Healthy Baking / Columns

Holiday traditions: The good, the bad and the ugly

Nutrition Corner
Nutrition Corner

One of the good things about the holidays is that they can bring families together. One of the bad things is that they are often stressful for the very reasons they bring families together…and family members don’t always like one another. The holidays can also be stressful for the cooks and cleanup crew, which are often the same people.

The ugly part of the holidays is that we usually eat too much, too often and too many high-calorie foods. Our challenge is to make this upcoming holiday less stressful and more healthful. There’s not much we can do to make family members like each other, but maybe we can help with some of the other problems. Try these simple suggestions:

• Prepare as much of the food as you can in advance, so Christmas or Hanukkah can be more relaxing. You may even find time for a run or walk before the festivities start. Homemade pumpkin rolls are a must in my family, and I make them a week before and freeze them. Those who don’t like pumpkin can’t recognize the ingredient, and they bring a beautiful color and more nutrition to the table. If you don’t have the time or inclination to bake, you can always buy wonderful rolls.

• Make the dressing the day before, with commercial bread cubes, and put it in a casserole dish in the refrigerator, not in the turkey.

• Prepare and refrigerate the turkey in a baking bag the day before, so it’s ready to go in the oven in the morning with no fuss.

• Ask guests to bring side dishes. Mashed potatoes can be transported in a crock pot to keep them warm. Salads or vegetables are easy items to bring. But let’s face it, do we really need all of the items we often serve?

• Be judicial when it comes to your desserts–make them as delicious and nutritious as possible. A small piece of pumpkin pie is probably your best traditional dessert. To reduce the stress of being the hostess or host, buy it or ask a guest to bring it.

• Use smaller plates, as people tend to eat less with small plates. Try not to go back for seconds. If you must, wait 15-20 minutes, and your body might tell you that you’re full.

• Avoid “mindless eating.” Be selective in choosing your favorite foods and ignore the rest.

• In honor of the long-lasting olive oil, Hanukkah is celebrated by including many foods cooked in oil. Each family must decide if it can bake some of the items instead of frying them or to cut back on serving sizes. On the other hand, your beliefs may require the use of traditional recipes. After all, it is only for eight days of the year.

• Delegate cleanup duties to those who didn’t cook.

•  If you didn’t get in some exercise before the big meal, make sure everyone does before sitting down to watch the football games or other nonactive ventures. Exercise is a great, inexpensive stress reducer and will help make the holidays a pleasant, guilt-free time for everyone.

Finally, enjoy the holidays by making peace with your family (if needed), engaging in some physical activity and savoring your favorite foods. 


Pumpkin Rolls  (Makes 18)

Here’s a tasty recipe for pumpkin rolls. The items are listed in the order in which they should be added to a bread machine. Otherwise, follow your favorite yeast bread recipe.


¾ cup warm water

1 egg

¾ cup pumpkin, sweet potatoes or yams, cooked and mashed (or use canned items)

1⁄3 cup vegetable oil

¼ cup sugar

¾ tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. gluten (optional)

3½ cups bread flour

1 package active dry yeast


If you’re using a bread machine, add the ingredients above in the order in which they’re listed and press the machine’s “dough” cycle. When the dough is ready, divide and shape it into 18 rolls. Divide the rolls into two groups of nine and place each group into an 8-by-8-in. pan sprayed with a nonstick coating. Brush a little oil on the top of each roll and cover the pan until the rolls double in size (approximately 45 minutes in a warm area). Bake for 20 minutes at 375° F. Enjoy!

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