The holiday season is approaching and here in Canada (where you’ll find the HQ of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition), we kick things off the second week of October during Canadian Thanksgiving.
This time of year can be challenging for those of us who maintain a healthful, whole foods diet throughout the year. It’s not that we are necessarily tempted by gravy made from MSG-laden bouillon cubes or chocolates pumped full of refined sugar, but it can be challenging to find something to eat at holiday gatherings or politely refuse the fruitcake pressed upon us by well-intentioned relatives.
Unless you decide to forgo the holidays altogether, the reality is you might be confronted with some awkward or less than idyllic food situations. Here are some of our best suggestions about how to celebrate ACN-approved holidays this year.
Host Gatherings at Your Home
The obvious way to avoid gluten-y stuffing or mashed potatoes drenched in conventional butter is to offer to host a meal at your home. Of course, we realize this is not always the easiest option, especially since whole food cooking involves making most things from scratch. However, if you’re accustomed to healthy cooking and love doing so, hosting a meal on your own turf is a beautiful way to share delicious, nourishing food with the people you care about.
If you’re cooking for those who are wary of healthy food, the holidays might not be the time to whip out the green juice. Instead, serve comfort food classics with a healthy twist. Roast an organic free range turkey, served with bowls of roasted carrot soup, a side of savory butternut squash biscuits and chocolate brownies for dessert.
Offer An Honest, but Diplomatic Explanation
Sharing food is one of the ways we all like to express love and appreciation. When others perceive that you are rejecting their food, or judging the way that they eat, it can feel difficult or hurtful.
It’s helpful to explain that you are working on your health and that means there are certain foods that disagree with you. If you’re attending a meal with close family and friends, it’s likely that they already know a lot about you and the way that you eat, so this news won’t come as a surprise.
When you’re with people you don’t know very well, explain your situation clearly and diplomatically, but never criticize or preach to everyone at the table with you. Just as you’d like people to respect your diet, you can’t force kale on people unless they are ready to receive it.
If you are with family or friends who refuse to accept your lifestyle and criticize you for your ‘crazy health nut’ ways, remember that their behaviour isn’t about you – it’s about them, so try not to take their judgement or teasing personally. Don’t eat anything you don’t want to in order to diffuse a situation or make someone else feel better – if you feel awful or have to run to the toilet with diarrhea, that’s not actually helping anyone at all!
Don’t show up and demand special treatment without warning. Call ahead and explain any dietary restrictions you have to your host and propose solutions you have to handle them. For example, you could offer to bring an entree or dessert, or ask if elements such as dressings or sauces could be left on the side for guests to add to their own plates.
Bring a Delicious Dish to Share
Don’t isolate yourself with a specially prepared meal – bring a huge casserole dish to share the healthy goodness with everyone else. This sweet potato and apple kugel is always a crowd-pleaser, and it’s hearty enough to serve as your entree and a side for everyone else. It’s also difficult to turn down sweet potato chips, or a plate of cookies.
Don’t Stress Too Much
Try not to agonize about the holidays – stress inhibits digestion and isn’t helpful to our overall health. Do the best that you can, and maintain a positive attitude throughout your holiday meals. The point of this time of year is to relax with your family, so don’t make it all about the food and focus on other ways to enjoy the company of your loved ones.
Tell us what you think! How do you handle the holidays around your house?