagus or steamed spinach with buckwheat noodles and peanut ginger dressing? Pick a fresh herb and add it to the main course, side dishes and desserts even if the recipe doesn’t call for it; it’s likely the flavor will wake up your senses and help with those sweet cravings so many of us face this time of the year.

Here’s a fun, healthy and Clean recipe that I serve every holiday season. My guests love it and I tend to make a big batch so I can enjoy the leftovers throughout the week.



1 tablespoon coconut oil
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup golden quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup kale, chopped
1/2 cup red onion
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped


  • In a medium pot, stir coconut oil, cinnamon, turmeric and cumin over medium-high heat until fragrant.
  • Wash and drain quinoa. Add quinoa and stir to coat. Add water, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.
  • Remove from heat; set aside for 5 minutes, covered.
  • Add cranberries, kale, red onion, balsamic vinegar and lime juice.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Top with macadamia nuts.
  • Serve warm.

Happy holidays!

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