Cooking and eating healthy around the holidays can be tough—the pie! the cookies! the casseroles!—but it doesn’t have to be impossible. We spoke with a few Birmingham foodies about staying healthy during the most wonderful time of the year.
Check out the helpful tips below. And yes, you can still enjoy those Christmas cookies!
1) Chef Clayton Sherrod of Chef Clayton’s Food Systems
Chef Clayton Sherrod is a well-known chef around town. He loves to cook heart healthy. In addition to owning his own catering business, Chef Clayton’s Food Systems, Chef Clayton also teaches heart-healthy cooking classes across Birmingham.
He’s the culinary advisor for Lawson State’s Culinary School and was appointed by the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD) to teach cooking classes in our local housing communities. He’s also worked with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama on some of their healthy cooking events.
His favorite holiday food: Turkey
“I teach a lot using turkey, because there are hundreds of meals that can be made from that one turkey.”
Fun fact: Chef Clayton is known for his “veal” scaloppine, which he makes using turkey! Apparently it’s hard to tell the difference. Chef Clayton jokes that he was “cooking one big lie” at first.
His tips for staying healthy through the holidays:
“Around the holiday season, what I try to teach is stick with the tradition, but it doesn’t have to be the same recipe we’ve always had. We can have a traditional holiday meal without the extra fat.”
He steers his students away from pork fat, encouraging them to flavor dishes with olive oil and spices instead.
2) Kathy G of Kathy G and Co.
Kathy G Mezrano, event caterer extraordinaire, has been catering in Birmingham for more than 30 years through her business Kathy G and Co.
“[The business] grew out of a love of entertaining, particularly entertaining with food.”
Kathy G’s cooking combines her Lebanese heritage and Southern roots. She has also worked with local nonprofit HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama to promote healthy eating in our state.
Her favorite holiday food: Cranberries (organic, preferably)
Her tips for staying healthy through the holidays:
- Flavor with herbs, shallots, nuts and olive oil versus cream and other heavy ingredients
- Cut back on portions
- Don’t skip meals–eat throughout the day
- Focus on the veggies at the party
3) Jen Ryan of blueroot co.
Jen Ryan is the founder of blueroot co., a company focused on making nutrient-rich foods more accessible. A West Coast native, Jen is bringing Cali-fresh food to Bham. Blueroot is a finalist for REV Birmingham’s Big Pitch this year. You can find blueroot’s salads and snacks at various spots across Birmingham.
“I decided to bring my passion for simple, nutrient-dense foods to Birmingham, and couple it with the incredible local farming community and amazing local talent to create blueroot.”
Her favorite holiday food: Her nana’s chocolate chip scones
Her tips for staying healthy during the holidays:
“Deciding to abstain from the good cheer was never an interesting option for me, so I keep a couple of things in mind that help me stay on track without totally killing the holiday spirit.”
- Try to find a way to move every day
- Stay hydrated
- Make healthy swaps where you can, like veggies instead of chips or soda water with lemon instead of a cocktail
4) Chef Kimberly Brock of Bitty’s Living Kitchen
Chef Kimberly Brock is the owner of Bitty’s Living Kitchen, which she started in 2017. Her focus is plant-based meals and juices. You can find Bitty’s Living Kitchen’s plant-based meals, like mushroom tacos with salsa and guac (yes, please!), at Practice Works Mondays and Wednesdays.
“We’re passionate about harvesting healthy palates and healing through food.”
Her favorite holiday food: Cornbread dressing (It’s this Bham Nowers fave, too.)
Her tips for staying healthy through the holidays:
- Stay away from processed food
- Don’t assume “low fat” and “zero sugar” are automatically healthier for you
- Don’t drink your calories (whether that’s booze or soda) and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water
Chef Brock has hosted plant-based holiday cooking events and soon you can find an ebook of recipes on her website!
5) Stuart Raburn of Southern Organics
Stuart Raburn’s company, Southern Organics, is providing healthy produce to Birmingham via its Shelby County Farm. A personal health diagnosis lead Raburn to start Southern Organics:
“I had a wonderful 26-year career in the IT industry rudely interrupted by a couple of bouts with cancer, which led to an education in healthy eating. Southern Organics was born by pursuing healthy food production married to controlled environment agriculture.”
His favorite holiday food: Pecan pie (gluten-free!)
Healthy swaps for those holiday recipes: Use pasture-raised meats, substitute vegenaise for mayo, prepare leafy greens/veggie dishes instead of casseroles, add turmeric for seasoning, consider lettuce wraps instead of breads
His tips for staying healthy during the holidays:
- Cut 80 percent of sugars and carbs
- Enjoy treats in small quantities
“Don’t miss out on the Thanksgiving and Christmas feast, but light grazing vs. overindulging yields fewer New Year’s resolutions.”
The Bottom Line
It seems the key to staying healthy for the holidays is all about moderation. You don’t have to be a Grinch and deprive yourself of delicious holiday treats, but you can make some healthy swaps along the way.
How do you stay healthy during the holidays? Let us know @BhamNow.