Sweet Holiday Traditions from the Past
Many of my holiday memories revolve around food. Aside from my dad’s amazing turkey, stuffing, and gravy, there have always been Christmas cookies, Christmas fudge, stockings filled with candy – it’s no wonder I was a regular at the dentist. And it isn’t just the taste and smell of food that I remember; I reminisce about stirring marshmallow cream into mom’s huge metal pot, licking raw cookie dough off of the beaters, and arranging plates of goodies to deliver to friends.
My food-based memories are not unique. Sugar- and calorie-laden foods are simply a staple of the holiday season. A Google search for “holiday treats” returns thousands of sites dedicated to delivering recipes that will tempt your taste buds and disrupt your healthy habits.
Creating Healthier Holiday Traditions in the Present
Now that we are starting our own family traditions, I am trying to incorporate the fun and pleasure of holiday goodies without the overload of sugar. As a parent, it is my responsibility (and privilege) to nurture a taste for nutritious foods.
With that thought in mind, I want to share several recipes and tips to make your holiday snacks healthier than the traditional fare.
- Stovetop popcorn: microwave popcorn is dripping with chemicals that have been linked to cancer. Make your own healthy popcorn and season it to taste: toss in dried cranberries, sprinkle a little sea salt on, drizzle some honey over the top, or spice it up with your favorite herb-only (salt-free) seasoning. Make more memories by stringing some with your child and decorating a tree – indoors or out (the birds will appreciate it too).
- Healthy Rice Crispy Treats: This version is much healthier than the original.
- Non-Fat Chocolate Honey Dip with Seasonal Fruit: who says treats have to be baked to be delicious?!
- Irish Brown Bread: make your mornings merry and bright with this healthy bread recipe. Serve hot with your favorite all fruit spread!
- Pumpkin (Oatmeal, Cranberry, & Coconut) Chocolate Chip Cookies: we still do sweets – just in moderation. Here is my favorite cookie recipe, and it comes with the added health benefits of oatmeal, pumpkin, cranberries, and coconut!
- Mixed Fruit and Nut Balls: little balls of trail mix heaven!
- Use whole wheat flour instead of white (use half the amount called for in the recipe). Whole wheat flour is much more nutritious than white. The process used to mill white flour “removes about 80 percent of the nutrients that are present in whole wheat flour.” Yikes!
- Replace half of the butter, shortening, or oil called for in your recipe with unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana, or prune puree.
- Cut sugar in recipes by half, and/or replace sugar with honey or agave nectar.
- Try frozen yogurt instead of ice cream in your frozen treats.
Instilling Lifelong Health Habits for the Future
Our goal is to help our son develop healthy eating habits that will give him the best start in life. We established a solid foundation of good nutrition by exclusively breastfeeding for the first 10 months; and I am still breastfeeding our two year old, which has numerous health benefits.
Hopefully our son will have his own cherished memories someday of working with mama in the kitchen to make delicious (and nutritious) holiday goodies.