Tag Archives: Holiday Season

Fond Memories of the Spirit of Christmas

Long View: Princess of Christmas Past

As a child, my favorite time of year was Christmastime. It was not just Christmas day, but the whole season surrounding it. The spirit of being joyful, grateful, loving, and caring was something I thought should exist all year long.

The spirit of giving was my favorite of all. Everyone felt like a prince or princess waiting to receive their heart’s desire. It gave me joy to give someone a gift and see the expression on their face when they opened it, especially when it was thoughtful or something they really needed or always wanted.

The season also came with beautiful and vibrant decorations. Some of my favorites were the candy canes and stockings. I remember the candy-filled, clear plastic candy canes with the solid red hook. They could be filled with any kind of candy, from gumballs to M&M’s or even Sweet Tarts or jelly beans.

I also remember the red see-through netted stockings filled with both candy and small toys. I thought to myself, “Why would they make a stocking where I can see the goodies in it but then tell me I can’t open it until Christmas?” It was too tempting to not try and sneak some candy out of it ahead of time. Although I was anxious to open it, the wait built patience. And patience is a virtue.

More of my favorite memories include choosing our real, live Christmas trees. My daddy insisted that we get a real tree and not an artificial one. “Nothing can replace the scent of fresh pine in the house,” he explained. 

Our tree was even more special because it was decorated with not only store-bought decorations of lights, bulbs, and tinsel, but also ornaments I had made at school. And the tree had to be as tall as the ceiling with either a shining start or an angel on top.

My most memorable times at Christmas were when my family came together at my grandma’s and granddaddy’s house on Christmas Eve. I got to see all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles. Of course there was lots of food. My favorites were the turkey, dressing, and peach cobbler.  Everything was homemade, and I could tell it was made with love.

It’s my goal to carry the spirit of being joyful, grateful, loving, and caring into the present and the future. With or without the candy canes, stockings, or decorations, the memories of family and love are most important to me.

The material things pass away. The candy is consumed.  The stockings are thrown away. The light bulbs eventually burn out. The tinsel gets tangled, and the pine needles on the real tree dry out. But memories of family love will continue to live in our hearts.

Everyone here at Health Alliance wishes you and your family a joyous holiday season and a very Merry Christmas. Share your memories with someone you love, especially those older princes or princesses in your family who have years and years of fond memories on their minds this time of year.

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a community liaison at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and princess pageants.

Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month

Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month

It’s Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month. Gluten-free diets are commonly used to treat Celiac disease, sensitivities, and allergies. If you or your loved ones need this kind of diet, these recipes can help this holiday season.

First up is a transformed comfort food, Gluten-Free Zucchini Chicken Parmesan Bundles.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Chicken Parmesan Bundles

Gluten Free Zucchini Chicken Parmesan Bundles

 

Gluten-Free Gingerbread Oatmeal is ideal for family gatherings during the holidays.

Gluten-Free Gingerbread Oatmeal
Image and Recipe via The Blissful Balance

 

Whip up a perfect fall dinner with this Gluten-Free Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili.

Gluten-Free Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili
Image and Recipe via The Conscientious Eater

 

This Gluten-Free Creamy Mushroom Risotto makes an impressive light dinner for guests.

Creamy Mushroom Risotto (Vegan + GF)

 

Lighten up grab-and-go breakfast with these Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins.

Gluten Free Paleo Pumpkin Muffins with Almond Flour

 

Making pasta at home doesn’t have to be a challenge! Try Gluten-Free Ravioli with Spinach and Cheese.

Gluten-Free Ravioli with Spinach and Cheese:

Gluten Free Ravioli with Spinach and Cheese

 

These soft Healthy Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cookies will be a hit this holiday season.

Healthy Gluten Free Pumpkin Cookies

Healthy Popcorn Recipes for Movie Night

Healthy Popcorn Recipes

It’s National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, and air-popped popcorn is a great healthy snack. Jazz it up further with our healthy popcorn recipes.

First up is a Healthy Caramel Corn that will satisfy your cravings.

Healthy Caramel Corn

 

Get in the mood for fall and spookiness with this Pumpkin Spice Popcorn.

Pumpkin Spice Popcorn for Healthier Snacking

 

Get some heat on movie night with Sriracha-Lime Popcorn.

Easy Gourmet Popcorn

 

Lighten up your favorite holiday dessert for the kids with Apple Pie Popcorn.

Apple Pie Popcorn Snack Mix Recipe

 

Skip your latte craving with this Matcha (Green Tea) Stovetop Popcorn.

Matcha (Green Tea) Stovetop Popcorn

 

Class up classic, cheesy popcorn with this Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn.

Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn

 

Get ready for the holiday season and cold winter nights with Dark Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn

Whole Grains Month

Whole Grains Month

It’s Whole Grains Month, and we can help you make hearty and cozy meals this fall with healthy whole-grain recipes.

First, learn about your favorite grains and how to cook them.

Cooking Grains
Image via Berkeley Wellness

 

Throw together these Vegan Whole-Grain Spelt Waffles for a guilt-free brunch.

Vegan Whole Grain Spelt Waffles.

 

Your lunch is covered with these 50+ Gorgeous Grain Salads


Image and recipe via Popsugar

 

Wow the family this holiday season with these beautiful Whole-Grain Oat Rolls.

Whole Grain Oat Rolls

 

This Blueberry Oatmeal Bread is sure to be a hit for breakfast or dessert.

Blueberry Oatmeal Bread

 

Need a weekend baking project? Try this Homemade Multigrain Sandwich Bread.

Homemade Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread
Image and Recipe via Whole and Heavenly Oven

 

This Healthy Barley Soup is a hearty soup perfect for your next rainy or sick day.

Healthy Barley Soup Recipe

Holiday Cookie Eating

Chasing Health: My Ho-Ho-Horrible Holiday Eating & Exercise Habits

I love the holiday season. In the fall and early winter, it seems like there is something special to celebrate nearly every other week. The list goes on and on, and I can’t get enough of it.

As a holiday enthusiast, I appreciate it all, from decorating, baking, and gift-buying to curling up and watching holiday-themed movies, not to mention mouth-watering smells, twinkling lights, and feeling like you’re in a magical snow globe at the first sight of flurries. Seems innocent enough, right?

Well, when I’m not watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Home Alone 2 for the 80th time, tearing up when “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” comes on the radio, or obsessing over the placement of ornaments on my tree (perfectionism strikes again), you can probably find me eating all the delicious holiday goodies that come along this time of year.

On top of turkey, ham, and the wide selection of casseroles, you get fudge, cookies, cheeseball, cheese dips, and pretty much any other finger food you can imagine. It’s amazing.

This is the time of year a lot of people take a break from their diets and indulge. It’s also the time of year when the days are short and cold, and your couch and TV seem to call your name the minute you walk through your door. (“Nicole, come catch up on The Walking Dead for the next five hours. I already set out your favorite blanket.”) It’s not a good combination.

But there is hope. Whether you overeat because your stress from the holiday grind has reached Clark Griswold level or (like me) you’ve waited all year for your mom’s chocolate crinkle cookies, you don’t have to put your healthy eating and exercise on hold.

I realize it’s hard to control yourself when you’re surrounded by fabulous snacks in every direction. I go into my family’s celebration with the same strategy every year, and it’s not a healthy one.

On Christmas Eve, I skip breakfast, make ham-and-cheese pinwheels (my decade-and-a-half-long contribution to our family’s party), nibble on the ones that don’t quite make the cut, and consider that my lunch.

An hour or two later when I’m extra hungry from skipping two meals, I help my mom set out all our delicious cookies. I’m an expert in taste-testing.

Cookie pic 2
My mom is in charge of chocolate crinkles (my all-time favorite!), peanut butter, and molasses. I’m in charge of the iced sugar cookies.

Once my aunt’s cheeseball and grandma’s fudge arrive, it’s game over. I’m usually not even hungry by the time my dad’s secret-recipe glazed ham is ready. But I somehow rally like a true holiday-eating champion and get through that meal and an equally delicious meal the next day with the other side of my family.

How does the two-day affair almost always end? With a stomachache and a tinge of regret.

Here is the fabulous spread of delicious goodies. Notice the salad and bowl of oranges. Not everything is unhealthy! Full disclosure, I skip right over both of those.
Here is the fabulous spread of delicious goodies. Notice the salad and bowl of oranges. Not everything is unhealthy! Full disclosure, I skip right over both of those.

Holidays don’t have to end in stomachaches or regret. Here are some tips based on my own worst holiday habits to help you stay on track this holiday season.

  • Don’t cut back on sleep before the big celebration. I like to stay up late any chance I get, whether there’s a special occasion or I’m just watching Netflix by myself. I’m no better than the millions of kids staying up to wait for Santa. But research shows that not getting enough sleep can make you crave the not-so-healthy foods, which isn’t good when the not-so-healthy foods are everywhere.
  • Don’t skip meals to overeat at the party later. Sometimes I think skipping breakfast and lunch gives me a free pass to fill my body with chocolate. It doesn’t. It not only puts me in the wrong mindset, but an Ohio State study suggests that doing this regularly can also affect how your body gains belly fat.
  • Don’t stand around the snack table. This is my favorite place to camp out for the afternoon, but it makes snacking a little too convenient. I probably don’t need a 10th piece of fudge, but who’s counting? (This brings me to my next point.)
  • Keep track of what you’re eating. I started tracking what I eat at the beginning of December as part of a headache diary for my migraines, and my snacking has fallen way off since then. I can only imagine how much this tracking system will help me through the holidays. Any kind of food diary can help you see how healthy or unhealthy your eating habits are.
  • Eat something healthy. Sadly, despite what Buddy the Elf tells us, the main food groups are not “candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.” Mix some fruits and veggies into your holiday meals and snacking options, and eat the unhealthier options in moderation.
  • Keep yourself busy with something other than food. Play games (my brother and I are quite the Catch Phrase duo) or set up a tournament. My cousins and I have hosted all kinds of championship events, everything from table tennis to Guitar Hero to rock-paper-scissors (we must have been feeling either really bored or hyper-competitive that year). The more physically active and farther from the food, the better.
  • Keep up your exercise routine (or something close to it). If you fall off, don’t feel discouraged (and don’t eat more cookies to console yourself). Just start exercising again. It’s easy to make excuses, but if you’re like me, you’ll feel better physically and mentally if you don’t ditch the physical activity.

I hope to follow at least some of these tips this holiday season and hope you do, too. I’ve already tried pretending celery is chocolate. It didn’t go so well, but I have high hopes for these other more reasonable tips.

Happy holidays!

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Featuring Pear Recipes

Healthy Pear Recipes

This week we featured wonderful wintery, pear recipes to help you make the most of the fruit while it’s in season.

Pear Chutney Bruschetta with Pecans and Blue Cheese makes the perfect, rich holiday appetizer.

Pear Chutney Bruschetta with Pecans and Blue Cheese

 

Baked Pears with Walnuts and Honey are a delicious and healthy dessert, which also looks beautiful.

Baked Pears with Walnuts and Honey

 

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Pears and Brie are the perfect winter meal for the holidays.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Pears and Brie

Skinnytaste Stuffed Chicken Breast with Pears and Brie Recipe

 

This quick and easy Honey Pear Bread is a wonderful way to kick off your weekend.

Honey Pear Bread

 

Pear Sauce made from the in-season fruit is a great substitute for your kids’ favorite apple sauce.

Easy Pear Sauce

 

Cinnamon Pork Chops with Spiced Pears perfectly balances sweet and savory flavors.

Cinnamon Pork Chops with Spiced Pears
Image and Recipe via Favorite Family Recipes

 

Make this Spiced Pear Baked Oatmeal for a hearty holiday breakfast.

Pear Baked Oatmeal
Image and Recipe via Oh My Veggies

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Happy Kids from Safe Toys and Gifts Month

Safe Toys and Gifts Month

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month, so we had tips each day to keep the little ones in your life safe this holiday season.

Make sure you check all of the gifts your kids get for age, skill level, and developmental level before they play with them.

Right Gift for the Right Age

 

Look for toy labels that say ASTM, which means it met the American Society for Testing and Materials safety standards.

Toy Labels

 

If you give sports equipment, give protective gear with it, like a skateboard with a helmet.

Safety with Sports Gear

 

AblePlay can help you choose toys that appeal to different senses like sound, movement, and texture with research and reviews.

Smart and Safe Gifts for Kids

 

Be careful with balloons, which kids can choke or suffocate on when they break and deflate.

Playing with Balloons Safely

 

Throw away plastic wrapping after gifts are opened, which can be a dangerous for little ones.

Always supervise battery charging and read the warnings on chargers to prevent burns or electric shock.

Supervision When Needed

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