Healthy Holiday Living and Tasty Treats (Back by Popular Demand)

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The expectations and pace of life in December can easily spin out of control. In terms of self-care, December can be the hardest month. And the most critical, right? We can be overly busy, under-rested, sugar-crashed, out of our normal rhythms, and often struggling with expectations and stress about money, time, year-end loose ends, gifts, travel, family challenges, getting things done on time… and the list goes on. To have balance and health in the face of it requires both a conscious intention and some practical tools.

What would make it easier to stay healthy, sane, and nourished?IMG_7591

Last December I posted a 5 day series on self care during the holiday month. The gist was this…

1. Two minutes of silence and solitude. Take it daily.  Set a stopwatch and take 2 minutes to breathe, to be with yourself, to notice the internal starting note of your day, and to bask in a quiet moment for yourself where the to-do lists and the needs of others are on the shelf momentarily. Surprisingly, it can be a powerful reset button for one’s nervous system.

2. Don’t over do it. While it’s wonderful to be engaged in the season’s festivities, the choice to not push past our limits is a worthy undertaking.  If, for you, there is a tipping point beyond which doing more means enjoying less, it pays to be deliberate about which events will be most fulfilling and to be realistic about how many gatherings we can have on our plate without getting depleted. Sometimes saying “no thanks” to an invitation is saying “yes” to our well-being.

3. Craft a realistic December fitness plan. Find a bite-sized goal, rather than a grand ambition that can add to the feeling of overwhelm. Walking around the block? One yoga pose a day? The 7 minute workout? (Click here for the full post with more  ideas.) Why wait for January to feel good? If you already have an exercise routine that you love, keep it alive through December. If you don’t, sample some options, find some you like, and get in a rhythm now so you can enter the new year feeling good, rather than resolving on January 1st to pick up the pieces after the shipwreck of December neglect.

4. Schedule Care in Advance. Whatever you do just for you—acupuncture, a massage, a meditation group, a counseling session, a hike, a pedicure with a good friend—book it ahead of time. Schedule those mid-December and post-December appointments so you know they will happen. Your nourishing me-time will be there in the midst of the potential chaos to anchor you.

and the real crowd-pleaser…

5. Healthy & Delicious Treats

Create food options that work for YOU and your body. Have them on hand. Low glycemic, gluten-free, dairy-free, all natural—what ever allows you to feel like you are participating in the celebration but not throwing your body off a cliff. We shouldn’t have to “recover” from what we eat.

Here are recipes for two of my favorite treats:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookiesphoto

2 cups rolled oats (regular, not quick)

1 cup maple syrup

1 cup tahini (sesame butter)

1 cup chocolate chips (I like the mini semi-sweet or dark)

1 cup chopped walnuts (or the chopped nut of your choice)

Mix it all up. Preheat to 375. On parchment paper covered cookie sheets, spoon out small mounds of cookie. It will not be doughy, so you just have to make small piles of the mix. It will not spread significantly while cooking, so space accordingly.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, then LET THEM COOL. They will absolutely fall apart if you do not let them cool, but once they have cooled, they will solidify.

*This recipe is versatile. If you prefer raisins or cranberries and sunflower or pumpkin seeds, go for it. In a recent experimental batch, I omitted the chocolate chips, added three mounded tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut, and a couple tablespoons of honey to the original recipe above for a satisfying German chocolate version. I think a pinch of ground cardamom would be a great addition. Regardless of the added ingredients, if the mix isn’t well moistened, add more maple or honey and/or tahini, as they are the glue for all the dry ingredients.

Coconut Bark

This is essentially a home made candy bar. It’s the more extravagant option of the two.

3/4-1 cup melted coconut oil

2 heaping Tablespoons softened coconut butter

1.25 cups shredded coconut

3 heaping Tablespoons cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup

1.5 cups chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts, peanuts…)

Adjust recipe for salted or unsalted nuts.

Melt the coconut oil and coconut butter in a saucepan. Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Pour the mix onto a wax paper covered baking sheet or pan with edges.  Score into 1-2” squares with a knife. Refrigerate. Once solidified, break or cut along scoring and enjoy. Store in a cool place. (These treats will melt otherwise.)

Bark Variations:

1. For a Chai-like version, pour the above mix in as directed, then add a light dusting of ground cardamom on top.

2. For a mint-chocolate holiday version, add 4-6 drops of peppermint essential oil to the above recipe while mixing in the saucepan.


These recipes have morphed  a bit over time from the originals. Original recipes were shared by Lauren Worsh (bark) and Michelle Levendosky (cookies). Thank you, friends, for sharing the goodness.

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Susan Wilmoth Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Portland




, LAc, MAcOM
Susan Wilmoth Acupuncture
(formally Seeds of Health, PC)

5525 E. Burnside
Portland, OR 97215


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Susan Wilmoth, Seeds of Health PC
Photography Credits: Jeff Amram Photography and Kelly Nordahl