Denise Nowack, RD

As we leave Thanksgiving behind, just the thought of another round of holiday entertaining seems overwhelming and exhausting.  Don’t despair.  Here are four simple strategies can help you relax more, stress less and enjoy good times with family and friends the next time around.


Plan ahead

  • Sketch out your holiday “game plan” in advance, including recipes, shopping lists, supplies…and who will help. 
  • Keep your menu simple.  Holiday meals are often times of overwork…and overeating.  Serve one appetizer, a salad and a side dish with the main entrée.  Your guests will thank you, too!
  • Delicious dishes don’t need to be complex or difficult to make.  Look for recipes that have 5 ingredients or less and keep preparation steps to a minimum.
  • Make out a shopping list.  Keep a piece of paper near the refrigerator and note the items you need.  This will save time at the market and ensure you won’t forget key ingredients

Pace yourself

  • You can lighten the load on the “big day” by including dishes you can prepare days, weeks in advance.  Use freezable dishes for part of your menu.  Some sauces or dips even taste better when the flavors get to blend for a few days in the refrigerator.
  • Recruit a partner.  All good chefs have assistants.  Find a family member or friend who will work beside you helping to gather the things you need, clear the clutter and clean as you go.   Enlist the kids to set and clear the table.
  • Collect your stuff.  Avoid running around the kitchen by gathering all your ingredients and equipment before you start meal preparation.  Then take a seat!  Once you collect everything you need, pull up a stool to the counter, or sit down at the table to assemble your ingredients.  This will help keep you from tiring before the meal is even served.
  • Be realistic and take on only what you can comfortably accomplish and ask others to help with the rest.  A potluck can be a great way to share the load and enjoy your time together rather than stressing over the stove.

Purchasing Power

  • Buy ready-to-use.  Purchasing pre-cut produce, shredded cheeses, jars of chopped garlic and other products of convenience can cut cooking time by 15 minutes…and save even more of your energy.
  • Know where you can opt out of cooking.  Instead of trying to make everything from scratch, relax and be merry with the help from your local market.   You can pick up party trays, side dishes—even a complete turkey dinner from the deli section of your grocery store.  Serve them in your own bowls or platters— no one needs to know.
  • Start your grocery shopping in advance.  By purchasing ingredients that can be stored in your freezer or cupboards you can make shopping more manageable and help minimize the time (and wait) in the crowed stores in the week before the holidays.
  • Go online shopping.  The task of grocery shopping can be exhausting.  Save your precious energy by calling on the help of your local supermarket.  Many offer low-cost delivery services and are as easy as a click of a button at your computer. 

Pack it Up

  • Enjoy the fruits of your labor in the days ahead.  Wrap up leftovers right after dinner in meal-sized portions.  Pop into your refrigerator or freezer for instant dinners that can be easily reheated.
  • Do a “Leftover Makeover.”  Have an idea on how to use the extra turkey and vegetables in tasty dishes the following day.  Here’s one that can come to life in just 15 minutes.

Easy Turkey Potpie

½, 15 oz. package refrigerator pie dough
Cooking spray
1/8 tsp kosher salt
2 cups cooked turkey, cubed
1 ¼ cup frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup frozen mushrooms (or fresh mushrooms quartered)
1, 10 oz. can of reduced-fat /reduced-sodium condensed cream of chicken soup
1 ¼ cup water

Cut 3, 4-inch circles out of dough.  Place on greased cookie sheet and spray tops lightly with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt.  Bake dough at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden.

Combine remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.  Spoon 1 cup of turkey mixture into a bowl.  Top each with a pie crust.  Serves 3 (serving size: 1 pie)


[tags]denise nowack, stress, holiday stress, eating, nutrition, healthy recipes[/tags]