Seasonal Tips from Guelph Faculty, Staff for Holidays

December 16, 2013 - News Release

With the Christmas and holiday season upon us, University of Guelph faculty and staff experts have some tips and advice on meal choices and preparation, online shopping, healthy living and New Year's Resolutions, wine selection and moderation in serving, and seasonal sensitivities.

The Holiday Meal

The holiday meal is a staple for many Canadian families, along with get-togethers with family and friends.

Food choices become more diverse at this time of year, says University of Guelph food laureate Anita Stewart.

“Turkey is still very much the centrepiece of the Christmas dinner, but more and more the holiday table is set with creative other dishes,” she said.

“As more people reach the conclusion that shopping locally makes sense, you'll find an array of great dishes that speak to the bounty of Canada, from beautiful lamb roasts and the best lobster of the year, sweet from the cold salt water of the Atlantic, to tourtière and, likely the most traditional, roast goose. But whatever is selected, it's usually a tribute to the family's personal food story.”

Stewart suggests a number of ways for people to purchase delicious produce.

“Most grocery stores are open very early, but to really embrace the season, head to your local farmers’ market to experience the real spirit of celebration,” she said. “Revel in the array of ingredients and the opportunity to thank our farmers. It's also where you'll find lots of last-minute gifts.”

To ease holiday hosting stress, involve others in food preparation.

“Do as much as you can ahead, and let everyone pitch in. Potlucks can be fun, but cooking together is the best.”

Online Shopping

More and more shoppers looking to avoid crowds and find deals are looking online for the best bargains.
Prof. Sunghwan Yi, Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies, says online shopping is easy -- but sometimes too convenient.

“It is so easy to buy things that you don't need and often do not really want, one after another, while surfing on the web,” he said.

“Try to create mental and physical pauses that help you stop and deliberate. For example, remove your credit card number and shipping address from online shopping sites. This way, you will have a chance to think once more whether you really need this item while entering your credit card number and shipping address each time you buy something.”

Easy online buying can increase your debt, including extended interest payments that can eat into expected savings.

“Put your credit card bill from last month or bank account statement next to your computer. Better still, your credit card bill from last January. This will help you remind yourself about your financial situation and be reasonable,” Yi said.

He cautions against over-purchasing and getting caught up in emotion.

“Keep a record of how much you have spent on your Christmas shopping so that you are aware of how much you have spent so far. Give a look at your wardrobe and try them on before buying anything in this season. You have more clothes than you think.”

Yi prefers to purchase electronics online and shop for clothes in stores.

“Electronics items are relatively easy to compare online on different sites. In terms of the best sites to shop at, you can look at websites for stores or for online retailers. For the most popular items, you have to move fast, or items will get sold out,” he said.

“In some cases, price match guarantees, where certain stores promise to beat competitors’ prices, generally by 10 per cent of the difference, can lead to increased savings. This takes time, so you need to consider if that time is worth the savings.”

Healthy in 2014

New Year’s resolutions often involve a more healthy diet. But often that resolution is short-lived, says Lisa Armstrong, dietitian in the Health and Performance Centre at the University of Guelph.

Six out of 10 people quit their crash diets within the first week of January and often gain back any weight lost.

Ask yourself: Could I eat like this for the entire year? If not, your changes are likely too drastic. “People look to make drastic changes immediately to their lives, and that can be the first issue.”

Reducing calories significantly can actually set your body into starvation mode. Your body will slow its metabolism in response, impeding weight loss.

“The big idea behind a New Year’s resolution that many people seem to miss is that you have the whole year to reach your goals. Set achievable goals, start small, and pace yourself. Where do you want to be at the end of 2014? Plan that now and take it slow — you will get there.”

Armstrong said the key to making a New Year’s resolution last is to make it enjoyable.

“Many of us seem to set harsh New Year’s resolutions that just never seem like any fun. No more chocolate, no more bread, no more wine! And no matter how hard we try, come the first of February, many of us find ourselves at the bottom of that box of chocolates we hid in the cupboard ‘for safekeeping.’”

Her diet resolution tips:

1. Aim for healthy weight loss of one to two pounds per week.
2. Reduce dinner portions by half and fill half your plate with veggies.
3. Don’t cut out every ounce of “junk” food immediately. Work out foods like candy and sugary beverages gradually, and replace them with more wholesome options.
4. Regular snacking on healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains keeps your metabolism running on high.
5. Plan one large meal per week that you can portion into lunches or freeze for quick meals.

In January, Armstrong will begin a seminar on diet, weight and health. The Craving Change series offers three workshops and a workbook for $75. All are welcome to attend, but space is limited. To register or for information, email

Wine in Moderation

What is the best wine to take to a holiday party? Which wine to serve with my meal? How can I get the best value for my wine purchases?

Those are some of the questions Prof. Joe Barth, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and Guelph’s wine expert, expects to hear this winter.

“Sparkling wines are always welcome and set a festive mood for any occasion, and go well with most foods,” he said.

“That said, food and wine pairing is over-rated. People who don't like red wine will not like it any better regardless of the type of food with which it is served. So-called transition wines are an excellent compromise, as they incorporate the red colour and fruitiness of red wine with the crisp acidity and lighter taste of white wines. Examples include wines made from the Gamay Noir grape, such as Beaujolais, or lower-priced Pinot Noir wines.”

For value, consider buying cheaper wines or larger bottles.

“You don't need to spend a lot of money on wine, unless you wish to do so. A cheap wine with a ‘classy’ label will be just fine in most situations. There are many good wines under $15 in the LCBO.

“If you are hosting a large party and want to do something different, large-format bottles from magnum (two standard bottles) to rehoboam (six standard bottles) are often available from the LCBO during the winter festive season. The cost is often not much more than buying the same wine in standard bottles.”

Serve guests in moderation.

“Always serve water with meals; wine is for taste, water is for thirst. For wine served with dinner, plan on half a bottle of wine per person over a two-hour period. For longer evenings, most people can safely have one standard drink per hour when consumed with food, to a maximum of four drinks. A standard drink is a five-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce bottle of beer or a 1 ½-ounce shot of spirit.

“People who are small in stature should consume less, while those taking certain prescription medicines, or suffering from depression or alcoholism should avoid alcohol completely. When serving alcohol during the holidays, less is always better than a little more."

Celebrate Diversity

Although the holiday season has traditionally meant Christmas, there’s a growing diversity of faith expressions within our communities, says James Vanderberg, a Christian Reformed campus minister and member of U of G’s Multi-Faith Resource Team.

During this season, people celebrate Luut’aa, Masá’il, Sharaf, Christmas, Maunajiyaras, Hanukkah, Tohji-taisai, Yule, the death of Zarathustra and Kwanzaa.

Some consider it overly politically correct to use the greeting “Happy Holidays,” but seasonal sensitivity is a matter of respect, says Vanderberg. “It’s important to recognize the faith-filled celebrations of other communities and grow in our understanding.”

Three ways to be both inviting and sensitive:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What are you celebrating this time of the year?”
2. Don’t be afraid to invite someone for dinner or to a specifically religious celebration.
3. Recognize that Christmas is a celebration for a specific faith community. Not everyone is celebrating Christmas, and those who are may not want the occasion tied to the marketing strategies of North American toy companies.

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