As we face the holiday celebrations and the promise of a new year, cooking and eating together are among the simple things that can bring comfort and joy to our lives. While indulging in festive treats, focus on a healthy balance of food, activity, and fun. There’s no need to raise your stress level over the holiday season by trying to make dramatic changes in your lifestyle. Just follow these simple steps so you can have tons of energy and plenty of holiday spirit.
1. BE REALISTIC. Plan ahead for holiday greetings and feasts. If you are over-hungry, it’s natural to overeat with all the temptations of holiday tables. The secret is to eat something light but filling an hour or so before events. Fuel yourself with a piece of string cheese, some sliced turkey, or a high-protein smoothie before you go out—that way you will be able to make more sensible choices later.
2. BE ADVENTUROUS. Expand your holiday treat selection with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies. Produce brightens up holiday tables and boosts your immune system at the same time. Drink to everyone’s health with a spicy tomato juice “mocktail” or hot apple cider. For dessert, think fresh fruit salad or fruit slices with a yogurt dip in addition to pies and cakes.
3. BE FLEXIBLE. Stop fretting about your favorite holiday foods. The key is learning to balance what you eat and your physical activity over several days. Rather than skipping a meal, balance a heavy-duty holiday buffet by going light at breakfast and lunch beforehand. Relax, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you don’t have to eat everything right now. All the goodies will be around next year and the year after that. Start with small portions, eat slowly, and savor every bite. Listen carefully to internal signals that you are full. Before or after the party, take an invigorating walk with your friends and family to help you clear your head and digest your meal.
Stay in a creative mindset as you think of the reason behind the season. Families have many rituals for meals – prayers, a moment of silence, joining of hands, candles or floral touches, favorite dishes, or special linens. Making family rituals part of holiday meals ties us to memories of the past – and to hope for the future.
Keep food and nutrition a central ingredient of your holiday season by cooking and eating together and inviting others to join you for a meal. Preparing food is a soothing way to share time and bring generations together. Talking while you measure, mix, stir, and chop can be a comforting time to discuss important issues and concerns. Kneading bread together can be a downright therapeutic experience. If you live alone, reach out to family, friends or co-workers – and break bread together over a seasonal gathering. Remember, the perfect place setting is not important, being together is.
And most importantly, give everyone the gift of attention and the time to share what is important to him or her by slowing down and sharing food, fellowship, conversation, tears, laughter, and the simple joy of time together. A sense of community is one of the strongest ways to celebrate the special meaning of the holidays in our lives. By joining with others around a table, you can take comfort from the blessings of nourishing food and loving companionship.
Try this healthy and easy holiday Cranberry Chutney to dazzle any main dish. It also makes a festive appetizer on a cracker with a dab of cream cheese or use it to jazz up leftover turkey with some holiday cheer.
2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
1 cup peeled, chopped Granny Smith apples
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons chopped prunes
2 Tablespoons chopped onions
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon five spice powder
1/3 cup apple-cranberry juice (100% juice, unsweetened)
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Uncover and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Makes 8 servings, 1/3 cup each.
Recipe adapted from www.pamsmith.com.
Guest Post by Kindy Peaslee, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach for EverydayHealth.com and its calorie counter tool. She also loves creating family-friendly recipes at her personal nutrition site healthy-kid-recipes.com.