From Halloween to Christmas, parties abound. With parties come food, responsibility and lets be honest, craziness. For those of us who struggle with food intolerance, health conditions or have simply chosen a particular way of eating, we are faced with lots of sticky situations this time of year.
For Thanksgiving this year I went home to Oregon and spent some really great time with family. While there I had a really good learning experience. I learned how with a little bit of pre-planning and commitment, it really was easy to stay on target despite traveling and Holiday parties. After the dust settled on our Thanksgiving dinner we were all full and satisfied with out having compromised our health. This really gave me a resolve to finish the holidays strong.
The health trap of the Holiday Season is not just limited to those of us with food intolerance issues. Far too many people these days seem to exit the season feeling like they barely survived. From over commitment to food festivals of death, I want to share a few tips to help keep us sane (and hopefully healthy) this Holiday Season.
Get some clarity. Ask the important questions.
When you find yourself invited for Christmas dinner, do not be afraid to ask your host/ hostess what is being served and what you should bring. When inquiring about the menu ask what dishes if any, will have the foods you are trying to avoid. This is NOT rude to ask if you do it with TACT. You have made the choices that are best for your health. leave the guilt at the door. Have an open honest discussion with your host/ hostess about what you are trying to avoid. Always be respectful of their cooking choices and do not expect them to tailor the menu you. Simply find out what is being served and what those dishes include. If you are like me and trying to avoid dairy and gluten, make sure to ask what is in the sauces, dressings and glazes. Once I know exactly what is being made and what is in everything, I mentally decide what I can eat, what I need to bring and what I will do without. I know I will want a protein, veggie, starch and of course dessert. If my hostess is preparing a meat that will be OK for me then I know I will need to cover my sides and dessert. I let my hostess know I am bringing personal sized servings for my sides and since we have already had an open and honest discussion she/ he should understand and not take it personally.
Make it easy on yourself. Prep ahead.
Not everything has to be made that day. This is especially helpful if you are going to someones house. I made my paleo pies two days before hand when a really sweet friend came over and we baked up a storm. We had fun, there was no rush and it was one more thing we got out of the way for Thanksgiving day. If you are a Mom or Grandma this is a super special opportunity. In the days before hand, grab a child or two (your own not one off the street. please don’t implicate me if you choose to kidnap a child.) and teach them how to make your signature dessert. I will never forget my Grandmother teaching me how to make her special biscuits. It was a moment that now, means the world to me since she has passed on. Family and friends are really one of the best things about this time of year. You get that bonding time AND your stuff is prepped for the upcoming meal. You can even make personal sized mashed potatoes and biscuits ahead of time. (If these are something you know you will need separate servings of). These things will keep overnight and will be one less thing jockeying for oven/ stove time the day of.
Yes, I said it. Give it a rest. Listen to your body. Go to bed early. Eat more bone broth. Laugh more, worry less. Decide what you MUST do and what can probably be left undone. Time spent with loved ones will always be a fonder memory than time spent stressing. I went very low key this year but, it is shaping up to be one of the best yet. I had a fantastic time at my family’s house in Oregon and we didn’t need to have a huge blowout feast where everyone has six sides and 10 different pies. We all walked away happy and relaxed. This Christmas I am picking things I know are easy, quick and enjoyable to cook. We are having a finger food family night and I picked things that I know I can cook with minimal effort. Baked chicken wings, freezer fudge and my husband is cooking gluten free brownies. Yep my husband is baking, which brings me to my next tip.
Listen to me. There is NO reason YOU should do everything. Many a hostess has worn herself out thinking she needed to do it all. I am struggling to learn this not only with the Holidays but also in my daily life. I am that wife who thinks she must do everything and then when I do ask for help I criticize how my husband did it. Yeah that attitude helps no one. This year, I am trying to put that on the back burner. I am trying to ask for help when I need it. Then I just relax. If they do it a different way, we will all survive. I just need to express gratitude and not criticism. Ask for help and then give others the space to actually help you. Do not set them up for failure by being critical before they have even begun.
Keep some snacks on hand.
If you know you are going to a party where you do not have the opportunity to contribute to the food, having some snacks on hand will be a lifesaver. Eat ahead and then when you are confronted with the food that is “off limits” to you, you wont feel that hunger pulling you.
Don’t just prep ahead, plan ahead.
You know if you are hosting Christmas dinner that some house cleaning will be involved. Unless you are one of those amazing people who always have their house cleaned and organized. In which case you probably don’t need my pointers, I probably need yours. Anyways, look at all that has to be done before your company arrives. Shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry etc. Make a list and instead of tackling it all in one afternoon with seconds to spare before the arrival of fifty guests, tackle one or two task a day. This will get things done effectively yet, leaving you time to rest and actually enjoy being the one to host Christmas.
Be aware if you have any last minute tweaks that need to be made. Do you need to reserve a single serving of potatoes before you mash them? Do you need to set aside your serving of corn? Whatever tweaks need to be made to keep your plate clear of contamination, make a list and that way on the big day you can be cool and collected. (That can happen right?)
So to recap:
Be open, honest and ask the right questions of your host/hostess.
Ask for and graciously receive help.
Keep snacks on hand.
Plan ahead and stay organized.
I hope you find these tips to be helpful. I know they really saved me some stress and frustration this year at Thanksgiving. Above all hold your friends and family close this year. Remember Christ came to bring us love and redemption, not consumerism and stressful dinners. Peace and love to you and yours