I got a special request from a reader for a blog topic! A reader named Andy wrote this:
“How about blogging on how to get through holiday parties and family get togethers, when you’re surrounded by goodies and comfort food? I’d love some ideas.”
That’s a great idea, Andy! I’ve already been to one holiday party this year, and have a couple more coming up, and they can be terribly stressful and tempting if you’re really working hard to eat well and stay on program. Here are my thoughts on how to navigate a treacherous sea of cookies, egg nog, sugar plums, and figgy pudding. (I’ve never had a sugar plum or figgy pudding, and I’m only presuming they’re not healthy options.)
1) Don’t Arrive Hungry. It doesn’t matter if it’s a full-blown dinner party or a simple get-together – eat something healthy before it starts. Get some food in your stomach so you aren’t ravenous – that way, you won’t be reaching for every mini-quiche or piece of fudge that crosses your path.
2) Drink, Drink, Drink! (Water, Water, Water) Drink a big glass before you go, and drink a glass or two before you eat a thing. It’s another trick to help you feel full without consuming vast amounts of gingerbread or cocktail weinees. It also might be helpful for you to carry a glass as you navigate the party - keeping your hands occupied with a cup might help prevent you from scooping up handfuls of nuts or M&Ms.
3) Identify the Healthiest Options. Survey all the offerings before putting anything on your plate. Is there a veggie platter? Is there fruit? If it’s all snack foods, are there pretzels or crackers or other baked items, as opposed to chips, which are fried? Find the most guilt-free item, and stock up. I find it helpful to know what I can turn to if I’m really feeling peckish later on.
4) Make Your Splurges Count. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s a party – enjoy yourself! If there are foods you wouldn’t normally eat that you want to sample, then go for it – but be reasonable. I like trying new things, so I’m more likely to splurge on someone’s homemade cookie that I’ve never tried before, as opposed to a platter of Oreos that I’ve eaten 10,000 times before.
5) Walk Away. If you hang out by the chips and dip, chances are you’ll probably eat more chips and dip that you should. So do your chit-chat and catching up away from the food table.
6) Eat Slowly. It’s not a race! Fix a plate, walk away (see #5), and take your time eating it! Set your fork or plate down in between bites. No one’s going to steal your grub.
7) Bring Something Healthy! If it’s a potluck (and a lot of holiday parties are), bring something guilt-free to share. I bring food to parties all the time, and I never bring anything I can’t eat copious amounts of. If it’s not a potluck, call the host and offer to help. If they decline your offer because they have it under control, than follow their wishes and come empty-handed. But if they take you up on your offer, than huzzah! Swing through the produce section and knock yourself out!
What am I forgetting? If you have tips for getting through holiday parties, leave them in the comments section!
I went to Whole Foods earlier today, and ended up bringing home a veritable buffet of fresh produce. Check it my haul!
Clockwise from Top Left, we have: carrots, Persian cucumbers, a pineapple, apples (more on these later), holiday grapes, celery, bananas, satsuma tangerines, broccoli and cauliflower, mushrooms, a bag of kale salad, head of garlic, 2 kiwis, orange and yellow bell peppers, a brown onion, 2 red pears, 4 tomatoes, and some green beans. That’s 20 different types of produce!
A quick note about the apples: 4 of them are of the Pink Lady variety (one of my favorite varieties), and 1 of them is an Arkansas Black, a heirloom variety of apple. I’ve never bought an Arkansas Black before. Here it is up close:
Looks like an apple.
I bought one other new-to-me item, and I found it in the sprouts-and-sprouted-bean section:
MICRO RED AMARANTH!
I’ve heard of amaranth before, but I’m a little sketchy as to what it is, and I haven’t done any research yet. But my understanding is that it’s a grain than can be used to make flour and cereal. I don’t know if all amaranth is red, or if this is a super-special product, but I will look into it.
I was drawn to the package by the color – this amaranth is a deep fuchsia color, and it’s beautiful:
I’ve bought sprouts many times before, and I suspect these will end up either in a salad or a sandwich (or possibly both!), and I look forward to trying them.
The nice woman who was bagging my groceries at the check-out counter thought, when she first saw the package, that it was saffron, and I think that’s a reasonable mistake – saffron is also deep red stems. I have a little saffron in my spice cupboard – this is what it looks like:
Some fun facts about saffron: it’s the most expensive spice on the planet. Distributors typically sell it by the gram, and one online retailer I just visited was selling top-quality Spanish saffron for $21 a gram – which means one pound of the stuff would cost over $9,700! That package of red amaranth weighs 1.75 ounces, and if that was saffron, I’d be out hundreds and hundreds of dollars!
Saffron is so outrageously expensive because it’s a beast to harvest. Saffron is the stigma of a particular type of crocus flower. Each flower only has three saffron threads inside it, and they have to be harvested by hand. An entire acre of crocuses will only yield a few pounds of saffron per season.
The good thing is that a little saffron goes a long way. My father’s side of the family is Spanish, and I grew up eating Spanish food regularly, so I know that only a tiny pinch of saffron is all you need to flavor a giant pot of paella.
That was a fun tangent, wasn’t it? You never know what you’ll learn after I make a swing through the produce section!
Keep it up, David!