For most of us, Thanksgiving is a time to splurge a little; and to forget about healthy eating for a day. However, it is possible to have a healthy Thanksgiving. The following are nine ways to make your day nutritious and tasty, while not giving up on the Feasting.
1. Remember that the purpose of Thanksgiving is to be grateful for all that we have. It is primarily a day of thanks, not gorging. Food is only one of the many things we have to be thankful for; don’t make it the focus of the day. Begin the day with church or with a family turkey-trot (most cities have them). Our family always plays a big game of football at a nearby field with other families. It’s a way to get outside, exercise and have a good time.
2. Don’t starve ourselves to prepare for an afternoon meal. Many times we think if we don’t eat the rest of the day, we will have more room and can load up all at once (a “let the feasting begin…!” mentality). Breakfast or a small meal prior to the big one helps to stabilize metabolism and is a way to avoid gluttonous eating later.
3. If hosting the meal, think about serving it as a buffet, not family style. This tip is from physical therapist Alan Tyson, who says that if the food is all around us, it makes it too easy to serve up seconds (and thirds). If it is buffet style, we have to get up to get more, which Alan says will help us to finish what’s on our plate before thinking about eating more.
4. Scoop up the turkey and greens first, then add starch items such as bread, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. If we fill our plates first with vegetables and turkey, there won’t be as much room on the plate for heavy carbs like breads and stuffing.
5. Avoid the casseroles. Green bean casserole is a favorite around our house, but plain green beans (steamed) with garlic, salt and pepper (or other spices) are really just as good! Casseroles are filled with high fat ingredients like creamed soups, sour cream, and cheese, and usually contain lots of sodium. Provide lots of choices, like green beans, corn, and broccoli, so that everyone can find a vegetable they like…and they won’t even miss the casserole!
6. Instead of mashed potatoes, try mashed cauliflower. I never thought I would like this, but it is truly delicious. Pureed or mashed cauliflower is a great substitute for mashed potatoes. Low in carbs and high in nutrients, the “cauli-taste” is actually very mild after cooking. After steaming the entire head of cauliflower, break it apart with a fork and add about 1/2 cup of skim milk and 2-3 tablespoons of butter. Mash the ingredients in a pan and heat over the stove while pureeing with a mixer. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you are like me and have some diehard mashed potato eaters (#1 in our family makes great mashed potatoes and I wouldn’t think of depriving anyone of them), serve both the potatoes and cauliflower so that everyone has a choice.
7. Instead of offering white rolls, croissants, or biscuits, try more heartier varieties of whole grain breads such as pumpernickel, whole wheat, or even sourdough. Interestingly, a professor (Terry Graham) who is also a scientist who specializes in carbohydrates, has been looking into the health benefits of various types of bread. He found that sourdough was one of the most healthful, and says that it’s likely that the fermentation changes the nature of the starches in the bread, creating a more beneficial bread. At this time of year, bakeries in grocery stores are loaded with healthy varieties of breads (or make your own)!
8. Use real ingredients. Instead of buying store bought items, such as pies and cranberry sauce, make your own from scratch (yes, even the crust). My friend Janet, who will be spending Thanksgiving with us (and two of her sons as well), makes a wonderful homeade pumpkin pie. She uses strained pumpkin from the real pumpkin, and it’s delicious (here is a link to a recipe from momswhothink). Apple pies made at home can be heavier on the apple, and lighter on the sugar without affecting the taste. Making these traditional Thanksgiving recipes at home also provides lots of opportunity for family togetherness. My kids like to pair up with their cousins and have a Thanksgiving “bake-off” to see who can make the tastiest desserts!
9. Enjoy the day. Savor the food. Stay for a long time at the table with your family or friends. And don’t feel too guilty if you do splurge…there is always tomorrow to run it off! Have some coffee or tea with dessert (sample a few bites of all the desserts -just a small plate full) and simply be with everyone. I will have two home from college who we don’t see very often, so after all the cooking, and baking is done, my favorite part of the day will be to sit with them and enjoy their company….for a long, long time!
What is one of your favorite Thanksgiving recipe that is also healthy?