Friday, November 23, 2007

Holiday Food, Everyday Food . . .

Just like all of you, I'm sure, my refrigerator is full of leftovers right now. I didn't get the chocolate cream pie this year, although temptation did raise a feeble head for a moment -- instead, I went with coconut cream and apple. We have turkey, a little cranberry sauce, gravy and yet we're out of potatoes. We have some Jell-O in there still, and lots of salad. I'm so grateful for the salad -- nothing balances out a breakfast of coconut cream pie like a lunch of turkey salad.

As a recovering chocoholic and as one who is cutting back on all forms of addictive food, I have to step back and contemplate this whole food-holiday connection. We get together to celebrate the season (whatever that season may be) and food is the star of the show. We eat chips and dip to bring in the New Year, chocolate on Valentine's Day, we all know how fattening St. Patrick's Day can be, down to the Easter and Halloween candy. Thanksgiving is, of course, a veritable feast, and Christmas isn't a whole lot better. We look forward to the holidays, but we also look forward to the food. Piles and piles of fattening, unhealthy food, eaten in vast quantities. It's not considered a proper holiday feast unless you can't move when you're done eating.

Why? Why is this? Why do we celebrate the blessings of life with clogging our arteries? Why can't we get together without making food the most honored guest?

The obesity rates in this country are staggering. Our children are fatter, earlier, than ever before. We even have television shows dedicated to helping children lose weight and get out and get active. Why?

Children aren't playing outside like they used to. They're sitting inside, watching TV or playing video games, eating crappy food, and getting more and more unhealthy. Their parents are busier than ever before and don't have as much time to deal with their own health, either. The more technologically advanced our society becomes, the farther we get away from health. Used to be, we all lived on farms and got a ton of exercise, ate what we grew on the farm, and got plenty of fresh air. Not so much any more.

As I've analyzed my own health and the things that prevent me from being slender, I have to say that there's a scary trend toward food worship built in to our very culture. I think our guests would rebel if we ever served a nice green salad buffet and trays of vegetables at a Super Bowl game. Tell me honestly -- if you were getting together with someone for Thanksgiving and discovered that there would be no pie and no gravy, wouldn't you feel less excited about going? Food has become the reason to gather, the meaning of the holiday taking a back seat.

I'm working on this in my own life, and will continue to do so until I die. It scares me, the power food has over us, and I'm working hard to break that power. I don't know how to reach out into America and whap everyone upside the head and bring them into a realization of what we're doing to ourselves in the name of the holiday. Can't we focus a bit more on the meaning of Thanksgiving and a little less on the fragrance of the pumpkin pie? No, apparently not. And we're going to eat ourselves to death if we don't stop the trend.

If you're brave and if you've been impacted by anything I've said in this blog, I encourage you to think about your Christmas menu. What are some things you can do to make it a healthier meal? Can you serve a leaner meat? Can you leave out the rolls? Can you increase the vegetables? Can you make a sugar-free dessert? What can you do to back off the fat and the calories, even by a percentage? I know it's hard to do this on the holidays. Everyone expects the all-mighty meal to be the same as always. But if we can start modifying our traditions, even just a little to start, we will take a huge step toward making the holidays truly merry instead of filled with Peptobismol and potential heart attacks.

7 comments:

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I agree whole-heartedly. It has been stressful to me for a long time, thinking about how much we focus on food at every gathering. Even when the holidays are just a memory, we still get refreshments at every church sponsored activity and family get-together.

Changing the menu at our meal will be rather difficult. I've never prepared the entire meal myself. There are enough of us living here in town that we assign out portions of the menu and all contribute. There've been years where I try to leave out the rolls or serve water, and someone always makes sure the rolls show up and there is lots of punch. Most of my family has this attitude, "This is a holiday. We should just be able to enjoy ourselves and not worry about calories today."

I'm much more conscious of it this year, so we'll see how the holidays go.

Way to go on avoiding the chocolate pie. I'm trying to do better. I've only had chocolate twice since Halloween, which is a major accomplishment for me. Each time I thought out the options and made a deliberate decision to eat a small amount.

Lee Ann said...

I'm not sure the holiday feasting is the problem--it's that every day is a feast that flabbergast comprehension our ancestors who initiated the feasts in the first place.

Think about Easter. In the Catholic church, they have Lent for 40 days before Easter, and Good Friday, which is a day of fasting and sorrow for the crucified Savior. THEN they celebrate the resurrection with a feast. It's a contrast and a celebration, instead of just one more cholesterol-laden orgy.

I feel the need more to make everyday eating less indulent, so the "special" foods really are special.

That said, I liberated myself from candied yams AND broccoli rice casserole this TG. The plate was cleaner, the fridge is less crowded, and the cooking was less stressful.

Tristi Pinkston said...

I agree with you, LeeAnn -- but rather than having the holiday food be the special food, I'd just as soon that we learn how to stop thinking of food as "special." I'd like to see a shift toward making the holiday special without the focus on the food to accomplish that.

Stephanie, it is hard when everyone brings a portion. Not a lot to control there. I like how you're making your consumption more of a conscious decision -- I don't think enough people actually pay attention to what they're eating.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

Oh, the worse thing is my daughter just brought home two cases of fund raising chocolates for her highland dance group. We pay for the boxes, then get our money back when we sell them. Those are always the worst temptation.

Don said...

Just a real short thought on those plates of Christmas cookies that show up regularly throughout December. I've found that if I quickly wrap each cookie individually and stash them in the freezer, I don't find myself eating three at a time "so they don't spoil."

Then in January when I'm scrambling around for a snack to put in the girl's lunches, I remember the cookies and toss one in.

Everybody wins.

BTW, I know what you mean about St. Patrick's Day - that green beer will get you every time. :-)

Mandi said...

You're right - first thing that comes to mind when I think of holidays are the smell of the holiday feast!!

Rachelle said...

Great thoughts! I've been trying really hard to feed my family more natural healthy foods. They love it! My extended family thinks I'm kind of a granola lady, but I'm keeping track of how many times we get sick compared to everyone else :) Just kidding, but we really have been feeling pretty good around here and I actually just took up sprouting and my four year old ate it on her sandwich today, even though she won't eat lettuce. I think it will always be a battle to be healthy because so much of our food is fake food, but it is worth the fight!

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