A helping of healthy holiday eating

Bundle of fresh kale. — Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Health through the holidays can seem like a cruel oxymoron when presented with the blitz of cookie exchanges, indulgent buffets, cocktail parties, and family feasts served up wholeheartedly between the short weeks of Thanksgiving and New Years Day. The Family Center and local nutritionist, Josh Levy, will offer an evening workshop on navigating this delicious, but weighty season of food and festivities to keep your entire family healthy.
Josh Levy of Vineyard Nutrition knows the nutritional trials unique to Island residents. “We definitely have the usual holiday activities of kids events, parties, concerts, business and community get togethers, which offer more and more opportunities to knock you off your routine; but in addition to those, for us on the Island, add the off-Island shopping trips, day trips to Boston and Falmouth, then extra trips for family travel, and our schedules just get layered with stress.”
Appreciative of the season of indulgence, and the concerns that accompany it, the Family Center of Martha’s Vineyard is proud to host a workshop on maintaining optimal health, both nutritionally and emotionally, on Wednesday December 10. “We can still celebrate the holidays with family and friends,” Levy told The Times. Sometimes it’s about creating new traditions, sometimes it’s about making choices ahead of time, and most of the time it’s just about planning ahead.
At the workshop, Levy will provide specific tools to gracefully maneuver the maze of sugary, caffeinated, and fatty merry making that seem to throw our bodies and minds for a loop at this time of year. Levy explained, “We see the roller-coaster of managing stress and busy days by eating junk food or drinking more coffee, which in turn has more cream and sugar, which in turn leads to craving more sweets, and then all day long the blood sugar goes up and down. And that’s just the adults. For kids, there are all these high sugar treats and snacks that show up, causing the same blood sugar fluctuation, leading to crabbiness or sadness, and finally affecting sleep… which in turn affects the adults.”
Levy suggests bringing food with you. “Pack a cooler, fill it with cheese sticks, yogurt, apples, veggies, so when you get stuck in traffic you reach in and everyone’s fine, or mid-shopping you grab your snack and can keep going. If it’s a longer trip, find out if you’ll have a kitchenette in your hotel room, or if you can contribute to the shared meals by bringing some of your own healthier food. Look ahead at menus, plan ahead so you don’t make that impulse grab.”
Levy will show how replacing unhealthy habits with new traditions can be fashioned to celebrate the true essence of the season. He said, “I worked with a mother and daughter who had always done a cookie swap together. But talking to both of them, we discovered neither of them really wanted to bake twelve dozen cookies again. They both wanted to feel good, lose weight, and control a medical condition. So they created a craft project tradition to replace the baking, and still got the special time together, but in a new way. It was really wonderful to see that change.”

Living on the Vineyard does not make us exempt from stress and health problems due to poor nutrition, yet Levy says we have unique resources, “we are free from the fast-food chain industry, we have a strong community which often supports healthy attitudes and awareness, and we have the beautiful environment. Bundle up the kids, go outside for a walk, jump in the leaves, and play together. It will do them, and you, a world of good.”

Attend the free workshop and learn more about how to take care of yourself and your family over the holidays. Dinner and childcare provided. 5:30-7pm. Wednesday, December 10. Pre-registration is required. 508-687-9182.

Three easy tips to keep your holidays healthy
-Drink lots of water, avoid too much caffeine and sugary beverages
-Enjoy a healthy snack before attending a party to avoid impulse eating
-Get plenty of sleep

Vineyard Nutrition’s healthy holiday recipes

Edamame hummus


1 (12 ounce) package frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon lite salt (optional)
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cut-up vegetables or 100% whole grain crackers


1. Place edamame into a large pot and cover with water. Place over medium-low heat, bring to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes; drain.

2. Puree garlic in food processor until minced. Add edamame, tahini, water, cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper; blend until smooth.

3. Serve with cut-up vegetables or whole grain crackers

Makes 8 servings

Kale, carrot and apple salad

Emerald-green lacinato kale is the star of this healthy kale salad, tossed with an easy maple, mustard and apple cider vinaigrette and studded with crisp apples. Toss or massage the kale with the dressing about 30 minutes before you’re ready to serve. The sturdy kale leaves won’t wilt from the dressing and will taste even better after they’ve been marinated in it.

Active Time: 30 minutes, Total Time: 30 minutes


Cider vinaigrette

1 small shallot, chopped
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider
1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper to taste


10 cups coarsely chopped lacinato kale (1-2 large bunches)
2 sweet-tart apples, such as Golden Russet or Jonagold, cut into matchsticks
3 cups matchstick-cut carrots
1 cup matchstick-cut radishes
3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped


1. To prepare vinaigrette: Puree shallot, vinegar, oil, cider, mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a blender or mini food processor until smooth and creamy.

2. To prepare salad: Toss kale, apples, carrots, radishes and parsley in a large bowl. Drizzle with the dressing; toss to coat.


Makes: 12 servings, Serving Size: 1 1/4 cups

Per serving: 95 calories; 4 g fat (1 g sat, 3 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrates; 1 g added sugars; 5 g total sugars; 3 g protein; 3 g fiber; 175 mg sodium; 421 mg potassium.