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The Morning After…

December 28, 2010

Well, the winter holidays have finally passed, and with them I have learned yet another lesson about food and the choices I make around food. Well, not really a new lesson, but pretty much the same lesson I learn every year at this time. You see, I have a dirty little secret… I love refined carbohydrates. “What!”, you gasp in disbelief.  “Is this the same man that just three days ago preached to us the great sin of white flour and sugar?” Indeed. But I am only human, and how many people do you know that don’t swoon at the smell of fresh baked cookies, go weak in the knees for a homemade apple pie, or gaze longingly at a chocolate croissants in a bakery window. I am no different. In fact, I may even have it worse than the average Joe, because one of my favorite hobbies in the entire world is baking. And in our family, the holidays are completely built around food. Perhaps that is the case in your family as well.

Last night we hosted a big holiday family dinner at our house. Well, I can’t really say that it was that big–we just had my sister-in law and her husband, and my mother and father-in law over for dinner. But you must understand, this is not typical for us. We have a TINY house and fitting just the four of us and our two dogs into the dinning room can be a challenge, so having guests of any kind is pretty rare. But this year we offered to host our annual “Hanumas” dinner. Coming from a family that is half Jewish and half Christian, we blend the two holidays into one festive celebration that incorporates traditions from both holidays, as well as traditions unique to our family alone. This year we decided to have a Jewish themed meal, and I was more than excited for the opportunity to cook for someone other than my kids, who typically turn their noses up at anything that isn’t smothered with peanut butter.

I planned the menu for weeks. I poured over Jewish cookbooks and spent hours scrolling through my favorite food blogs. Finally I decided on sweet potato pancakes, cheese blintzes with fresh strawberry sauce, roasted brussel sprouts with carmalized  onions and mushrooms, roasted chestnut cookies, and pumpkin pie. My mother-in-law was bringing homemade matzo ball soup and a pecan pie, and my sister-in-law was bringing lox and bastilla almond cigar cookies. It would be a feast of feasts! And it was. I actually ate quite well during diner. I enjoyed a small amount of each dish, focusing primarily on the vegetables and soup. Not bad. But then it was time for dessert. Four large desserts for six adults and two small children. Definite dessert overkill. Even so, I maintained my sanity in the face of all that sugar, and managed to only have a small portion of each dessert. And yes, they were all divine! Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. And just like the mountain of dishes that awaited my wife and I at the end of the evening, so too did a raging case of heartburn, several hours of indigestion, and a pounding headache that started up right about the time I was ready to collapse into bed. I might have been able to sleep through the headache except for the fact that my wife was tossing and turning the entire night (she refuses to admit it, but she absolutely cannot sleep after eating sugar). And, of course, I was greeted this morning by that wonderful morning-after sugar hangover that I have come to know so well.

So, was it all worth it? Perhaps. It was Hanumas after all, and Hanumas comes but once a year. But what about next week when we go out to dinner with our friends? Or on Valentines Day? What about all of the leftover jelly beans and chocolate bunnies that will be sitting in the office break room on the Monday morning after Easter? What about my birthday, my wife and kids’ birthdays, the dog’s birthday? You name it–there are countless special occasions to celebrate and usually a plethora of unhealthy foods with which to do it. We all need to decide for ourselves where we draw the line when it comes to healthy eating, but it is important to remember that we are the sum of our actions and eating this way regularly has very real consequences–both for our physical and mental health. If everyday becomes that “special occasion” that warrants an extra cookie or a side of fries, soon that becomes our regular way of eating, our regular way of living, and consequently, our regular way of feeling. And that is when this way of eating really becomes dangerous–when it becomes regular and when the way it makes you feel starts to feel normal. So I am glad I had my Hanumas dinner, and I am glad it made me feel so terrible. It is not normal for me to eat that way and the reminder of how it makes me feel is a good one. It was that reminder that made it easy for me to choose NOT to eat leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast, but instead have my Morning After Smoothie. What are your favorite morning after remedies?

Morning After Smoothie

1 peeled orange

1 peeled lime

1 banana

Soy milk (or any milk)

Ground flax seed

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. You can also add a couple of ice cubes for a more frozen treat.

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