Oh how times have changed since the first Thanksgiving. While we still regard this as a day to be thankful for the food on the table and the family and friends with whom we share it, let’s face it, just about everything else is different. Driving to the supermarket to pick up cans of cranberry sauce, sticks of butter, and ready-to-cook turkeys does not burn as many calories as harvesting seasonal produce and hunting and preparing game without the luxury of modern conveniences. With the addition of fabulous high-calorie desserts and alcoholic beverages, not to mention couches and television broadcasts of football games, the modern American Thanksgiving requires a game plan to avoid unwanted weight gain.
It is absolutely possible to enjoy holiday meals without putting on an extra pound or two but it is important to be realistic. The “everything in moderation” approach may work for you if your family, unlike mine, has only one or two options per course (desserts in particular). Sample everything you’d like but in child-sized portions (about ½ or ¼ of the amount that you would normally take); using a smaller plate may be helpful here.
If you find it impossible to take small portions, try to stick to the dishes that are only available at the holidays and skip the foods like mashed potatoes and bread and butter that you could have any day of the year.
You are not alone if you are of the mindset that you are entitled to overindulge on the holidays and laugh at the suggestion to limit portions or hold back at all on what you eat during holiday meals. Instead, try to create a calorie deficit for yourself by fitting in extra physical activity or making lower-calorie food choices during the holiday months so that you can overindulge for a day or two. This is not the time of year to start a diet or exercise plan and expect to lose weight; weight maintenance is a more realistic goal. The generic recommendation is thirty minutes of physical activity (in periods of at least ten minutes) five days a week. Yes, it’s getting cold out, but a couple of fifteen minute breaks during every work day to take a brisk walk outside would be a big step in the right direction to keep off the extra pounds.
Don’t want to or can’t find the time to fit in any more physical activity? Look for sources of empty calories in your daily diet and reduce or eliminate them. If you’re a soda drinker, try giving up soda for the holidays. Have a sweet tooth? Limit the number of times per week that you have a dessert, or substitute a healthier dessert such as fruit for sweets.
Perhaps the people we are most thankful for on Thanksgiving are the ones that host and cook the meal. With all due respect to traditional family recipes, there may be some opportunities to lighten up the menu without compromising great taste. If you are willing, try using less sugar in your pumpkin pie or half the butter in your green bean casserole.
Finally, it would be great if we could all make an effort to use more fresh and less processed ingredients. While most of us are not harvesting our own corn or hunting our own turkeys, many traditional Thanksgiving foods are in season and can be purchased locally. What better way to give thanks than to support local farmers. Find locations, dates, and times for fall and winter farmer's markets at this link: http://www.ct.gov/doag/lib/doag/marketing_files/2011-2012_winter-holiday_market_listing.pdf