Last month our writers shared some of their holiday traditions and plans for the upcoming season. In November, we continue our conversation about holidays. How do we juggle visitors, travel with small children, eat well amidst all that delicious food and most importantly, take time to just BREATHE? This time of year can very quickly become stressful, so we hope our writers' words this month will give you a few moments to slow down, think about how you're spending your energy and encourage you during this busy, but wonderful time of year. ~TMC The newest change to our eating philosophy has been a different approach to sugars, and it’s just in time for the holidays! A couple years ago we made a point to cut out all high-fructose corn syrup, and I highly suggest this as a great “first step” if you’re considering a healthier food intake. I still couldn’t shake myself of good old cane sugar—you know, every girl’s first love. Even with wanting a healthier lifestyle, I’ve still tried to hold on to two points that I think are very important with how we view food in our house.
1. Food is meant to keep us alive.
Shocking, I know. I just feel like too many foodies view what they eat (and what our society eats) as something that is killing them and not sustaining them. True, the wrong kind of food should be avoided, but…it’s still food. Something to be thankful for, first and foremost.
2. Food is meant to be enjoyed.
Enough of the self-martyred, suffering vegan (spoken from a vegan 3 days out of the week). Enjoy feasting! Especially during the holiday season. (Stepping down from soap box…) All that to say, I was afraid that if I cut the sugar, we would cease to employ point number 2—enjoying food.
Slowly, we have made a few changes, and I haven’t bought sugar for a few months now, and we don’t feel like we’re missing anything!
The first thing I did was start to use fruit purees instead of eggs when making sweets/fruit breads. The fruit adds natural sweetness which then helps you lessen the amount of added sugar. Here are some easy conversions:
Applesauce, Mashed Bananas, and Pumpkin Puree—work well in sweetened baked goods, just make sure the flavor would be compatible with other flavors, as the fruit will likely shine through a bit. 1 egg=1/4 cup fruit puree (one medium mashed banana will normally substitute for 2 eggs)
Prune Puree—since stronger in flavor, works well with dense desserts such as brownies. 1 egg=1/4 cup fruit puree
After sweetening with fruit, I started cutting the amount of sugar. Stat with using ¾ of the amount called for, and then cut back to half. If you’re having company, offer frosting or honey to be added if someone has more of a sweet tooth. I promise, you will get used to it over time, and the more you cut out, the less often your brain will send sugar signals.
I also read this awesome article about decoding sweeteners—there are just so many out there! http://www.puregoodness.net/nutrition/sweeteners-decoded/ We now use mostly honey, agave, and molasses for sweetening. We keep some stevia and sucanat on hand, and we occasionally buy maple syrup. These are all sugars, but they’re not nearly as refined as white sugar or hfcs (high fructose corn syrup) and they do not raise the glycemic level as much.
Conversions: for honey and agave, use ¾ cup for 1 cup of sugar the recipe calls for, reduce liquids by ½ cup for every cup of honey you add, and reduce oven temp. by 25 degrees to prevent browning. For sucanat—equal amounts as sugar.
I am a little timid about this holiday season, as this will be my first one completely dairy free, mostly corn free, as well as (six days out of the week) ovo-vegetarian (no meat or dairy products, but I still love me some eggs!). I know…there go all my dinner invitations! My way of coping so far when I go to parties is either eat a lot beforehand so I’m not tempted, or, better yet, always take a dish with me so I have something to enjoy with friends. Whether or not you have allergy/dietary restrictions, I would suggest offering to bring food. If you’re opting for a healthier holiday season, prepare a sweet dish with less sugar, or an appetizer that’s homemade, and that way you will get to enjoy the food—and have it too.
How do you cope with allergy and special diet restrictions during the holidays?