Tis the season. We’ve survived the candy coated Halloween fun, and the cornucopia of goodies at Thanksgiving. There is one more month of holiday parties, get togethers, school functions, fundraisers and various other food filled festivities to navigate. We CAN do this!
As many of you know, I’m a pretty serious sugar nazi. I try to eliminate the stuff as much as I possibly can. That being said, December is the one time that I do pull out all the stops and create some Paleo-ified versions of my own childhood traditions. Traditions are good, and lets just face it, food is often at the center of the family traditions. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Especially if you put GOOD food at the center of those traditions.
There is a way to balance everything, it just takes a little extra effort during this time of year.
My youngest daughter’s preschool is having a Santa party next week – In this case, the school has approached me to supply a fruit and veggie tray for her class so that there will be plenty of non-cookie snacks for all the kids. It only took 3 years, but the preschool is very well versed in how we eat, and is very supportive and respectful of our limits. Meanwhile, my son’s kindergarten class is having a pajama party & movie day, which poses more of a challenge due to the popcorn snack the class will be having. Finally, my oldest daughter’s gymnastics team is performing in a Breakfast with Santa where everyone will have free IHOP pancakes to enjoy (rolls eyes) as well as the upcoming father/daughter winter dance complete with a spaghetti dinner and a candy table. In addition, we have 2 events just this weekend alone that will both have bake sales and pizza. Is that not enough to make your head spin?
So, what’s a mom to do?
- Take stock of the situation – make a list of events and dates so that you can make a plan.
- Talk to the organizers – go straight to the source and offer to help with food planning or prep in order to ensure that your child (or you) have choices that will not create a gastrointestinal nightmare of epic proportions. Being very involved in my kids teams and schools is integral to me getting the heads up from teachers, coaches & staff so that I can have ample time to prepare.
- Plan some simple to make, easy to transport ideas – there are a wealth of great recipe ideas out there. Food doesn’t have to have an insane amount of ingredients or prep to be good. Simple snacks can go a long way to making life easier.
- Do the entertaining- whenever possible, be the host/hostess. It’s so much easier to control quality and ingredients when you are at the wheel. Our non-paleo guests are always so surprised at how delicious and diverse our food is. There is no better way to explain our lifestyle than to just entertain paleo.
- Stick to the veggies and avoid the sauces – I feel like it’s always the condiments that get me at parties. Avoid the dips & sauces, steer toward the meats, veggies and fruits. Almost inevitably every party at least has a veggie tray that I can safely perch over.
- Create your own alternative traditions – I am sicilian, and as such, I grew up with pasta as a family staple. But the one thing that I carried to adulthood that I’ve adapted to suit our paleo life is to serve an all seafood Christmas eve. (while this goes back to the Sicilian Catholic tradition of the feast of the 7 fishes, for us it has evolved into “our way” to celebrate). Our dishes aren’t exactly the same as my childhood fare, but it’s my interpretation, for my modern cave family. Just today, my daughter, Alex, said that this is absolutely her favorite thing about Christmas. Another tradition we’ve made our own is to make a big batch of our special hot cocoa and take it with us to see the Christmas lights, instead of buying the hot chocolate from some unidentifiable mix made in a giant vat and sold at the concession stand.
- Finally, focus on something other than food. This year I have been particularly diligent about making the season about each event: The people, the places, the feeling of being together, more than about the food. While food is central to gatherings, taking some of the pressure off of the food can take some of the stress off of the event.
With our month looking like a whirlwind of junk food, as I previously ran through, we’ve started to discuss options. I am always one for involving your kids in your decision making process. For my little one, we are taking a fruit and veggie tray complete with home-made ranch dressing for dipping. This way, no condiment woes.
For my son, I decided that I could make the popcorn thing work for just one day. We haven’t had popcorn in probably 2 years, so my exception to this was very specific. I found a non-gmo popcorn that is popped in olive oil and salted with sea salt. This was my very best “compromise”.
My oldest daughter on the other hand, is 8, and she is old enough to really understand completely the ramifications of not eating well. Over the Thanksgiving break, she made some concessions while with the grandparents that she lived to regret. Sometimes, it really takes them feeling crappy versus you telling them how crappy they might feel. Because it took her nearly a week to feel normal again, she is presently being very diligent all on her own. Now, I know that at 8 years old, this will only last until she forgets how she felt. But, until that time, I’ll let her chart her own course. For her, the pancakes and spaghetti are a no-brainer. Instead, we’ll bring her breakfast to her before the performance and she’ll have dinner before her dance, maybe just having a salad while she’s there. Instead of eating at the dance, her and daddy can have a date night, complete with dinner somewhere safe. We’ll steer clear of the bake sales and opt for barbecue instead of pizza. Luckily, the kids all think smoked meat tastes better than pizza anyway! Knowing exactly what is being offered, helps me tremendously, to have a clear plan before I get there, instead of making poor decisions on the fly.
Meanwhile, I’ll be prepping some easy to make, easy to take items to have on hand. Some of our favorite go to items include:
1. drizzling melted (soy free, dairy free) enjoy life chocolate chips over pomegranate seeds for an easy, sweet bite-sized treat.
2. dark chocolate covered bacon for a salty sweet surprise that no one has yet to complain about.
3. Dried fruit and mixed nuts, seasoned with cinnamon & nutmeg.
4. Making a “bark” by drizzling dark chocolate over pistachios, hazelnuts or another nut of your choice, refrigerating and then breaking into pieces.
and finally, 5. our paleo hot cocoa in lieu of a mix. It is so simple; it’s just raw cacao, a little maple syrup, a cinnamon stick and coconut milk! I usually make this in the slow cooker and ladle it out into mugs. You can even top with a little homemade whipped cream or whipped coconut cream if you like.
Most of all, may you and your loved ones enjoy a festive holiday season, free of worry and filled which lots of joy, laughter & good eats!
For more on how my family of five lives paleo and navigates the treacherous terrain of the modern world… check me out on Facebook.
I’d love to hear how you have incorporated paleo into your holiday traditions!?