Are You Gearing Up For A Holiday Food Fest?

Gotta have the jelly beans, the green bean casserole, the lamb and the ham, the brisket, two servings of matzoh ball soup, carrot cake for dessert, the entire chocolate bunny (ears first), three cadbury eggs, and whatever else your particular holiday, culture, and family traditions dictate.

Really???

Ask yourself why.  Is your groaning table and your habit of scarfing down handfuls of jelly beans and three chocolate eggs at a time really because of tradition – or are you using the holidays as an easy excuse to surround yourself with the food you love and want to eat in abundance?

There is nothing wrong with tradition and wanting to share your memories and love through food. But . . .

Are Holidays A Reason And An Excuse To (Over)Eat?

The big question to ask yourself is:  am I really sharing/holding to tradition and memories of the season – or am I using the holidays as an excuse to make and eat a whole lot of food that I really would prefer not to eat – or eat in such quantity?

Most people who know me also know that I’m a pretty good baker. I make really good Christmas cookies – for a lot of events, not just Christmas.  I baked them for a party for my son’s July wedding (not a Christmas tree in sight) and as I brought them out there was a chorus of “Christmas cookies” from his friends who have eaten them many times before.  Didn’t matter that it was July.  The recipe was the same, they tasted the same, and they came from my kitchen.

What’s my point?  I love baking these cookies, and I love sharing them.  There are a whole host of emotions wrapped around these cookies.

I also know that I love eating them.  Have I ever used an occasion as an excuse to bake them – even though things would have been fine without the cookies?  You bet I have.

Why?  I love the thought of those cookies.  I used to make them with my Mother when I was little and my sons made them with me.  I also love to eat them – especially the dough (I’m really not endorsing that – It’s a bad habit and the dough does have raw egg in it).

The bottom line is that I end up eating hundreds of calories – delicious calories, but not healthy or necessary ones.  And, even though I’m sharing what I consider to be “a little bit of love from my kitchen,” I still, very frequently, consciously use the holiday or the event as an excuse.

Try These Strategies For Dealing With Holiday Food

I’m certainly not advocating giving up baking cookies or hot cross buns or making matzah brei or roast lamb — whatever your specialty or tradition is.  What I am suggesting is that you ask yourself the reason for doing so.  Recognize and be mindful of your reasons.

Some strategies:

  • If you do make your specialty – plan for it.  When you eat it, enjoy it with everyone else – not in a constant stream of solo tasting and little snatches from the fridge or cupboard.
  • Even if you make it, keep your amazing food out of sight and, hopefully, out of mind.  Far away, too.  Usually if we have to work to get food it may take some of the desire out of it.  So store the food in the basement or someplace out of the kitchen.
  • Leftovers?  Send them home with your family and friends.  I’ve fed lots of college dorms and offices with my leftovers.  Freeze them and store them in the back of the freezer where you can’t see them (although I can attest that frozen butter cookies are great – my sons once ate a whole container of them out of my downstairs freezer without my knowing about it.  I had to bake another batch before Christmas dinner.)

Traditions are important and food is nurturing.  Traditions, family, and holidays can also be stressful.  Cook away if that’s your pleasure. Just ask yourself if you are using holidays, traditions, guests, and family as excuses or justifications to (over)eat. 

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4 Responses to Are You Gearing Up For A Holiday Food Fest?

  1. Amanda Dollak April 7, 2012 at 1:29 am #

    Holidays used to be horrible for me! My family always makes a truck load of food and then expects everyone to taste everything or they get offended. However, I have learned to eat much less and politely ask for some to take home if it is more than I should be eating. Holiday leftovers are great since I don’t have to cook dinner the next day, don’t offend anyone, AND most importantly, don’t become so overstuffed that I hope to never see food again!

    • Penny Klatell, PhD, RN, ACC April 7, 2012 at 9:03 am #

      Boy do I understand about family events. My family always has a huge amount of food — and they expect you to eat it. If it’s not a sit down meal I’ve learned to put some on my plate — eat a little — and then make my way to the kitchen to put my plate in the sink. Sit-down meals are a bit harder and often require the strategy of the moment that works best!

  2. Theresa Leschmann April 7, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    I really enjoyed your directness and honesty here. Makes me stop and think and I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?

    • Penny Klatell, PhD, RN, ACC April 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

      Yes it is. All too often we, me included, eat out of habit, tradition, and stress without ever stopping to think about it or even question what our motives are behind filling that plate to the brim — and then going back for more.

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