Taming Traditions: How to Make Your Feasts Healthier & Still Enjoyable


Chef Lisa’s back with her saga of Christmas celebrations past and present.

My husband grew up in an Italian American family in New Jersey.  A benefit of this is the observance of the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, an amazing event to behold.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this tradition, it is common in families of southern Italian descent to eat (at least) seven different seafood dishes the night before Christmas.  It has something to do with Catholic abstinence from eating meat and sometimes dairy products on holy days and Fridays.  On Christmas, it’s back on the meat train.  But Christmas Eve is all about things that used to swim.

For our first Christmas Eve together many years ago, I attended his family’s celebration.  My mother-in-law is an amazing cook, as was evident by the speed at which piles of beautiful, huge, delicious piles of food disappeared from her dining room table.  Deep-fried calamari, smelt, and shrimp flew off of plates like they were going out of style.  Dishes that were exotic to me, such as fried eel, stuffed squid, and baccala, vanished just as quickly.  I knew that this was a delicious tradition I wanted to continue.

Many years later, my husband and I were confronted with a conundrum; we celebrate Christmas Eve by ourselves in Vermont, and we try to eat reasonable portions.  Suddenly seven different fish dishes in one night (or even one day) seemed crazy.  But it just isn’t Christmas without all of Mom Ruggerio’s all-stars on the menu.

Luckily my husband had a great idea that started a new tradition for us: the Week of Seven Fishes.  During the seven days leading up to Christmas, we eat seafood.  All of our favorites from Mom’s feast make the menu, and we have some wiggle room to add in other ideas, such as French provincial mussels or a Portuguese seafood stew.  Instead of the insanity of preparing seven or more dishes in one night, we have a leisurely stroll down memory lane all week.  It prolongs the holiday celebration, heightens the Christmas anticipation, and keeps a tradition going in a healthier, less stressful way.

How can you make your feast healthier this year?

One response to “Taming Traditions: How to Make Your Feasts Healthier & Still Enjoyable”

  1. A week long tradition, what a grand idea. And I love it when the guys simply solve what seems like a problem.

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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