Healthy Holidays 101: Nutrition, Wellness, and More

Ah! The foreboding dread of holiday overindulgence. The temptation of the usual holiday food culprits: pumpkin pie, casseroles, mashed potatoes, and stuffing (I mean, the trouble with it is right in the name) lingers over the season, taunting and tempting us into forgetting that there is such a thing as veggies, fruit, physical activity, and this little thing called portion control. The office work parties and large gatherings may not be as numerous this year, so maybe we should all take it as a sign that THIS might be the year to try holidays in a new way: mindful of our health, both physically and mentally.

Earlier this year, Vosges created a revolutionary new line that expresses just what this new way of mindful holiday eating could look like with different types of chocolate. A pioneering collaboration between Katrina, a chocolate alchemist, and Dr. William Li, physician, scientist, and New York Times bestselling author of Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science Of How Your Body Can Heal Itself, Vosges Haut-Chocolat resulted in a line of cacao wellness bars to get closer to the taste and benefits of pure cacao. Best in class raw ingredients and cutting-edge science exhibit that natural ingredients activate our body’s health defense systems. 

Could it be that luxury chocolates are one of the ways to assist in a quest towards a healthy holiday season that makes you feel merry and bright instead of weighed down?

We reached out to Dr. Li to share with all of you some of his best healthy holiday tips for the holiday (and really every,) season and also to tell us how chocolate can be included in this picture of a well-rounded diet and healthy eating.

Here are some of his tips and tricks for making sure to set yourself on a path of healthy holiday eating (and even jumpstarting a resolution for maintaining some of these habits in 2022):

  • Avoid overeating: You should try to stop eating all that holiday food when you’re 80% full, to allow your mind to recognize that you are no longer hungry and prevent you from eating too much. 
  • Stay active:  A lack of physical activity during holiday celebrations can actually change your gut microbiome for the worse. So even if it’s just getting out for a walk, it’s important to stay consistent with your movement and healthy habits. 
  • Be mindful of your food choices: You should focus on whole, plant-based foods for your main course and build your plate from there. When it comes to the dessert table ideas, go for the dark chocolate — just make a better choice to go for the selection without added refined sugar.  

While we’re on the subject of dark chocolate, Dr. Li had some thoughts on why the myth of chocolate being good for you is actually scientifically supported:

“Dark chocolate is a decadent treat that offers up health benefits along with indulgence. There is research showing cacao has circulatory and stem cell-stimulating properties; chocolate also has positive effects on the gut microbiota. A study by researchers from Louisiana State University found that fiber found in cacao feeds healthy gut bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. These bacteria use the fiber to generate useful short-chain fatty acids called SCFAs that help have been shown by researchers to reduce inflammation and improve glucose and lipid metabolism.”

It goes without saying that stress levels can be heightened during the holidays. Whether you are staying home or opting for holiday travel, these past two years have brought new challenges that, in some cases, have compounded the stress that often accompanies this time of year. Paying attention to how you are feeling mentally and taking care of your well-being during the holidays is as important as taking care of yourself physically.

Dr. Li helpfully shared this in relation to our overall health during this time of year:

“Managing your stress is also key for wellbeing. A little stress in your life is fine and might even give you an edge to succeed in life. But chronic stress harms your health defenses. Stress increases cortisol secretion from your adrenal glands, places undue demands on your heart, alters your microbiome for the worse, disrupts angiogenesis, impairs the function of your stem cells, and lowers your immunity. In short, it damages your health defenses.” 

And what about adding dark chocolate to your diet as an aid to this: 

“Dark chocolate can help. According to a study from researchers at the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, when high anxiety subjects ate dark chocolate for two weeks, levels of the stress markers cortisol and adrenaline decreased.  Chocolate reduced these biomarker high anxiety subjects down to levels seen in the subjects reporting low anxiety. This study showed that for stressed-out individuals, eating dark chocolate for two weeks helped improve gut bacteria and reduce stress markers in the body.” 

Cacao, the basis of chocolate, activates powerful ways to support wellness. It stimulates stem cells that rebuild and repair our organs from the inside out. It improves our circulation, which is key to building muscle, heart health, and keeping our brain sharp. Maybe most importantly, it uplifts our mood, which can help lower anxiety, especially during these times in human history where the desire to be balanced and chill is at an all-time high. 

The Pure Plant bars by Katrina and Dr. Li offer perfect squares of chocolate that have no added sugars, are high in Theobromine, and are rich in Flavanols. You’ll be getting all the good stuff, along with luscious, chocolate. They’re a healthier choice of one of the world’s most favorite foods!

Offered in a boxed set or individually, here are just a few of our most beloved parfums in this healthful, delicious, lineup that are the perfect addition if you are looking to learn how to host a party for the holidays or just want to mindfully indulge:

Chinese 5-Spice Pure Plant Bar

Chinese 5 Spice refers to the blending of star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds. This blend encompasses all five of our taste sensibilities, to sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Like cacao, these spices are chock full of antioxidants and minerals.

Walnut and Chanterelle Bar

The walnut and chanterelle bar is a fan favorite. Walnuts have a wealth of polyunsaturated fats. Adding walnuts to one’s diet has been shown to lower LDL or bad cholesterol. The mushroom is one of nature’s most giving medicinal plants. Chanterelle mushrooms contain beta-glucans and fifteen different amino acids. They are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D and Beta-Carotene.

Whole Cacao Bar 

The Whole Cacao Fruit chocolate bar is made using Baba de Cacao, the sweet pulp that suspends the beans. Here, it has been freeze-dried and gives the bar its parfum of lychee and tropical notes. Floral, sweet, and tropical, the Whole Cacao Bar is a new way to experience raw cacao benefits as nature intended it. In addition to the use of the entire cacao fruit, the Whole Cacao Fruit bar has been blended with raw honey. 

So, this year as you make your list and check it twice, as a holiday party gift to others, yourself and theirs, and your physical and mental health, remember that a bite of a Pure Plant bar, might be the small indulgence that fends of the larger ones. Wishing all of you a happy, chocolat filled, merry, joyous, and most importantly, healthy holiday season and beyond!