Holidays are a time for traditions, and gatherings with family and friends. In fact some of my fondest childhood memories are from time spent with my family at our Grandparent’s home.

Living in Michigan you could count on Thanksgiving being cold, and a bit of snow wasn’t necessarily a surprise either. Every year we would bundle up, pile into the car and drive across town for this holiday event.

celebration-315079_640Inside Grandma’s house it was warm, and we had cousins to play with. Roasted turkey with bread stuffing, mingled with the spicy aroma of freshly baked pies met us at the door. While the irresistible odor of rolls straight from the oven and the tangy scent of our Grandma’s homemade bread and butter pickles, along with freshly made cranberry orange relish made our stomachs rumble. It all smelled so good we could hardly wait for everyone to arrive.

In the United States Thanksgiving is a national holiday. It is a day set aside to remember our blessings and the good things in our lives.

Not everyone celebrates this as we do, but no matter where you live, and no matter what your circumstances you can find something to be thankful. If you enjoy good health than that is something for which to be thankful, and if you want to improve your health, there’s no better time than now to begin.

Relaxing and enjoying the company of your loved ones is a mentally and emotionally healthy thing to do. But depending on your family traditions the temptation to over eat, or to eat the wrong foods during the holidays may be a bit overwhelming.

pumpkin-pie-1041330_640Over the next few weeks I will be covering different aspects of holiday foods and activities that may have an adverse effect on your health and well being, and how to make adjustments so that you can enjoy the food and festivities without feeling that you must abstain from most of the fun.

Healthier Choices

In my experience our likes and dislikes are governed by what we are used to. If your family is accustomed to store bought convenience foods that is most likely what you enjoy, and it will seem like the natural choice to you. By comparison, I was raised with homemade everything, and frankly I have never been able to enjoy pies from the in store bakery because to my palate, they simply don’t taste right.

Regardless of how you were raised however it may be worth it to introduce a few healthier choices. Many families today have come to rely on the convenience of canned and prepackaged foods to make it easier to entertain friends and family, and by doing so have sacrificed some level of quality. But even homemade delights, if made with inferior ingredients, may not be as good as they seem.

It will take a bit of extra effort and expense, but with a little prior planning you can prepare a healthier meal with fewer unwanted, unhealthy, ingredients that the whole family will love.

One of my favorite holiday foods are cranberries

Cranberries are a delicious source of Vitamin C, insoluble fiber, manganese, and antioxidants.

beverage-15706_640They are very flexible and can be enjoyed in a number of ways. Cranberry sauce and cranberry juices are available in local grocery stores, but are more processed and not only lose some of their benefits being processed and stored but can also have ingredients that you may want to avoid. Most jellied cranberry sauces for example are packed with high fructose corn syrup, although there are organic alternatives if you have a store that carries it. 100% cranberry juice is also a better option than the cranberry juice cocktails which may have high levels of sugar in them.

Another alternative to jellied cranberry sauce would be to make you own cranberry sauce at home.

Purchase one bag of fresh cranberries in the produce department. The recipe is usually on the back of the bag, but it is as simple as putting the cranberries in a pot with water and sugar to taste. I choose organic cane sugar, but you can use standard white table sugar if that is what you prefer. Cook on a medium heat allowing it to bubble gently until the skins burst open and it begins to thicken. Spoon into a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate until chilled and it will be a striking addition to your holiday table.

If you want to add a bit of zing to your cranberry sauce you can take one bag of cranberries, one granny smith apple cored, peeled and cubed, and one orange, peeled with the seeds removed. Chop or put through a food processor until the pieces are fine but not smooth. Add 1 cup of sugar and mix well. Spoon mixture into a glass bowl and cover, then refrigerate for 24 hours. It is a tangy sweet twist on an old favorite.

To read more of Denise's articles, click here.

To read more of Denise’s articles, click here.

Cranberries can also be used in fruit breads and muffins, in a salad or as a colorful garnish to a dish of sauteed green beans. Either fresh or dried cranberries may be used with equal success for any of these options. However for the salad and green beans my personal choice is the dried variety.

Holiday foods are delicious and help to make those special times even more memorable. So tweak your recipes by using healthier ingredients, and spend time with those you love while enjoying the holidays and the foods that go with it.

**While the word of wisdom gives us basic guidelines for health, it leaves the interpretation of those guideline up to the individual members. This blog is not intended to replace your medical professional or the divine revelation of the Word of Wisdom, but rather it is practical knowledge that I have accumulated over the years in my own pursuit of a healthier lifestyle which I am passing along in the hopes that it will benefit others.**

About Denise Mastrocola
Denise is a Michigander turned Pennsylvanian, who has been writing stories since Elementary School. Denise won an award at the annual Lansing Youth Talent Show, when she was in 10th grade, for a short story entitled Procrastination is Fatal, but didn’t decide on writing as a career until she was 28 years old. While homeschooling her older children she spent 4 years working through a course from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Through the years Denise’s children have had a variety of health issues, many of which have been linked to various sensitives; having spent more than 20 years researching and trying different things Denise has a boots on the ground view on healthier living. Denise currently writes for 2 blogs and has several books in different stages of completion. She is planning to break ground in e publishing, and hopes to have her first Historical Fantasy book which is set during the renaissance, “Lisa, My Lisa?” ready by the first of the year.

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