banner
Lifestyles

Enjoy cooking more this holiday season

Posted October 30

Guests at the Durham Rescue Mission's Thanksgiving celebration enjoyed a turkey meal with all the trimmings and left with bags of groceries and warm clothes for the winter.

As the holiday season nears it can be tempting to start thinking of all those “to do” lists that can take over daily life during this time of year. Yet, there are many traditions that are also part of late fall and early winter that can make cooking (and eating) more enjoyable and provide a welcome break within a hectic schedule.

Whether a regular cook or not, there are a number of benefits to participating more in food preparation at home including improved nutrition, increased social interaction when cooking, eating with others and saving money when on a budget. For example, according to a recent study on the nutritional benefits of cooking conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins, when people cook most of their meals at home, they consume less sugar and fat than those who cook less often — even if they’re not trying to lose weight.

Savor the holidays

One of the benefits of creating space in the holiday season to enjoy cooking at home is the possibility of savoring more festive moments. During this typically busy time of year, slowing down to cook and prepare foods at home can help individuals reconnect not only to favorite holiday recipes, but also with family members and friends. Make holiday menu planning, grocery shopping and food preparation a household affair by involving family in the process of creating holiday meals. To reduce the stress of getting ready for larger family gatherings and dinners or other events, consider having a regular weekly meet up during the holiday season to discuss upcoming special occasions and collaborate on food-related activities.

It may also help to have a well-stocked pantry with common staple foods, an organized kitchen and a set of kitchen tools ready before cooking so that the basics are all ready. Then when it’s time to cook, create an enjoyable environment in the kitchen by removing distractions by clearing counters and turning off TVs or other devices. Playing soft, holiday music may also help to make the kitchen both festive and relaxing.

Strike a balance between healthy habits and special occasions

Cooking at home also helps create a healthy balance during a time of year when overindulging can become the norm. When cooking at home, individuals have more choices about food ingredients and more influence on portion sizes. To enjoy cooking special holiday foods, consider ways to balance festive holiday dishes with healthier options. This might mean selecting a special dessert for one or two of the holiday meals in the month, while opting for healthier menus during other meals. In finding a balance between special occasions and nutritious options, individuals can still maintain healthy habits throughout the holiday season.

Nourish food traditions and a sense of adventure

Traditional holiday foods such as casseroles, pies, cookies, hot drinks, and egg nog may bring reminders of good times shared with others. These foods are perhaps also memorable because of the feeling of care and nourishment experienced when eating home-cooked food. Creating a family cookbook might be a fun way to honor traditional family recipes and to create new traditions with loved ones.

Bringing a sense of adventure to cooking can also help make cooking more enjoyable during the holidays. Explore new traditions by choosing foods that are less common in the household or that connect to food traditions of other cultures. For example, the Mediterranean eating pattern provides a variety of healthy and flavorful options for creative holiday menus.

Experimenting with foods that are fresh and in season can also make cooking during the holidays more fun and flavorful. For example, in most climates there are a variety of in-season fruits and vegetables to explore in both fall and winter. Many locations also have farmers markets offered throughout the winter and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) might be another option in some local areas.

Give back and express gratitude

The holidays may ultimately be enjoyed most when they provide a time to give back and express gratitude. Cooking dishes to bring meals to co-workers, neighbors, or others in need during the holidays or donating foods to the local food bank are all ways to contribute to the community in meaningful ways. Regular practices of gratitude can be created around cooking and eating at home as well and are reminders to slow down and reflect on what’s most important. In general, gratitude practices have been shown to have significant health and other benefits that will nourish individuals through the holiday season and beyond.

Here are some tips for healthy and enjoyable holiday meals:

Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all