Monday, November 17, 2014


Food is a healthy way to bring family, friends together this holiday season

Thanksgiving is without a doubt my favorite holiday.  Why?  Well, besides being the official start of the holiday season, Thanksgiving is all about FOOD.  No fancy clothes, no gifts, no whimsical mascot (sorry Santa)…  Just food.   And LOTS of it.
Don’t get me wrong, it can still be stressful; especially if you are tasked with hosting the family feast.  This time of year, every woman’s health and foodie magazine features a sparkling holiday spread amid an immaculate and impeccably-appointed home.  Bombarded with all of this imagery, it’s easy to feel like we won’t measure up if we don’t spend hours DIY-ing the perfect centerpiece or baking those adorable cupcakes made to look like turkeys.
Isn’t it amazing how the media can make us feel inadequate about almost anything?
To some extent, I think many of us fall into this trap at the holidays.  We feel that somehow the world will end if we don’t nail that Martha Stewart Living cover photo.  (C’mon, you know there is no WAY she does all that stuff!)
Ironically, sometimes it’s the “epic fails” that create the best memories.  My mom and I still laugh about the year we spent nearly an entire day making beautiful gingerbread cookies and as I so proudly brought them to the table, I tripped over the dog reducing our picture-perfect pastries to sugary shrapnel.  On the plus side, the dog was quick to apologize by gladly helping us clean up the mess. 
A friend of mine says her favorite Thanksgiving was the year she forgot to take the turkey out of the freezer until the day before.  She spent the better half of that night with her husband, laughing as they thawed it with hair-dryers and watched holiday movies.
It’s stories like this that remind me that although we fuss over the details, the holidays are not really about the food or the decor, but the experiences.  The food certainly enhances those experiences, but it’s the feeling we get from being together that becomes a part of us. 
So when you embark on that pumpkin-shaped seven-layer cake with spiced rum ganache, don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out quite as pumpkin-shaped as you had hoped.  With all that sugar and butter, I’m sure it will still be delicious.  And even if it’s not, it’ll make a great memory.
Whatever you place on your table this holiday season, I hope you gather around it in love and laughter.  Because if you ask me, a meal eaten among friends and family in genuine companionship and gratitude provides more nourishment than all the wheatgrass on earth.  And no calories, of course.
Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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