One of the things that I love most about the holidays is the sweet treats I make for my family. Gingerbread, hot chocolate and fudge are some traditional ones we try to do every year. But the thing I hate about the holidays can be the sweets too. Not that I am some Nazi about sweets, I just personally find that I don’t feel well if I eat too many — even naturally sweetened homemade baked goods. And while I try to be a moderate about sweets with my kids, I notice when they have crossed that fine line into “candy land” sugar load.
But the question I posed to myself is, why does “special food” always have to be sweet food? There are so many delicious foods that aren’t the least bit sweet. In fact, so many of our food traditions center not on the pie, but on the turkey, or chowder or other savory main dish. As adults, we can thoroughly enjoy a delicious meal without cake (as wonderful as cakes are). As parents, we can also try to make food fun for our children, even if it doesn’t have sugar in it.
Here are some of my non-sweet Christmas ideas.
Grinch or elf food: We have a handful of movies that we like to watch each Christmas season, and last year we decided to add "Elf" to the list. But if you have a movie night that includes a green Grinch or green clothed elves, then making a platter of "green" food to be enjoyed while watching the movie can be fun!
Why not make a green elf juice or smoothie? Or what about Grinch guacamole? There are a lot of naturally green foods (cabbage, lettuce, kale, broccoli, cucumber, celery, etc.) that you can adapt to this idea.
Christmas tree vegetable platter: This was born from one of my Pinterest pins. (Gotta love Pinterest!) The other day we were going to a small Christmas party, and my daughter wanted to bring this along to share with her friends. We thought it was pretty cute, and served it alongside some balsamic salad dressing (hummus or a blue cheese dressing would work, too!). (I snapped the above picture in insufficient lighting, so sorry about the lack of quality! We were going to a party and I only had a second!)
Holiday soup: We often had clam chowder on Christmas Eve growing up, which was a rich, delicious, nutritious meal that felt special without being sweet! My oldest also has a "birthday soup" which we make for her every year. It was her favorite as a toddler and I always make it on her birthday. Special food doesn't have to be sweet food. Sometimes it is also simply the tradition of having that dish on that special day that makes it special, too. Don't discount tradition. And since soups are so nutritious, easily feed a crowd, and are often frugal too, they are a good choice (and are perfect for cold weather).
Extra-effort meals: For many of us simple food rules the day (and simple food can rock, too!), but the holiday season can be a good opportunity to put a little extra time into making special foods. Like making homemade beef tallow French fries and grass-fed burgers, or tempura and udon soup, or sushi, or whatever speaks love to you or your family. While we certainly don't want to make any birthday or holiday simply about food, food can also speak loads of love to those we celebrate the season with. Making food memories for our children doesn't have to just be sugary sweets. Making sushi, making salad rolls, making rice balls — these all equal almost as much fun in this family as making a platter of cookies (can you tell my husband is half Asian?). While we will have a traditional ham feast on Christmas Day with extended family, it's also fun to create more simple, special meals on other surrounding days.
Chestnuts: If you haven't roasted or boiled your own chestnuts, do so now. I LOVE chestnuts. I adore them. I would eat them every day if I could. I bet a lot of people on paleo diets would enjoy them, as well (those who eat potatoes, and some starches). I give instructions for roasting them here, but we also enjoy them boiled. And besides, chestnuts just reek of Christmastime.
Nuts: But making roasted nuts of all kinds (peanuts, walnuts, almond, etc.) is a wonderful holiday treat. Add a bit of rosemary or other herbs, unrefined salt, and high-quality oil and then roast. You'll have a great treat. There are so many different flavor profiles and seasoning options you can do with this!
Popcorn: One of our favorite snacks is homemade popcorn (we own a stovetop popper and love it). We like it with grass-fed melted butter, unrefined salt, and brewer's yeast. So good! And, once again, there are a lot of different ways you can flavor popcorn. For a while I was sprinkling mine with an herb mix that contained rosemary and oregano. Super delicious.
So there are some of my ideas. I’d love to hear your ideas for sugar-free treats for Christmas, too!