Be festive (and stay healthy) this holiday season

December 24, 2020 by Joel Fuhrman, MD

The year 2020 has been filled with challenges that have tested us in ways we never imagined. While we look forward to a brighter new year, it’s important that we take care of ourselves and our loved ones now, by strengthening our immune defenses and renewing our commitment to living a healthful lifestyle. Nutritional Excellence can make COVID harmless—so don’t take risks with dangerous foods.

Showcase your Nutritarian cooking skills

Challenge: With no big family parties, that means no one’s cooking your traditional favorites. Help!

Having a small celebration with just your own household is the perfect opportunity to revamp your menu. And what a great way to start some new – healthful – holiday traditions! You can find some amazing Nutritarian recipes on my website – for appetizers, main dishes, sides, dressings, desserts and more. Almost every traditional holiday food has a healthful counterpart that is just as enjoyable. 

Action Item: Missing the taste of Aunt Mary’s green bean casserole? Replace it with Nutty Green Bean Casserole and enjoy all the flavor (and added nutrients) without all the salt and oil in the original. Replace the traditional apple pie with Classic Apple Pie (recipe is free for members) and you’ll enjoy the cinnamon-apple flavors you love without all the white flour, butter and sugar in the original. Now that you’re in charge of the cooking, you can treat your crew to a beautiful, health and tasty plant-based spread. 

Recipe collection: Christmas Celebrations

Give gifts that delight, inspire and educate

Challenge: You want to help your loved ones live long and healthy lives.

Common lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc. have been in the spotlight this year, because these conditions increase the risk for serious disease or death from COVID-19.1,2  The fact is that the SAD diet is the major cause of COVID death, and people can make a choice to protect themselves. Family and friends who were never interested before might now be more receptive to learning about your healthy lifestyle – and welcome you to share recipes and healthful eating tips.

Association of cardiovascular disease and 10 other pre-existing comorbidities with COVID-19 mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Regardless of Age, Obesity and Hypertension Increase Risks With COVID-19

Action Item: Zoom get-togethers are the new holiday parties, so pick a time that’s convenient for your crew. This year, host a virtual – and healthy – dinner party. You can set a menu and send it (with recipes) along with the invitation. Or if you’re looking for gifts that reinforce the healthy message but still feel indulgent, think about one of Dr. Fuhrman’s Quick Start Bundles (Super Immunity, End of Dieting, End of Heart Disease, or End of Diabetes), along with a box of G-BOMBS bars or a jar of Date-Nut Pop’ems. They’ll get the book and treat in the mail and be able to download the T20 or 10 in 20 Program and get started immediately with the meal plans and recipes. It’s the kind of gift that will delight them now – and for the rest of their lives. And if they’re a Nutritarian newbie, tell them to check out the free 4-Step QuickStart to the Nutritarian Diet, available on 

Don’t let your healthy habits slide

Challenge: It’s been a tough year and now it’s the holidays – and you’re tempted to turn to food for comfort.

Now more than ever, it’s important to maintain your level of commitment to the Nutritarian lifestyle. Remember all the things you usually do to avoid being tempted by conventional foods? Keep doing them! 

  • Dedicate time for food preparation, meal planning, and exercise
  • Avoiding temptation starts at the supermarket: keep junk foods out of the house
  • Have a large salad every day
  • Keep fresh fruit and cut up raw veggies on hand
  • Stop eating before you feel full

Action Item: Exercise control. Don’t let the holiday rush disrupt your food preparation and exercise schedule. It’s not always easy to squeeze in all of the activities important to our health and well-being, but when you make it routine, it’s convenient to eat healthfully, and it works. Having a routine helps you avoid falling back into destructive habits when you feel stressed or rushed. A workout skipped here and a fast food meal there eventually add up. That’s why it’s especially important to keep your commitment to excellent health in mind during especially busy or disruptive times – like the holiday season. 

Related: Exercise is essential for heart health, slowing aging, and cognitive function

Related: 6 Tips to Help Avoid the Holiday Weight Gain

Crave excellent health

Challenge: You’re tempted to indulge in junk foods – just a little. That’s OK, right?  

Remember that conventional food is junk food, and it is addictive. The temptation to overindulge in these foods on holidays is precisely because of their addictive properties.3, 4 Awakening these old cravings, even for one meal, is unwise. Once you’ve become accustomed to healthful eating, a junk food meal will make you feel ill, sluggish and uncomfortable. No momentary pleasure is worth years of poor health.  I always say, “Those foods don’t taste so good once your in the coffin.”

Emotional stress, salty foods, large fatty meals, weight gain, and alcohol – all common during the holidays – put stress on the cardiovascular system and are commonly reported triggers of heart attacks.5-10 Impaired vascular function, insulin resistance, inflammation, depletion of circulating antioxidants, and increased blood pressure have all been reported after a single low-nutrient meal, whether high in saturated fat, salt, white flour and added sugars, or combinations of the three.11-22  

The obesity epidemic: the role of addiction
Eating and arterial endothelial function: a meta-analysis of the acute effects of meal consumption on flow-mediated dilation
Alcohol and Atrial Fibrillation: A Sobering Review
Emotional stressors trigger cardiovascular events
The "Merry Christmas Coronary" and "Happy New Year Heart Attack" phenomenon

Action item:  Every time you sit down to a meal, you have a choice: You can choose foods that build your antioxidant defenses and support your health with vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, flavonoids, and more. Or you can choose foods that impair vascular function, cause dangerous spikes in blood glucose, and drive oxidative stress and inflammation. Our risk for chronic disease results from decades of these individual choices. The choice is clear – especially because you want to be around, in good health, to celebrate many, many more holidays in the future. 

Related: Don’t succumb to “Holiday Heart”

Be kind. Be inspiring.

Challenge: You’re concerned that your loved ones aren’t being careful with their health.

You may be worried about the health of some family members who partake in dangerous foods. Although sharing your knowledge in a kind manner may be helpful, it's important to set an example.

Action Item: Your enjoyment of healthful food and good health during the holidays sets an example for others to aspire to. Every day, every meal, every mouthful is a choice and an opportunity to build exeellent health and be a role model for your loved ones.  Every social occasion – in-person or virtual – is an opportunity to be a positive influence.  

Action item: Share some of the success stories on the website, with someone you love, or watch one of Dr. Fuhrman’s recorded Nutri-Talk sessions.

Keep the focus off food

Although there’s usually a lot of focus on food, the holidays are about the reconnecting with family and friends. Emphasize the holiday traditions that don’t involve food, like decorating, watching holiday movies, or playing cards or games. Keep your focus on enjoying quality time with your loved ones, rather than on the menu. 

Related: 6 Strategies to Survive the Holiday Season

It has been a tough year all around, and you’ve weathered it all. Remember to be kind to yourself: Celebrate your wins, mourn your losses, and stay focused on the better days to come.

Wishing you the best of health!


Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a board-certified family physician, seven-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional methods. Dr. Fuhrman coined the term “Nutritarian” to describe his longevity-promoting, nutrient dense, plant-rich eating style.
For over 30 years, Dr. Fuhrman has shown that it is possible to achieve sustainable weight loss and reverse heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses using smart nutrition. In his medical practice, and through his books and PBS television specials, he continues to bring this life-saving message to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.


Comments (0):



12/24/2020 10:53 PM

By far, my favorite site ever.  Always great information/advice.  Dr. F and staff rock!


01/15/2021 04:14 AM

You are the first person to tell me that I weathered the year. Thank you for that.