It’s that time of year again, the whirlwind month in the heart of winter when people come together to celebrate family, friends, and the passing of the old year into the new. For some, as the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” For others, it’s one of the most stressful times of the year.The holidays revolve around food and gifts. Everywhere you go there’s food on offer, from luscious baked goods to decadent treats you only make once a year. And whether you’re having a family get-together or a formal party, food is usually part of the picture. It’s the time of year when you dust off your skills, try new festive things, and generally stress about whether your version of a favorite holiday treat is as good as your grandmother’s was.
It doesn’t have to be stressful. Whether you’re concerned about eating healthy, or you’re just pressed for time, holiday food doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a few simple tips for stress-free holiday eating, so you’re free to enjoy the real gifts of the season and celebrate.
Food doesn’t have to be complicated
There’s a reason so many traditional holiday treats are complex and time-consuming--most of them date from the days of the one-income family, when women stayed home and had all day to cook. Today, most of us have jobs, many of us have children or other people we care for, and few of us have time to take on these intricate recipes.
So keep it simple. Some of the most delicious dishes out there have only a few ingredients and are easy to prepare. Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t have time to make Grandma’s baklava or Great Aunt Minnie’s divinity candy. Stick to simpler fare and you’ll find that not only do you have less stress, you have more time to join in the celebrations.
You don’t have to make “traditional” holiday food
There’s a pretty standard menu most of us follow during the holidays. It’s a cultural tradition that’s so ingrained in society, you may feel like you have to stick to it whether you really want to or not. But just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to.
So be adventurous. Grilled pork chops with a fresh cranberry and orange relish is just as acceptable as a roast turkey filled with stuffing, and a spinach salad with walnuts, dried cranberries, and feta cheese is quite “festive” too.
Remember that things don’t have to be perfect
We all want a Norman Rockwell Christmas. And we’d all like our food to look like the dishes in food magazines and advertisements. Expecting this, however, just isn’t realistic. It’s ok if things aren’t perfect, and sometimes our mistakes are the things that make the best memories in the long run.
The important thing about food is that it’s enjoyable. If you’re stressing about whether every item is perfect, you’re missing out on half the fun. So relax. Unless you’re a 5-star chef, no one’s judging you.
Cook and eat mindfully
The most important thing you can do to take the stress out of holiday food is to be mindful. Plan meals ahead of time, and keep them simple. Ask yourself how much time you really have, and if your energy would be better spent on other things.
When you eat, don’t put anything off limits. Forbidding yourself certain foods just creates guilt; this not only makes you more likely to overindulge, it also takes the fun out of what should be an enjoyable experience.
So instead of telling yourself “I can’t eat that because it’s not healthy,” go ahead and indulge. Take everything in moderation, eat everything slowly, and savor every single bite. You’ll find that if you cook and eat mindfully, you’ll enjoy the season more and stress a lot less...and you’ll also eat better food.