The goal during the holidays is to enjoy a warm, fun-filled celebration with family, but sometimes it morphs into a frantic fiasco. If you’re currently going through a separation or are recently divorced, you may be feeling extra stressed if your cooking traditions have changed or if your family dynamics are different from previous years. Here are a few dietary tips to counter the stress of holiday gatherings. My goal, as a Nutritionist, is to offer a few remedies to decrease some of the “food stress” involved in the celebration.
Let’s start with cooking. My rule is don’t make anything for the holidays that you haven’t made at least once already. This isn’t the time to try a new super dish because sometimes they turn into kitchen disasters, and that’s nothing to celebrate! Make the dish at least once so that on the big day, you can tweak any issues.
Nix the caffeine and sugar overdose that often occurs. These will ramp up the cortisol/adrenaline surge in your body which can make people irritable and anxious. Make other foods instead of the sweets and treats that often highlight the day. Proteins and healthy fats such as nuts and avocado, will help keep you calm, as well as prevent the blood sugar roller coaster ride. Be super sugar savvy, and strive to pick only one from this list: sweetened coffee drinks/dessert or alcohol. It ALL looks a lot like sugar to your body, and encourages a stress response.
Be choosy when filling your plate. Reach for the foods you don’t normally get to eat except on special occasions. If your get-together is smaller this year due to changes in family make-up, or if the custody schedule dictates that the kids will be with the other parent this year,most food items can be easily frozen and reheated. Kids don’t check the date before they dig in, and most are happy to celebrate twice!
Keep the meal colorful, and brimming with fiber, by adding fruits and vegetables as side dishes and garnishes. Fiber tends to be the forgotten nutrient that our bodies crave. It fills you up, adds texture and taste to your meal, and keeps your body happy (in many different ways). Vegetables and nuts can help calm your body during stressful holiday preparations by providing extra nutrients. Add chopped carrots/celery and nuts to your stuffing, mushrooms to gravy, roasted veggies as a side dish. Try out one of the fiber-packed recipes below.
By making a few key changes this year to your menu, adding some fiber and decreasing sugar, you may find you feel more like celebrating and less like settling in for a long winter’s nap. Your stomach will thank you by not rebelling, and you may find an added benefit is happier holiday folks as they won’t be dealing with as much digestive distress at the end of the day.
Black Bean Brownies
- 1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 eggs
- 3 Tablespoons melted coconut oil, or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup white sugar
- ½ cup milk chocolate or bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 square baking dish. Combine ingredients (except chips) in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the chips over the top of the mixture. Bake until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.
Total carbs 18.1 g
Dietary fiber 2.6 g
Protein 3.3 g
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
- 2 large avocados – peeled, pitted, and cubed
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon
Blend avocados, cocoa powder, brown sugar, coconut milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate pudding until chilled, about 30 minutes.
Registered & Licensed Dietitian for NC
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