Megan’s Guide for Surviving the Holidays

Maybe “surviving” isn’t the right word, because for most it’s a holiday season surrounded by family, comforts, festivities, and love. Maybe “surviving your current pants size” would be more accurate.

Not that the holiday season shouldn’t be about celebrations and treats and indulgences- it should! But many times we look at it as an excuse to go wild, when it doesn’t have to be in order to enjoy yourself. But on the same token, it also shouldn’t be a time of dieting, or restricting yourself, or being riddled with guilt over what you’re eating. It should not be a time of calorie counting or measuring. Well, no time is good for that because it’s torturous any time of year and is nothing I ever put my weight loss clients or myself through. But this shouldn’t be a season where we overindulge without abandon for the month of December and then rely on some restrictive diet on January 1st to save us. This is the time of year I always have clients say to me- “I’ve been eating well, I’m feeling great, but Christmas is coming up… help!” So here are some of my best tips for enjoying the holidays, yet also keeping your energy up and the scale down.

1. I almost always tell my clients to follow a 90/10 diet. 90% of the time you eat an abundance of great healthy whole foods, 10% of the time you treat yourself. That 10% is just as important as the 90% because we are not little perfect robots, we are humans. Look at December as perhaps an 80/20 month. We have less control over what we’re eating, more social events, more indulgent dishes, so treat yourself a little bit more but still staying within the confines of reason and balance.

2. Make those treats count. What does indulgence mean to you? What treat do you dream of all year? Eat that. Do that. Do you want your 10 or 20% to be a random crappy candy bar from the gas station, or do you want it to be grandma’s homemade pumpkin pie covered in homemade whipped cream? Choose quality and make it enjoyable. Me? I look forward to an organic, gluten free pecan pie from the Free Market every year. Do I feel guilty? Nope. Do I share? Nope. No regrets.

3. Enjoy those treats without guilt. No! None! Your 10/20% is just as important as your 90%. Eat it, savor it, chew it slowly and enjoy every flavor.

4. Oh yes- chewing! Slow down and eat mindfully. If you shovel two plates full of food into your face in 8 minutes, yes, you will overeat and yes, you will feel uncomfortably full and regret it later. Eating slowly and chewing well allows us to enjoy our food to the fullest, without the strain on our digestive systems. It also gives our bodies a chance to register that we’ve had enough food, which prevents overeating. Eat to be comfortable, not full.

5. Pack healthy snacks for before a feast, especially when traveling. Pack a little cooler with fresh fruit, cut veggies, healthy meats, etc to have as a snack while traveling to gatherings. If you’re starving by the time you make yourself a plate, your eyes will be bigger than your stomach and you will eat too quickly.

6. Stay hydrated. Sometimes we eat too much because we’re dehydrated, and sometimes a good chunk of our calories comes from liquids. Choose water most of the time, and maybe one special drink at an event.

6. Bring a healthy dish to pass. Then if very few of your options are whole-food based, you have your healthy dish to fill a good chunk of your plate. Maybe make a platter of roasted root veggies, a light salad full of veggies, or a hearty tabouli full of fiber.

Homemade tabouli salad

7. That brings me to fiber. The great thing about whole foods is… well, they are whole. So that means all the nutrients are intact, which are exactly what you need for a feeling of satiety. Fiber is a big one, as it physically expands in your stomach to give you a full feeling. Eat 500 calories from bread, and then eat 500 calories from wild rice or quinoa. You’re still going to be hungry after that bread. You’re going to be stuffed after that whole grain. Choosing foods that are nutrient dense and minimally processed allows you to eat to your heart’s content, without eating in excess. Portion control as nature intended.

8. Make your same dishes with better quality ingredients. This is a huge one for me because 1) you’re eliminating harmful additives 2) you’re eliminating processed junk 3) you’ll have more nutrition and easier portion control 4) it’ll taste better. Think of how your family made some of your favorite dishes before the advent of processed convenience foods in the 50s- real food! They just made it with real food. Let’s get back to the same thing today. Gravy was homemade from the turkey drippings, not from a packet made with artificial flavors and hydrogenated oils. Mashed potatoes were made with organic potatoes (non-organic crops did not exist before 1945) and real organic butter. Pie was made from real fruit, not artificially colored fruit-flavored high fructose corn syrup from a can. Switch your refined sugar or artificial sweeteners for natural sweeteners like maple sugar or raw honey, and choose simple ingredients. Even better- research how your favorite dishes originally would have been made in order to not only make it healthier, but to also regain that connection to your ancestors. How would your family’s traditional cranberry salad been made before processed food came about? Real cranberries, a natural sweetener, real gelatin, spices, lemon juice. Even the modern marshmallows that perhaps went on top aren’t the real deal any more. Traditionally marshmallows were made of marshmallow root sap, organic egg whites, and raw sugar, that’s it. Not corn syrup, artificial colors, preservatives, and artificial flavors. Look for organic marshmallow versions that will be made of more simple ingredients.

My cranberry sauce is made with fresh WI cranberries, raw honey, and fresh orange juice

9. Don’t skip breakfast. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to watch their weight. Yes, skipping meals reduces your caloric intake for that meal, but it also means you’re more likely to overeat later and it’s usually not broccoli you’re choosing when you’re snacky later. Night time eating is a great way to pack on the pounds, as well. Breakfast “breaks the fast” and sets the stage for your day. Choose a whole-foods based balanced breakfast of whatever works best for your body. Examples- scrambled organic eggs with veggies, sautéed kale & sausage, oatmeal with blueberries, nuts, and honey.

10. Recognize that food should not be our #1 source of comfort and reward, during the holidays or any other time. This is what I refer to with my clients as “primary food.” Yes, holiday foods are an important part of tradition, but the rest of it is more important. Love, connection, tradition, games, family, friends, fellowship, spirituality, etc…. these things all feed us but they are not food. Fill your primary food cup more than you do your plate.

I hope this helps bring you a wonderful, nourishing holiday season- without much of a change on the scale! As always feel free to reach out if you have any questions or are interested in further guidance in living your healthiest life possible. Initial consultations are always free!

Megan Normansell, CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Health Counselor/ Certified Herbalist/Holistic Nutritionist

Interested in healing your body naturally?
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally. We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. If you’re curious, schedule your complimentary consultation today!


Copyright Megan Normansell 2023. All rights reserved.

Get your Sugar Detox on!

Sugar: the death of many a health goal. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, improve25593216_10101928426754833_1827350616_o digestion, keep your immune system strong, lower cholesterol, manage IBS, lower pain and inflammation, eliminate migraines, improve depression and anxiety, and so on… sugar makes it all so, so much harder. Studies have shown that white refined sugar is even more addictive than cocaine and heroin, so no wonder it’s so difficult to quit! Excessive sugar intake is now considered to be a public health crisis, for many reasons.

And “detox”… a word that some will scoff at. What do I mean when I say you can “detox” from sugar? Detoxification is defined as the process of removing toxic substances or qualities. Yes, white refined sugar is toxic, and yes we’re removing it. Yes, sugar addiction and cravings are toxic to your health, and yes we’re removing them. No, it won’t hurt, you won’t suffer, and you won’t hate me.

20 Reasons Why Sugar Ruins Your Health

  • Sugar can suppress the immune system.
  • Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
  • Sugar can weaken eyesight.
  • Sugar can cause hypoglycemia.
  • Sugar can cause a rapid rise of adrenaline levels in children.
  • Sugar contributes to obesity.
  • Sugar can cause arthritis.
  • Sugar can cause heart disease and emphysema.
  • Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
  • Sugar can increase cholesterol.
  • Sugar can significantly increase risk of cancer.
  • Sugar can contribute to diabetes.
  • Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.
  • Sugar can make our skin age by changing the structure of collagen.
  • Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.
  • Sugar can increase the body’s fluid retention.
  • Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines.
  • Sugar can cause depression.
  • Sugar can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • In intensive care units, limiting sugar saves lives.
(Adapted from 146 Reasons Why Sugar Is Ruining Your Health by Nancy Appleton, Ph.D.)



We will first want to identify all sources of white refined sugar in your diet. Read the ingredient listing on your labels. You’ll find sugar is lurking in everything from ketchup to yogurt, and there are countless trick names for white sugar. (evaporated cane juice or cane juice extract anyone?) Luckily there are many healthier alternatives. Is there sugar in your ketchup? Try buying an unsweetened version or crushing/pureeing fresh tomatoes instead. Sugar in your yogurt or almond milk? Buy an unsweetened version instead and sweeten with berries and/or a touch of honey.

You’ll find that choosing whole foods over processed foods (eg. oatmeal instead of boxed cereals) will make it much easier to avoid added sugar. Many of the “low calorie,” “low sugar,” or “sugar free” diet and snack foods on the market are chock full of junk that will not support your health or your goal of eliminating sugar. We also want to avoid chemical sweeteners as much as possible (such as aspartame & sucralose/Splenda), which may seem tempting when you are trying to avoid sugar. Not only are they all toxic to some degree, they will likely leave you craving more sugar later and this detox will be more difficult to accomplish. Studies have found that people who consume artificial sweeteners and “diet” foods tend to weigh more. And did you know that about 10% of people actually still get blood sugar fluctuations from synthetic sweeteners?

“Naturally-derived artificial sweeteners,” as I call them, are a no-go too. A sweet yet calorie and sugar free sweetener- sound too good to be true? Well, yes. There will always be a trade off. Highly processed “natural” sweeteners that have been made with chemical solvents, bleaching agents, etc are no longer natural. Stevia for example is wonderful, in its whole food form. The white, crystalline powder we commonly see today in stores is a very far cry from that wholesome green leaf it started as. Ask yourself- could you make this in your yard or kitchen? If the answer is no, question how far removed your stevia, xylitol, etc is from a real, whole food.

Now that you’ve identified the sugars, we need to identify the WHY. Why are you jonesing for it?

  1. White refined sugar is highly addictive. As you replace it with the gentle, whole food sweeteners we’re about to discuss, you’ll begin to escape its grip. When you consume sugar, do you tend to crave it again later in the day? Many do, and that’s the cycle we need to break. Once you’ve eliminated it entirely you can enjoy healthier versions of your favorite sweets, with complete control over your sugar intake, vs the sugar controlling you.
  2. Dehydration = Cravings. Sometimes sweet cravings are a sign of dehydration. Before you go for the sugar, have a glass of water and then wait a few minutes to see what happens.
  3. Eat sweet vegetables and fruit. They are sweet, healthy and delicious. Some examples of sweet vegetables include onions, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, parsnips, taro root, celeriac, yucca root, blue heirloom potatoes, and beets. The more you eat, the less you’ll crave sugar. These foods will give you a subtle sweetness, but are significantly lower in sugar. Your body says- hey, I got the right carbs & sugars I need… I guess I don’t want the unhealthy carbs & sugars as much! And because they are vegetables, they are incredibly nutrient-dense and have a healing effect on your body.
  4. 25589836_10101928431425473_1313811579_nExplore sweet spices & herbs. Fennel seed, star anise, allspice, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise hyssop, sweet cicely, cloves and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods without the sugars. (and they all have great health benefits, some even used as medicines!)
  5. Use whole food sweeteners. Make the switch to the sweets that nourish you. Gentle sweeteners like maple syrup, brown rice syrup, raw honey, or maple sugar give you the flavors you need, but also supply essential nutrients. Honey for example has potent antimicrobial benefits and can be used for treating allergies, and maple syrup is a good source of b vitamins, manganese, and zinc. With this depth of flavor and nutrition you’ll find you need less of them to attain the same level of sweetness white sugar gave you in recipes. There are lots of really nice gentle sweeteners, I just like to look at where it comes from. If it takes lots of processing, solvents, bleaching, and the use of other chemicals to make it, then that’s a telltale sign that it’s not good for you. If it’s something you could easily make in your kitchen (we make maple syrup from the trees in our yard every year, for example), go ahead and eat it. When your favorite recipe calls for 1 cup of white sugar, use ½ to ¾ cup of maple syrup or honey instead. This allows you to enjoy small portions in moderation, without finding yourself desperately digging around for more sugar a few hours later.
  6. Get moving. Regular exercise will help boost mood, increase energy, balance your blood sugar levels, and alleviate stress and tension without medicating yourself with sugar.
  7. Add non-food sweetness to your life. Cravings for sweets aren’t always about food. When you are tired or stressed, your body will crave energy and comfort… and sugar is the quickest, easiest instant gratification that many of us find. Sometimes we are simply craving sweetness from other areas of our lives like relationships or hobbies, or we crave foods out of boredom or stress.
  8. Old habits die hard. Is there a food you just grab without thinking, or that is a part of your daily routine? Maybe a not-so-healthy favorite childhood dessert? Identify, address, and get guidance and support in changing that bad habit to a good one.
  9. Protein intake. Too little or too much protein (yes, as with any other nutrient you can overdo it and it’s more common than you think!) can result in cravings for sweets. This is a problem I help a lot of clients sort out. Some people do great with animal proteins, some need vegan or vegetarian proteins. Too many animal proteins like meat or dairy can mean less fiber in your diet, so portions, balance, and moderation is important for omnivores. Respect your body’s individuality and experiment.

For your first 3 days, indulge in all of the aforementioned foods as much as you need, but zero white refined sugar. Unbearable sugar craving? Eat a spoonful of honey. Or 8. Whatever you need to get through it. (YUM!)

Once you’ve accomplished all of this, your next step is to pare down your total sugar intake. Watch your portions. Even healthy sweets contain sugars that easily add up, so your next goal will be to get your total intake down to 40 grams per day. For a couple days, track your total grams. I recommend the myfitnesspal app, or use this website: to get nutritional information. To navigate the website, you will search for your food (or ingredients used to make your food) in the top search bar, locate your specific food, then record the total grams of sugar for your serving.

Some examples of sugar content:

1 tbsp raw honey: about 16 grams

1 tbsp maple syrup: about 12 grams

1 medium apple: about 14 grams

1 medium carrot: about 3 grams

1 medium sweet potato: about 6 grams

Where are you finding the majority of your sugar intake is coming from? How can you replace or reduce that particular food?

Ideally, you should be getting a total of at least 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. By aiming for 4-5 servings of vegetables, that will help to crowd any excess fruits you are getting. Did you know that each daily portion of vegetables reduces your overall risk of premature death by 16%, but each serving of fruit reduces your overall risk of premature death by only 4%?

You now have some great tools for beating that nasty little sugar bug! Remember- focus on adding in and creating abundance & variety, rather than focusing on restriction & denial. Vibrant health is a journey, not a destination- celebrate each day that you continue to make progress!


If you feel you need more personalized and in depth guidance, this is what I help people with every day! Sugar intake is only one facet of health; in my one-on-one personalized holistic health programs, we visit every area of your life and health in depth, to ensure you accomplish all of your health goals permanently. Bad habits can be hard to overcome for good- but our comprehensive programs give you the personal guidance, support, recipes, accountability, and tools you need to make these and other positive changes last a lifetime.

Contact me at 920-327-2221 or for your free consultation!


Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

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for more recipes and healthy living ideas!     –    –    920-327-2221


Copyright Megan Normansell 2018 All rights reserved.