Healthful Holiday Eating Tips for You and the Food Pantry

While some of us struggle to stay away from too much food, others in our community struggle to get enough to eat.

Many dieters focus on food in a negative way: “I can’t have this,” and, “Oh, I shouldn’t have eaten that.” Food is seen as a constant temptation instead of a nourishing and powerful source of energy and health. At the holidays, it gets even worse for folks who struggle with their eating habits. Parties and treats at work can cause a downward spiral of guilt-ridden overeating.

While some of us struggle to stay away from too much food, others in our community struggle to get enough to eat. Record numbers of families are using food banks. Every year, the New Hampshire Food Bank distributes more than eleven million pounds of food to more than 400 partners, including food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, children’s programs, senior centers, and more. In Vermont, as many as 153,000 people are served by the Vermont Foodbank programs and network of 225 food shelves and meal sites.

Perhaps a way to help with both of these food struggles is to link them together. For those trying to improve their eating habits, not eating the second delicious pastry at a holiday party can be tough. But what if it wasn’t just you vs. the pastry? What if, instead, you considered a wider, more mindful view of food?

If you are attempting to stick with a healthy eating plan over the holiday season, why not actively reward yourself with your own personal food bank drive? Each time you practice healthy eating behaviors like paying attention to feelings of fullness and stopping then, or really being mindful about a treat and savoring it slowly, “reward” yourself by adding a canned good or other non-perishable food to a box you keep in your house. Donate these goods to the local food pantry. Both you and someone who hasn’t enough food will experience the gifts of healthy eating.

It might work this way: You make an effort to eat two pieces of fruit a day. So you buy a bag of apples and a bunch of bananas and eat them for snacks all week. At the end of the week, you put a can of fruit, packed in its own juice, into your food bank box. Or you try to eat two servings of whole grains every day, so you buy whole grain oats to make ahead and freeze for quick breakfasts and 100% whole grain quick-cooking brown rice for speedy meals. At the end of the week, you add a box of whole grain cereal to your food pantry box. Or you may decide to take a 30-minute brisk walk every day after work, and you donate cans of soup or stew to the box.

You can do this with your family or friends and make a holiday challenge game of it. You will be eating more mindfully in many ways—aware of the food choices you are making, savoring what you eat, and paying attention to hunger and fullness cues. You may find yourself more grateful for the wealth you have, realizing that you have access to so much food, you have to be careful to not overeat, while helping those who are less fortunate.

Food banks are especially looking for these foods: 
Canned tuna, chicken, and beans such as kidney and black beans
Reduced-sodium soups
Whole grain pasta
Peanut butter
100% juice boxes
Canned fruits in light syrup or juice, applesauce
Canned vegetables, tomatoes and tomato sauce
Whole grain breakfast cereals

Financial Donations:
$1 helps provide 10 meals!

For more information:
The New Hampshire Food Bank
The Vermont Food Bank

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Allan Reetz is the Co-op's Director of Public and Government Affairs. Contact Allan at areetz at coopfoodstore dot com.