Holidays are either the best or the worst for eating, depending on your current relationship with food. If you are someone who needs to be somewhat more mindful about what you eat and drink, the season can be perilous. Whether you have food restrictions, allergies, or other health complications that require care and cautiousness around eating and drinking, or if you are currently adhering to a specific diet plan, the season is an endless series of minefields. So how do you participate in the holiday whirlwind without derailing whatever dietary program you are adhering to? Easy: Get involved.
If your office has an area with holiday treats laid out, be the person whose offering is the case of clementines, or the bowl of orchard apples, the trail mix packets, or the dehydrated snap pea snacks. Bringing whatever will give yourself the ability to grab something off the table that's within your dietary parameters.
If you are invited to a cocktail party, offer to bring the vegetable platter, hummus, or snacks like roasted chickpeas. If you know your host will have a dip need, you can make really delicious lighter dips using Greek yogurt or labneh instead of sour cream. No time to make it yourself? Pick up store-bought tzatziki or raita, both of which are lighter and make delicious dips.
If you are headed for a potluck style dinner gathering, offer to bring salad, or a vegetable side dish, or whatever makes sense for your food needs. Composed vegetable salads are great, since they don’t wilt, and are a place to be creative. I love what I call my hearts salad: Hearts of palm, celery hearts, artichoke hearts, and cucumber, all tossed in a light Dijon vinaigrette. Roasted root vegetables are always easy and welcome this time of year. If you are tasked with dessert, a light citrus salad of sliced oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, blood oranges,and kumquats can be sprinkled with coarse demerara sugar or drizzled with date syrup and sprinkled with toasted chopped pistachios or almond slices for a deeply satisfying and totally healthy meal ender that will be a welcome addition to the sweets table.
If you have an allergy or a dietary need such as being gluten free, dairy free, or vegan, be sure to offer to bring a main dish that addresses those needs so that you know you have something to eat safely. If you have the time and inclination, maybe bring a dessert that fits your program as well. These days the chances are really good that there will be at least one other person present with your same needs, and they will be so grateful for the options.
And if you are currently either not drinking at all, or trying to imbibe less during the season, think about bringing the ingredients for a mocktail, or at least a couple of fun bottles of bitters or flavored syrups that you can add to your host’s still or sparkling water for a drink that looks and tastes festive with no booze involved. My favorites are grapefruit or celery bitters, homemade fruit shrubs, or elegant and grown-up flavors of syrup like blackcurrant or hibiscus.
Remember, too, that the best way to survive the season more healthily is to be deeply generous and forgiving with yourself. Try to get decent sleep. Don’t forget to hydrate. Make healthy choices when you have quiet times and you are in control of food options and do the best you can when things are crazy and the offerings are out of your hands. Most importantly, give yourself permission to enjoy yourself because the season is brief and we all deserve to have a good time.
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