The celebrating season is upon us, bringing with it opportunities for gathering with friends and family around food. It is also a season where our intentions to nourish our bodies with quality, nutrient-dense foods are often challenged. Many holiday and spiritual traditions are entwined with specific foods. Sometimes conflicts arise between wanting to be a part of the celebration and wanting to support healing through our food choices. All of this can stir up feelings of deprivation and potentially intensify reflection on health challenges. However, there are plenty of opportunities for transforming perspectives on the feasting season so that it provides as much nourishment for your soul as it does your body.
One of the most powerful mindsets you can adopt is a redefinition of feasting. While feasting usually refers to events where we consume too much food, a meal can and should be a feast for the senses. Step away from distracting screens and take the time to enjoy what you are eating. Tap into the sensory qualities of food: take the time to smell, touch, taste and appreciate the colours of the season. Delight in the aromatics of cinnamon and nutmeg, freshly grated over rooibos tea. Gaze into the rich red hue of cranberries as you simmer them with apples and citrus for a compote that will nourish the body and satisfy the senses. Create amazing salads of green and red, chock full of grated beets and kale.
Many of our seasonal foods are incredibly nutrient-dense and healing. Pomegranates, available fresh for a short time around December, are packed with potent phytochemicals such as chlorogenic acid, which helps to support detoxification in the liver. Pomegranates, when eaten as a whole food, contain a great deal of fibre without the heavy sugar load that juices provide. Citrus such as Meyer lemons, satsumas and blood oranges contain vitamin C and cranberries are rich in anti-inflammatory polyphenols.
Peppermint, which soothes the digestive tract, can be purchased in its pure edible oil form for flavouring homemade dark chocolate or tea. Ginger, soothing for nausea and a wonderfully anti-inflammatory food, can be added to soups, curries and homemade, wholegrain baking. Raw nuts, full of healthy fats and minerals, are delicious when lightly toasted and spiced for a healthy, nourishing snack.
The festive season also provides opportunities to transform how we spend our time with loved ones. Long walks to view holiday lights, tea thermos in hand, is a festive and healthful way to spend time. Watching holiday movies with healthy homemade treats such as organic stove-popped corn or having family game nights to a soundtrack of holiday tunes will bring the festive spirit home. Invite friends over to cook a healthful meal together and share the recipes, beautifully printed as a gift. And when thoughts to turn to more traditional food-focused gatherings, know that there is an energetic level to nourishment that outweighs the occasional nutritional transgression. Enjoy the festive season and all the many wonders that it provides.
Desiree Nielsen, RD, Choices Dietitian