Get Through this Year's Big Holiday Meal Marathon Like a Champ with Valerie Bertinelli's Foolproof Advice

Valerie Bertinelli 2017 Valerie's Home Cooking

And not just because Valerie Bertinelli was the one who suggested it. (But, really, how can you go wrong?)

As parents, it can feel like it's our job to build a season of magic and wonder for our kids during the holidays. Part of it can come naturally-- their innocence and curiosity and gullibility making us remember how great the holidays felt when we were kids. But part of it demands a little more work. (We're looking at you, giant holiday meals that require a lot of logistics and planning.) 

Getting healthy meals on the table for our family is hard enough during a normal (read: hectic) week. Getting holiday meals pulled together can be daunting. Overwhelming. A feat of mental and physical strength. 

Managing holiday meals does not have to be a stressful, complicated, drama-filled nightmare. Valerie Bertinelli-- celebrated actress, beloved Food Network personality, and hilarious cookbook author-- shared with us her secrets to surviving the holiday meal marathon with your sanity intact. Her advice was so simple, you'd think we'd have been able to come up with it on our own. "Put your family and your guests to work!" she told us, laughing.

More helpful tips from Bertinelli when it comes to making the holidays easier for yourself:

  • Get your prep done ahead of time. Bertinelli advises using the day before and the morning of a big family collaborative meal to get the loose ends tied up. It gives you the opportunity to be present and focused on quality time with your family once the guests arrive, instead of rushing around the kitchen in a chaotic flurry trying to sort out last minute timing issues. 

  • Let your guests and family help. We're all about it. So much so that we put together a new tradition inspired by Bertinelli's advice that is going to save us time, energy, and work in the kitchen. Added bonus: new serving plates and baking dishes! Check it out.  

  • Don't sweat the mistakes. Do not let your inner control freak ruin people's contributions to your holiday table. If someone handles a task for you and it's not done the exact way you'd have put it together, really ask yourself if it's worth getting upset over. If you didn't know what your own expectations were to begin with, would you have noticed? Chances are the answer is no,  and that it's not something you should, therefore, be spending your precious, limited time and energy on. Thank them for helping, and move on to the next item on your list. 

  • Get your kids involved. Tiny hands can be a big help if you give it a little thought.  Young kids are excellent cracker-layer-outers. They can crush crumbly casserole toppings with the best of them. Need someone to pour mixed nuts into dishes? There's a toddler who will do that for you with enthusiasm. Disclaimer: Results may vary. Supervision advised. Remember that you were going to have to wipe down that counter anyway, and remember what we just said about not sweating the small stuff (like spilled mixed nuts). 

  • Let your tools do the heavy lifting. "Do yourself a favor and get that slow cooker out," Bertinelli advises with sincere enthusiasm. She's right-- get out the tools that do the most amount of work with the least amount of effort. You have bigger things to worry about, like your toddler who just sorted out how to get the Christmas lights off the tree! 

  • Let the memories you make be merry. Bertinelli has warm memories from time spent at her childhood family table, and the holidays are a perfect way to connect with your kids over the meals you're going to share. "That's the way I first felt love," she told us. "It was always a family thing. At the end of the day, we all gathered around to have a family meal, and that's how we reconnected at the end of the day." Bertinelli went on to tell us that that's how her family taught her to have a genuine interest in other people's lives, and it's something she's handed down to her own son. We challenge you to use this holiday season to follow her advice: Remember that meal times are a chance to reconnect with your loved ones over delicious food. These are the memories your kids will share with their own children one day, how it felt to sit around the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table and laugh with you.

You can give recipes from Valerie's Home Cooking a try this holiday season. Our favorites are below! And if a taste of the book isn't enough, you can order your own copy here.

Excerpted from Valerie’s Home Cooking by Valerie Bertinelli. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. All rights reserved.