Girl Planting seeds

Savor the Season

Pumpkin_on_fall_dinner_tableshutterstock_219277294Whatever you celebrate, wherever you live, one thing’s for sure: the holiday season is about to begin, starting with Thanksgiving and extending for weeks thereafter. Along with barrels of joy and cheer, this time of year can be terribly stressful – the pressure to decorate the house, produce delicious and festive meals, buy sufficient gifts for all the right people, and attend event after endless social event.

Throw into the mix the daily stressors of parenthood, and it’s the perfect storm for an emotional crisis, for child and parent alike. But as with other challenging circumstances, the frenetic pace of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day can be managed – and even enjoyed – with just a little bit of forethought, and a whole lot of love.

The holidays are about nothing if not sensation: smell, sight, hearing, touch, taste. All of this stimulation can be exciting but also overwhelming, and some kids might require a bit more coaxing to get comfortable. Prepare ahead by going over the schedule for the day, looking through pictures of family and friends prior to attending a party or gathering, and explaining who each person is, how they are related, and a fun fact that might help the information stick. Reviewing the guest roster in the days leading up to the event can help children feel more comfortable among people they have never met.

But should that dreaded moment arrive – yes, I’m talking about the tantrum or whatever action indicates your child has had enough – make sure there is a quiet room where your child can take a brief “time out” from the holiday cheer.  Spending copious amounts of time surrounded by family can unhinge the most even-keeled person, and in all honesty, having a place to escape to during crowded family get-togethers would probably benefit most adults, too!

An important key to survival this time of year is staying healthy, which means not letting temptations get the best of you. The holidays present an opportunity to introduce others to a delicious variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains, which normally play second fiddle but are deserving of praise all their own.

As a vegetarian, I like to turn everyone’s focus to lively grains like quinoa and millet. In addition to being yummy, they’re also gluten-free, so you won’t feel weighed down like you might after eating a bowl of pasta (or a pound of turkey). Toss in some roasted Brussel sprouts, dried cranberries, and toasted walnuts. Await applause.

Tofurkey is a nutritious way for non-meat eaters to stay connected to Thanksgiving tradition. It is comprised of organic tofu, vital wheat gluten, and expeller pressed non-GMO canola oil, and can be served with an equally vegetarian stuffing: think focaccia bread, mushrooms, Herbes de Provence, carrots, onions, and celery.            

For toppings, carry the mushroom theme from the stuffing over to the gravy. Use vegetable stock, spices, and a natural thickener like arrowroot or corn starch. Make a healthy homemade cranberry sauce using fresh berries; canned varieties are full of added sugar and possibly also the toxin bisphenol-A (BPA), which leeches into the sauce from the lining of the can. 

When cooking any dishes for Thanksgiving or other holidays, be mindful of your ingredients. Buy local: it will be fresher, taste better, and conserve energy (the truck delivering it uses less gas). Avoid genetically modified foods, or GMOs: their original DNA has been purposely altered, and goodness knows how these changes affect human health.

Above all, infuse a hearty portion of holiday cheer into these hectic few weeks. Set aside time to spend with your family, make everyone feel included in traditions, and try to leave the stress behind, if only for a few moments. There truly isn’t any other time of year quite like it, so savor every succulent bite, and every delicious moment.

Click here for some of my favorite side dishes and desserts for the upcoming season.


This article is an excerpt of an article that first appeared in Autism File magazine

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