The holiday season is now in full swing! The hustle and bustle of gift shopping, family visits, holiday parties, and end of year to-do lists can become quite overwhelming. After the year we have all endured, why not simplify life, slow down, and enjoy all that we have been blessed with?
While this year may look a little different, I am sure there will still be families gathering and friends celebrating together. Whether your gathering includes two people or twenty people, one thing is for sure – there will be food! If you are anything like me, the promise of delicious food may be one of your top reasons for attending such events.
It also means we may not make the healthiest of choices as we navigate the wide array of sweet and savory options on every table. There is a way to make better choices for ourselves and enjoy a great holiday season. Some of us may need to simply avoid too much sugar while others, including myself, must be wary of the options presented due to allergies. I am not able to eat gluten or dairy due to severe intolerances. Once upon a time, this made every gathering daunting and unenjoyable.
No matter what your goals are this year, here are five great tips that I have taught myself over the years! They are simple and easy to remember.
EAT BEFORE YOU GO
Don’t show up on an empty stomach! One sure fire way to ensure confidence in yourself when presented with a huge table of sweets and treats is to already have a belly full of food that makes you feel great. With this already done, you can grab a glass of wine or champagne and focus on other things. Your energy is high, you feel great in that new outfit you bought for the season, and you are ready to enjoy friends and family.
FILL YOUR PLATE ONCE
You have already had your belly filling meal before showing up – great! This does not mean you are not allowed to enjoy a few treats. I will find the smallest plate being offered and fill it up once. I will add a dessert or two and maybe a small bunch of veggies. This allows you to still feel a part of the crowd and treat yourself a bit.
DON’T SOCIALIZE BY THE FOOD TABLE
This may seem obvious, but it is quite easy to stand, chat, and pick at the food all evening long. Remove yourself from the temptation of grabbing all of the small finger foods or cookies within an arm’s reach.
TAKE A DISH TO SHARE THAT YOU CAN ENJOY
My number ONE favorite thing to do is cook! All my friends know this, and I am usually asked to bring at least one dish to all parties or get togethers. I am flattered when they ask but also excited because it means I can bring something that I know I can enjoy without any guilt. Take a fun dip without dairy products or create a fun dessert that is sugar free. People will be amazed at how it tastes, and you know it is at least one option you can feel no guilt about enjoying.
Below is my Spiced Cranberry Turkey Meatball recipe. It is Gluten and Dairy-free and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at whatever event you attend this season. Everyone loves a party meatball!
Spiced Turkey Cranberry Meatballs
Time: 30 minutes total Recipe makes 25-30 small meatballs
lb. lean ground turkey
¾ cup almond flour
1 small shallot, minced
¼ cup shredded Granny Smith Apple
.5 tsp allspice
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tsp pepper
1.5 tsp salt
14 oz can jellied cranberry sauce
½ cup ketchup
3 tbsp maple syrup
Zest from half an orange
Juice from half an orange
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional for heat)
Allergy note: if you have Celiac or severe gluten allergies, be sure to purchase Gluten-Free versions of any spices or sauces needed
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all meatball ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.
Place a baking rack on top of a baking sheet and spray generously with cooking spray.
Spoon out 1 tbsp of meatball mix and roll into a small ball. Place onto the baking rack.
Bake for 12-14 minutes until slightly browned and no longer pink on the inside.
While the meatballs are baking, make your sauce! Add all sauce ingredients to a small saucepan on low heat. Whisk ingredients together until you have a smooth sauce. Simmer on low heat for about 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally as not to burn the fruit.
Add as much spice as you would like! I added a whole teaspoon of red pepper flakes and my kids still enjoyed them. Red pepper flakes go a long way. Add a little and taste before adding more!
Once meatballs are done, add your sauce to the bottom of a large bowl. Add in the meatballs and toss them together. Serve immediately. You can also make them ahead of time and transport them in a slow cooker set on WARM.
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
This time of year is supposed to be about joy and family and love. While it is important to be continually conscious about our health, it is equally as vital to keep priorities in their place. Family and togetherness are at the top of the list! That one party, one special family holiday reunion, or one diet slip up, should not determine your happiness this year. You are not what you eat and what your slightly altered diet plans say. Have a great time and give yourself grace! Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from R&R Table!