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Carol Slager, RPh Culinary Fitness Trainer Photo by Tony V. Martin

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s, and other celebrations of the season bring about thoughts of food.

Visions of beautifully set tables with traditional recipes abounding are programmed into our minds.

These delicious visions are often fraught with thoughts of a scary number on the scale as we head into a new year. We focus so much on the food and its importance, we allow it to derail our healthy habits. Have you ever made the claim that you’ll head back to the gym after the New Year to lose the weight?

Our family enjoys traditional holiday recipes that have been handed down over several generations. I make pumpkin pie the night before Thanksgiving. Christmas Eve wouldn’t be the same without mushroom sauerkraut soup and dumplings.

The best part of the holidays however, is being with my family and friends. The special foods, the gifts, the decorations, are the fluff we think we need to pull off the perfect celebration. What kind of Thanksgiving would it be if that golden brown turkey wasn't served on the heirloom platter?

Surrounded by those you love, you’d have a great Thanksgiving, turkey or no turkey. Different does not mean a lesser celebration. How many times have you planned and prepped to the point of exhaustion, only for everything to be gobbled up in minutes?

The holiday season is extra special because of the people we share our lives with. The turkey and accessories are good, since food is life. I still make the pumpkin pie and mushroom sauerkraut soup. But it's not the most important part of the celebration. By placing the focus on relationships and spending time together, we can enjoy the food without overstuffing ourselves like a turkey.

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Making those special recipes from grandma and great-grandma enhances our lives. We often connect food with love, comfort, and happy times. Recreating those recipes honors their legacy through tradition. The key is not allowing this to push us to overeat and lose the point of the celebration. We often joke, “It’s all about the food.” It is about that — but so much more.

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This holiday season, I challenge you to practice enjoying your traditions while caring for your health. 

Make your favorites and invite family members and friends to get in on the action. Live out your special memories through the stories as you cook and bake together. The kitchen is the heart of the home, so have a good time. Sample the food and carve out time to take a brisk walk or get to the gym. Drink plenty of water so you don’t dehydrate from alcohol, the dry air of winter, or change in diet.

When enjoying all the traditional casseroles, eat a few more vegetables, tossed salads, and one less roll. Stop eating before you’re full, since the food will catch up in your stomach. Send extra food home with your guests, or freeze it, thereby extending the celebration. Eat a small slice of pumpkin pie ever so slowly, and savor each bite.

We can have it all and not feel bad Jan. 2.

Carol Slager is a licensed pharmacist, author, blogger and health coach in Northwest Indiana. Follow her monthly in Get Healthy and at inkwellcoaching.com.

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