How To Have a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

Eat-yourself-into-a-food-coma day, I mean let’s-weigh-ourselves-before-the-meal-and-then-after-the-meal day, I mean keep-grandma-away-from-the-wine day, oh wait… Thanksgiving is upon us, and when this holiday season appears, it can feel like we’re at a crossroads of pig out v. eat healthy. Let’s be honest– YEAH RIGHT, I’m not going to be eating leafy greens on Thanksgiving! It’s THANKSGIVING for the love of Turkey. Well bare with me hear as I indulge you with a thought… you don’t need to go on Turkey abstinence to have a successful Thankgiving meal, but we also want to avoid a “season of overeating.”

So here are a few of the tips I like to share this time of year:

  • Try Thanksgiving grazing. Load your plate with vegetables and whole grains and just a side of lean turkey. When the rest of the dishes and desserts are passed, choose one or two that you really want, but put just a spoonful of each on your plate – not an entire serving. That way you will get a taste of the holiday foods you love most, without overeating or feeling deprived. (Two foods I always skip are white potatoes and bread. What foods are you willing to skip this year?)
  • Try alternatives, not abstinence. I’ve roasted sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg instead of marshmallows, for a lighter, healthier dish that still shouts “Thanksgiving!” This year I’m making wild rice pilaf as an alternative to stuffing (see the recipe below). Yes, my sister’s bringing the traditional stuffing as well, but this way people can choose. And who knows? They may prefer the pilaf!
  • Don’t drink your calories. You don’t have to imbibe spirits to get into the spirit! I may have a glass of red wine with dinner, then switch to sparkling water with lemon. This year, for a dash of holiday whimsy, I’m going to muddle fresh raspberries and drop them into my water glass, stir, and sip!
  • Pace yourself. Remember, Thanksgiving kicks off a “season of eating” – if you let it. And this year, we’ve got a two-for-one – the first day of Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving. Don’t give in to the domino-effect that can happen from consuming large amounts of sugar, alcohol and dairy (and potato latkes!). Also, remember that food temptation is only one stress of the holidays; houseguests, family dynamics, kids home from school—all can send you running to the refrigerator. Try to be aware of your relationship with food and how you feel after indulging. Headache? Bloated? Exhausted? Moody? Why ruin your holiday by not feeling your best? Reducing or eliminating sugar, meat, alcohol and processed foods will help you avoid these symptoms, feel better and have more energy.
  • Don’t throw it all away. Even if you do over-indulge on Thanksgiving day, remember: it’s just one day. Don’t throw away all of your hard work by turning one day into a long-weekend marathon of eating. Stock up on disposable containers and send guests home with all of the leftovers. Find out if a shelter will let you bring uneaten pies, cakes and casseroles. You can’t eat it if it’s not in your house. If you have to, you can always toss out the temptations; after all, which is worse: throwing away food or throwing away your hard-earned health and wellness?
  • Find other ways to enjoy the holidays. Bundle up and take a walk after the big Thanksgiving meal. Organize a game of touch football. Pull out the board games and close down the kitchen. Build a fire and tell stories, or watch old family videos (remember those?). In our family, we go around the table and each of us shares what we are most thankful for this year. Everyone slows down for a minute and it reminds us what the holiday is truly all about:Giving Thanks.

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