Heather Rockwood is a food science senior and Mustang Daily food columnist.
Holiday eating. Most people will insist you have to choose happy or healthy when it comes to eating during the holiday season. The decadent desserts and indulgent entrees will either present themselves as a daunting obstacle course to avoid, or a temptress siren luring you in.
This year throw up the white flag and make peace. Lose the regret of missing out and avoid the guilt of partaking in holiday feasting. This holiday season, prepare to fuse the polar opposites of holiday foods … enjoy and be both happy and healthy.
This sounds too good to be true, and yet every fiber in me wants to believe it is. I am one of the indulgent forgetters. I refuse to even mention the word “calorie” until New Year’s resolutions make their way to center stage; then I condemn my previous actions and swear off dessert for the entirety of the upcoming year, and we all know how long that lasts — let’s just say my determination is short-lived.
So, in light of the cycle I have been trapped in for many years, I scoured the Internet for a solution that didn’t involve me missing out on the spiced eggnog and plethora of pies. This isn’t the key to a beach body in the middle of December, but, hopefully, these are a few helpful hints to keeping a smile while the season of good eats arrives.
The No. 1 rule to keep this season is “Don’t forbid.” Forbiding foods creates an unhealthy perception of a good-versus-bad fight with food, and food must then be labeled as friend or foe. Viewing food in this decisive manner puts it in a category that it was never meant to occupy.
The complexity of food and how it affects us goes beyond the black and white scale, and thus, we suffer when we try to box it into such a definitive explanation as good versus bad.
When allowing food to become “bad,” you can be tempted to arouse the rebel in you. We always want what we can’t have, so as soon as you put on the label “off-limits,” it becomes all the more attractive and easily consumes your thoughts. I can’t help but think that forbidding may have been one of the reasons why “visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.”
The next thing to keep in mind is spreading the wealth when it comes to desserts. This season is full of parties and family get togethers that are populated with the same suspects — pumpkin pie, sugar cookies, brownies and various other usual holiday desserts. The key is to prioritize which desserts to indulge in. As you attend each party, choose one or two desserts to partake in, not all that are present.
Yes, it can feel like a mini-tragedy when you have to turn down that first pumpkin pie, but remember that grandma’s pie is only a few days away. If there are desserts you have never tried at a particular party, skip the chocolate chip cookie you always reach for and treat yourself to a new flavor. Or choose to really share the wealth of desserts by enlisting a friend to split some with you. Each of you can choose one or two desserts and split them in half, this way you get double the taste, but don’t increase how many desserts you actually consume.
School’s off, and it’s nice to sit at dinner with friends and family with a drink in your hand, but go easy on the alcohol. Empty calories really add up despite spreading them out over an extended time period. Enjoy a drink at special meals, but limit yourself. If given the choice between cider and spiked cider repeatedly, be sure to skip the spike every now and then.
Finally, it is important to walk it off and stay active this holiday season. Family time around the table is always fun, but it is also wonderful to take a stroll after a meal and appreciate time spent with family. If your loved ones enjoy watching the big games, try to go out during the breaks and reenact a few plays or challenge one another to a full-on match. Or in the spirit of giving, you could even take some of those holiday desserts and walk them over to a neighbor’s house or a homeless shelter and share a little bit of holiday joy.
This season, stay mindful of these simple tips and take time to enjoy each bite of the holiday season in an effort to bridge the gap between happy and healthy.