Healthy Life Tip: December 2020 – Let’s enjoy holiday meals to the fullest… and feel good about it!

By Rénee Tillotson

Worried about over-eating at the holiday feasts? These few tips may help to make holiday dining a happy, healthy experience! Share times of merriment and ‘breaking bread’ with family and friends – whether in person or online, together or even alone – with a feeling of satisfaction, avoiding pangs of guilt. Make this a time of true ‘holy days’.


  1. Gandhi says, “Renounce and then enjoy.” Let’s remind ourselves that we could eat just a single crumb of a Christmas cake or Hanukkah latke – or even a simple crust of bread – with mindfulness and gratitude, and in that one bite we could fill ourselves with the spirit of the season. If we can fully enjoy that crumb or crust, any food beyond that is simply a cherry on top to be grateful for! A blessing, a giving of thanks for the farmers and cooks, a joyful song, a prayer – all of these remind us that it’s not the food but holiness of what we are celebrating that’s most important.
  2. Fewer dishes, perhaps, with great ingredients and great joy in the preparation. Let’s use quality, REAL, WHOLE, FRESH ingredients when preparing our meal – to the extent that we can do so comfortably, affordably and without stress. If the recipe calls for cream, let’s not replace it with skim milk for our holiday meal! If the recipe calls for butter, margarine will be a dissatisfying (not to mention highly unhealthy) substitute. If we have time to toss fresh cranberries, an orange and a little sugar into the blender or food processor, that will be SO much tastier, life-giving and not too much more work than a can of store-bought cranberry sauce. So let’s go for the tastiest food that is feasible, with the least amount of stress.
  3. That said, let’s experiment with cutting sugar in our recipes to half or ¾ the amount called for in the recipe. My personal experience is of enjoying the recipe MORE if it’s not too sweet. For me, less is more. Joyful satisfaction from your holy day meal is tantamount, so if you want to wait until after the holidays to experiment with halving sugar in your recipes, I get that!
  4. Let’s wait. Avoiding snacking, sampling and taste-testing before the meal – whether of our own cooking or someone else’s. An Indian housewife never tastes her food in advance. If that’s scary, you might ask someone else just before serving it to give the dish a final taste to check for salt level, etc. My experience of pre-sampling my cooking is that if I’ve already tried all my dishes before eating them at the table, I don’t get that delightful surprise in my mouth of tasting the dish for the first time. Since I never get that full satisfaction during the meal, I actually end up eating MORE because I don’t feel satiated. If you need a little sustenance to keep up your blood-sugar and energy level, snack on a little something healthy that is not part of the holiday menu. 
  5. Quality over quantity: let’s prepare our holiday meal plate with a bright, artistic array of foods, in big enough quantities to know we will make it comfortably to the next meal. And let that be enough, rather than going back for seconds and thirds. 
  6. Enjoy every mouthful. Let’s go for a full satiation of ALL the senses while mindfully eating our holiday meal. Before eating, let’s take in all the colors with our eyes: the red cranberries, the orange carrots, the green beans or broccoli, the rich brown chocolate, the white whipped cream. Breathe in the tantalizing aromas. Listen to the crunch of a crisp bite. Let’s sense our hungry belly being pleasurably filled, and let our taste buds thrill at the familiar or perhaps first time flavors as they enter our mouths. Let’s get the most out of our holy-day meal, no matter how simple.
  7. Holy day traditions around the world include fasting prior to feasting. Consider ‘cleansing” or fasting prior to and perhaps after a holy day. Your fast is a time of clearing the body, mind and spirit to be filled with the essence and meaning of that holy celebration day.  Then when we break our fast, we rejoice by treating the body with delicious traditional foods that delight the senses AND remind us of the spiritual fulfillment this sacred day is meant to bring us.

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