It’s hard to “eat right” during the holidays. I just celebrated Thanksgiving at my mother’s house. We had 10 family members at her house and another 8 at my aunt’s house. Mom spent weeks preparing the food for the long weekend. Let me tell you, she is a phenomenal cook. Her lasagna is just the right amount of sauce and gooey cheese. But her desserts are out of this world! She makes a melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookie that I think about all year.
This year, she out did herself making five different delectable desserts. Each dessert what made with wheat and sugar and some has dairy as well. Those are ingredients I usually stay away from because I have genetic weaknesses making me sensitive to both gluten and dairy and I just feel better when I don’t eat them.. However, not wanting to disappoint mom and because the temptation was simply too great, I indulged for four full days. Sadly, the sugar cookies disappeared first. I only got eight of them. No worries, I was also able to enjoy chocolate cake and apricot fried pies!
What was the result of all the indulgence? A whole lot of achiness! Even a couple of my kids were feeling it. Those body aches are a symptom of systemic inflammation, something we want to avoid.
This got me to thinking how to better navigate the holiday dessert buffet. Here are some tips I want to share:
1. Make vegetables the star of every meal, even breakfast. Quiche or frittatas can be made ahead and frozen. You can put whatever vegetable and/or meat that you like in them. You can even make a different flavor for each day of the holiday weekend. Eggs, vegetables such as onions, mushrooms and asparagus with a little sausage, nut milk and herbs are all you need. The protein in the quiche and all those nutrients in the vegetables will keep you feeling full longer giving you the power to stay away from the dessert buffet. And, cold quiche is a quick, easy snack.
2.Instead of bread for sandwiches, stuff lettuce leaves with your leftover roast, turkey or ham. Any lettuce will do, Romaine, Boston or even iceberg. Top your meat with fresh vegetables, herbs, sprinkle of nuts, salt and pepper. Dress with your favorite dressing. I promise you won’t miss the bread.
3.Snacking and socializing go together like peanut butter and jelly so plan on having more savory snacks and less sugary snacks. One snack that is a hit with my family is crispy nuts. Properly prepared, nuts are natural anti-inflammatory and full of anti-oxidants. To prepare nuts, soak them overnight in water with a splash of white vinegar. The next morning, drain them and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and dehydrate on the lowest setting in the oven, ideally 160 degrees. Depending on the size of the nut this can take up to 10 hours. (This removes anti-nutrients all nuts, seeds and grains have called phytates. If you eat a grain based diet you can experience problems by ingesting too many phytates.) Another tasty snack is hummus dip with sliced vegies or whole grain crackers.
4.You can’t celebrate the holidays without something sweet. You can make most desserts with nut flour or gluten free baking mix. My favorite is Pamela’s. And, you can reduce the sugar, oftentimes by up to 50%. If you use honey (tupelo is my favorite for the low glycemic index), you can use 1/4 to 1/3 of the amount of sugar called for. This is especially true for quick breads such as pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie.
You can still celebrate the holidays, enjoy socializing with friends and family and “eat right” without feeling deprived. I still plan on enjoying my mom’s decadent dessert buffet, just with a plan in place to not derail my health. And, with so many wonderful family members to share it with, the desserts will still be eaten up.
Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!