There are just two months left in our year-long series of Positive Resolutions for 2021. The whole idea is to pick and adopt a new healthful goal each month. These goals involve positive actions instead of denial of something, and this month’s topic is Creating Food Memories.
These last two months of the year traditionally involve lots of “food” events, with people gathering for holiday celebrations. Most families have favorite dishes that they prepare for these events. After all, food tends to evoke memories.
Once again this year, there may be fewer large holiday gatherings and many families may not be getting together at all. Regardless of your situation, take some time to reflect on the upcoming holidays and the positive food memories you’d like to share or create this year.
When asked, most families say spending time together is the most important part of the holidays. Can you do this without spending hours in the kitchen? I’ve heard so many people lament that their holiday meals “took eight hours to cook and 20 minutes to eat.” Is it worth it? What can you do to simplify and still enjoy a meal and enjoy time with the family?
Think about your holiday priorities.
Don’t get stuck with old traditions. Maybe these traditions are not that important to others. There may be blended families or “new” families and maybe it’s time to start something new. As a newlywed, I remember taking one of my holiday favorites to my husband’s family dinner. No one ate it. I found out later that my sisters didn’t really like this food either. It was just my memory.
Memory foods don’t always need to be high-fat, high-sugar or low-nutrient-density foods. Christmas stockings are very important in our family and it was always special to find an orange and a few nuts in the toe.
Consider those in your family that have special food needs. Perhaps they are vegetarians or vegans. What foods could be prepared for those with allergies or must eat gluten-free? Remembering these needs may create a food memory for them (and new tradition for everyone else).
If cooking is an important part of your holiday, encourage the “little ones” to help. This is a great way to spend time together and teach some cooking skills at the same time.
Perhaps you know someone that is new to your state or country and has a food memory from their former home. Is it possible to help them recreate these memories in their new home with available local ingredients?
Can you make modifications to some “must-have” foods that will make them more healthful? Is there a way to reduce the sugar, change the fat or add a whole gran? Look for recipes that can help to lighten up your holiday fare.
Be the one that takes a fruit or a vegetable to the holiday gathering. Others may be looking for more healthful fare, too. Raw veggies and fruit salads make great choices.
Whether you can be together or not, share a food memory on Thanksgiving. Ask everyone to share around the table or on Facetime or a Zoom call. Often these memories will remind us of friends and family living far away.
Create a family cookbook and add your memories about each recipe in the headnotes. Recipes aren’t always just for cooking. They're also for reading and sharing the “stories” behind them.
While our goal for this month is to make some food memories, what else could you do to establish some “non-food” holiday memories? Go dancing or on a winter hike, help the community, try craft projects, start a family game night, or go to a holiday concert.
If your clients are looking for ways to make healthy holiday memories, some of these recipes might come in handy:
- Better Green Bean Casserole
- Banana Eggless Nog
- Cranberry Bread Pudding
- Holiday Mocktails
- Holiday Ginger Vegetables
- Spiced Winter Squash
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Winter Beet Salad
- Best Light Pumpkin Pie
And here’s a list of the previous months’ topics...
- January - Foster Happiness
- February - Find a Path to Better Sleep
- March- Get Some Whole Grains
- April – Go for Fruit
- May - Add a Vegetable
- June - Eat a Plant
- July - Go Fishing
- August - Drink Up
- September- Cook at Home
- October - Add a Snack
By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.