I come from a large family where Sunday meals and holiday celebrations were big, food-filled events. We were the kind of family that sat down to dinner every weeknight. Still to this day, as soon as you get in the door, Mom will ask if you’re hungry. Between making gingerbread houses from scratch to baking cookies, holiday traditions mostly revolved around food.
Now that I’ve lost weight and am committed to a healthier life, I’m not happy with the old traditions. I want to spend time with my family without thinking that the Thanksgiving meal might make someone develop Type 2 diabetes or have a gallbladder attack. However, I can’t just skip all family functions without becoming the family Grinch. So what to do?
I’ve found some new, healthy traditions to replace some of the old, dessert-packed events. For example, if the weather is nice, my family and I go for a hike along Forbidden Drive and the Wissahickon on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days. I’ve even been known to go snow-shoeing if visiting family in Vermont. Once you are out and moving around, the cool air feels refreshing. Just be sure to wear the right layers. I’ve found that even though I’ve “earned” some calories from my walk, the exercise curbs my appetite at the meal later in the day.
I’ve also become the designated salad-maker for all family functions. If I fill up on a healthy salad, I don’t have as much room for candied yams or mashed potatoes. I still get to contribute to the family meal, but don’t feel obligated to make an unhealthy dish I don’t want to eat anyway.
Don’t be mistaken – this isn’t a boring iceberg lettuce salad. I like to use a variety of greens – everything from romaine to arugula and purple mizuna. I throw in a variety of diced veggies like cucumber, baby carrots, radishes, tomatoes, mushrooms, hearts of palm, and artichoke hearts. To add some protein, I also include some chickpeas or another bean.
By adding exercise and a healthy dish to the holidays, I get to be a part of the family celebration without backtracking on my health commitment.
What do you do to make the holidays healthier? Have you ever done a turkey trot or jingle bell run? Is there a way you make the family meal healthier?