Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Solving the Dilemma of Holiday Eating


Let's talk about Holiday Eating. There are a ton of differing philosophies about holiday food, ranging from eating everything in sight simply because it's that time of year, to obsessing over every morsel in an effort to maintain a "clean" diet. I'm not going to dismiss either perspective, as everyone has the right to make their own decisions regarding food. What I am going to do is share with you my own philosophy.  It's easy. One word.

Balance
[No throwing eggs or rotten produce]

Yep, that's it! Very simple. For me, it's about doing what I can to provide healthy whole foods (or at least options), then simply enjoying. If I (and I have) spend major time obsessing about the menu, and cleaning up or replacing traditional items, I miss out on the joy of the holiday itself. I started to fall into it this year, but thankfully caught myself.

Can I clean up the traditional green bean casserole? Sure. Do I really want to experiment with a family favorite on the one day a year we serve it? Probably not. Could I play with the recipe during the year and try to find a way to make a healthy tasty version that I can serve for the next holiday? Yep, and I'll try to do that. Next year. It's not a deal breaker for me.

How about the mashed potatoes? Aren't we (clean eaters) supposed to eat sweet potatoes instead? Whatever. Regular potatoes are a treasure-trove of potassium and other good-for-you things. Nothing wrong with them. Yes, they're higher glycemic than sweet potatoes. Doesn't mean they're bad. Ohhhhh, but they're made with butter! That can't be good! Wrong! :-) Butter is just fine. It's a medium chain fatty acid... a good sat-fat (in moderation). And to me, it's better than the chemical soup called margarine or whatever. So am I going to enjoy, guilt free, mashed potatoes with butter? Yep. IN MODERATION. Could even have a spoonful of the sweet potato casserole with marshmallows! <gasp!> [though, I gotta be honest, I really don't care for it myself.]

What's the plan for stuffing? Ahhh, wanna see the recipe I'm making? Look Here. Looks tasty, right?  Just a regular recipe from a regular site. The only questionable ingredient is the corn bread croutons. It's one day, one meal out of one day. It's not going to kill me. [hey! I said no rotten produce throwing!]

Maybe next year, I'll have time to bake my own cornbread and make my own croutons out of it for the stuffing. Maybe. Not holding my breath.

Dessert you ask.... are you sure you want to know? :-) Along with the ubiquitous pumpkin pie, I'm making this little gem. Oh yeah. <drool!>

Again... One day. One meal out of one day. It will not undo my life.

It's all about balance. So let me break it down... my meal will consist of Cider Brined Turkey (ironically, it's totally clean, btw), a small serving of green bean casserole, a serving of mashed potatoes w/butter, stuffing, probably green salad, and dessert (maybe half a piece of pumpkin and half of the apple). Oh, and wine. Copious amounts of red wine.

Does this make me a hypocrite? No. What does it make me? Normal, well, as normal as I can be anyway. It's one day, once a year. Christmas is easier for me to do "clean" as I host it, and with the exception of our traditional breakfast (again, one breakfast like that per year), all the foods are whole and clean. Though again, Christmas, too, is once a year. I eat clean all year long. I'm not going to regain 71 lbs because I enjoy (in moderation) an "unclean" Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas breakfast, or any other holiday treats (again, in moderation).

What about those other holiday treats? Aren't they off-limits? Why? Why would they be? Should you inhale a dozen cupcakes at the office party? Duh. But if you know they'll be there, and you want one, plan accordingly. That's your treat. Would you rather have a glass of wine? Drink that instead of eating the cupcake. It's about making healthy (or healthier) choices. Really, this time of year is no different than any other. Whether it's a holiday party or a neighborhood bbq, we have to make wise decisions about food and exercise.

Which leads me to my next point... keep packing that cooler! Yes, this season generally makes us busier, often catching us ill-prepared food-wise... grab control by keeping your cooler packed with healthy foods & snacks. Hitting the mall? Toss some trail mix, a protein bar (or shake), string cheese, hard boiled eggs, a wrap... whatever, into your cooler and take it with. Planning lunch with the girls? Fine, then eat clean the rest of the day and get your workout in beforehand if you can. See? Easy :-)

The most important part of food during the holidays is simply being mindful. KNOW how much you're eating, and if you can, what's in it. Just be aware, and make good choices when applicable. Don't gobble down several snickerdoodles, eggnog, and whatnot every time you turn around, then act surprised in January when you've put on weight (I've been there, done that). 
Be mindful. Be smart. Plan ahead. Enjoy your treats.

That's it. Do you hate me? I hope not. :-) But I do hope that each of us takes the time this holiday season to remember what's really important and focus on those things.  I've done the holidays in the past, where I've obsessed over every single dish, each ingredient, counted calories and freaked. It wasn't worth it.

This year I'm taking a holiday.
:-)

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