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4 Tips to Build Your Own Holiday Food Traditions

Sharon Palmer

Before you get bogged down in December holiday fatigue, take a deep breath and enjoy today. Savor a few simple moments that you create for yourself, whether it’s sipping an aromatic cup of cinnamon orange tea or taking time out to decorate holiday cookies with your preschooler. One of the very best things about the holiday season is reflecting upon and renewing the food traditions of years gone by. Perhaps you remember your grandmother’s gift of a mandarin orange, your mom’s special nutty fruitcake, or your dad’s wicked hot chocolate. We all have traditions that stretch back to distant times and places. It’s important to keep these food traditions alive by handing them down to the next generation, especially during this special time of the year. It’s also a great time to (BYO) build your own new holiday food traditions that are uniquely your own—a statement of where you are at this moment in time. Pass them down to the next generation of sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, students, and friends. Maybe twenty years from now they’ll be remembering those traditions with a wistful smile, too. You have the next few weeks to create a new food tradition. What will it be? Here are my tips for BYO (build your own) holiday food traditions.

4 Tips to Build Your Own Holiday Food Traditions

Pomegranate Avocado Quinoa Salad

1. Build a food tradition around place. Like many people in this country, you might not live where you grew up. I was born in Seattle, but have lived in Southern California for 25 years. One of my new holiday plant-powered traditions involves trips to the year-round farmers market to buy seasonal winter produce, like chard, citrus, avocados, apples, and pomegranates to appear in Mediterranean-forward dishes. What’s your place? And how does it impact your holiday cuisine?

Rosemary Roasted Pistachios

2. Build a food tradition based on food—at its source. The holidays are all about enjoying delicious food. But what if you dig just a bit deeper and celebrate food at its very source—the soil. Instead of reveling in party buffet platters and tubs of candy, how about reveling in the simple beauty of foods au naturel! Think a basket of harvest nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts, and pistachios) on your coffee table, literally chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and a bowl of winter citrus fruits—grapefruit, blood orange, and tangerines—brightening up your breakfast table.

Peter’s Pepparkakor

3. Build a food tradition with a nod to the past. Even brand, spanking new traditions can have a glance back at the past—even with a modern plant-powered translation. My husband’s childhood in Sweden is the perfect backdrop for favorite new dishes, such as Swedish pea soup (minus the ham!) on a blustery night and pretty, open-faced beet sandwiches (with hummus!) for a light lunch.

Vegetable Tofu Pho

4. Build a food tradition that makes you smile. What with the crazy hustle and bustle of this season, the last thing you need is one more chore, like creating a new food tradition, right? But it doesn’t have to be a big deal. And it doesn’t have to be stressful. Consider this: In some cultures, cooking is cherished as an honor, because that means you are blessed enough to have food to cook a healthful, nourishing, delicious meal for your family. It is like a precious meditation, as the cares of the day melt away while the onions start to caramelize in the pan and the spices warm the kitchen. What if you just take time out one night during this entire month and create an inspiring meal that is a labor of love for you. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet work of art! It could be a Vegetable Pho (one of my family’s favorites!) shared at the table together—each one building it they way they like it. Or perhaps it might be a Sunday dinner with a slow cooker filled with a savory vegetable stew and home-made rustic rye bread baking in the oven. Maybe it’s a wonderful pear crisp (my favorite recipe is in The Plant-Powered Diet), with several hands pitched in to slice the fruit, and then all enjoying those sweet smells while sipping mugs of coffee in the kitchen. Whatever your new plant-powered food tradition, I hope you’re smiling!

Please share your own plant-powered food tradition by tagging me @SharonPalmerRD on Instagram or Twitter.

I wish for each of you the most joyous of holidays. Sharon

For other plant-based holiday inspiration, check out:

45 Plant-Based Holiday Vegetable Recipes
Dietitians Share Favorite Holiday Traditions
Dietitians’ Top Nutrition Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Image: Swedish Saffron Rolls, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

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