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food in refrigeratorWe’ve officially entered the holiday season. Thanksgiving has passed. Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve loom. The common link between all of these? Food. Glorious food in all its spectacular and traditional versions.

From the oil fried latkes, doughnuts and briskets of Hanukkah to the meat-centric Christmas dinner (with all the sides natch), not to mention plenty of candy, cookie, and pastry platters everywhere you go, the holidays can derail the even the best of health intentions.

Holiday celebrations and excess can certainly make it harder to get back to a healthy routine. What to do? What to do?

Sure, you could beat yourself up, bemoan your lack of willpower, but an easier – not to mention more positive – option is to start small and tackle the fridge. Of course, it’s a baby step in the scheme of things, but if your fridge is in order both during the holiday season and after, it might just prove a life preserver.

Keeping nutritious foods on hand help make cooking and eating healthy options a no-brainer. (It can also help extend your food budget, too!)

  1. Start with a plan.
    Make a shopping list of nutritious options based on your family’s preferences. Unless you’re a kitchen whiz who can easily throw stuff together on the fly, you may want to plan your dinner menu for a week at a time to ensure you’ll have what you need.

    • Vegetables and fruits including, kale, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, celery, greens, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, apples, oranges, pomegranates, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, melons and more. (Even better, buy what’s in season. Here’s a guide to seasonal produce here in Texas, and here’s a more general national guide.)
    • Beans and lentils can be purchased dry, then soaked, cooked, and stored in the fridge or freezer. From garbanzo, black, pinto, white and red beans to red, green or black lentils, each offers color, texture, and a quick protein option.
    • Meat, poultry, and eggs including whole chicken and turkey; ground poultry, beef and lamb; prime cuts of beef, pork, or lamb, and more. Fish is an excellent option, as well, but go for those lowest in mercury. The NRDC offers this handy shopper’s guide.
    • Whole grains and pseudo-grains, if you choose them, can be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge or freezer. Choose from an assortment of rice, farro, millet, chia, quinoa, and more.
  2. Pick a day to shop, clean, and prep.
    Whether you shop from an ongoing list or one that you write out in one fell swoop, do it on a day when you have time not just to shop but also to clean and prep the food items you buy. For many, a weekend day works best, especially if family members are around to help. This one day sets you up for a week of healthy eating options that will require minimal time in the kitchen on busier days.

  3. Store prepped food in sight and in glass.
    While “prepped food” is simply food that has been cleaned, cut and stored, getting it to that point can feel like a chore. But if you apply a sense of mindfulness while you prep, it seem less of a chore and more like self-care. Noticing the colors of the food you selected, the texture, the sound as you cut through it, and the fragrance – the food can nourish mind and body alike.

    Fitness trainer Kathy Kaehler offers some great tips on how to properly prep everything and keep it from spoiling.

    As for storage, there are some good reasons to opt for glass. For one, you can see everything at a glance. It’s amazing how, when we’re hungry, we just want to grab food and eat. The problem is that the easiest food to grab is often high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt. Prepping real food and storing it in glass makes it just as easy to grab as that bag of hyper-processed food product.

    But more, with glass, you don’t have to worry about plastic leeching into your food. It’s inert, and many containers can go from fridge to freezer or oven, making it convenient too.

Just as your fridge doesn’t have to be the enemy, neither do the holidays. With a little forethought and preparation, you can eat your way through them on your terms. Indulge as you choose, but remember: Too much of a good thing can sometimes just be too much of a good thing.

Image by USDA, via Flickr

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