Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that seems to be completely focused on food. I don’t think that was the intention. Did you know that Sarah Josepha Hale petitioned the US government to make Thanksgiving an official holiday for nearly 20 years before it was adopted?! She believed so strongly that we should set aside one day (at least!) a year to focus on truly being grateful as a nation for the provisions God has given. The focus should be on faith, family, friendship, good health. But good health can’t be attained with the meal that many American’s eat on Thanksgiving Day. Which is such a shame, because the foods included are often some of the MOST nutritious options available! Here are a few tips to help make your Thanksgiving healthier:
- Simplify your meal. There really don’t have to be 20 different dishes. Choosing a menu of delicious, diverse dishes, heavy on plant-foods, and focused on fresh flavor can go a long way. This will also help make the meal easier on the host and anyone else cooking!
- Skip the casseroles. Sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, and squash are all traditional foods enjoyed on the Thanksgiving table and are packed with nutrition. But drown them in cream sauce, cheese and butter and that virtually negates their health benefit. Instead, try baking or roasted the sweet potatoes, saute green beans with a little olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon and herbs, serve corn on the cob and grilled squash with a spicy or herbaceous compound butter (where a little goes a long way!).
- Pick smart desserts. No need to forgo dessert altogether, but make smart choices. Pumpkin pie (homemade) is a great choice, since it typically has less sugar than many other pies and cakes. Crumbles are also a wonderful choice, since they don’t include the fat and calorie laden crusts that typically accompany a pie. Fresh fruit salad can also be a delicious dessert and a welcome sight after a heavy meal.
- Don’t drink your calories. A nice glass of wine can be a lovely addition to a fine meal, but don’t overdo it. Alcoholic beverages (or sugar-sweetened beverages) can add a lot of calories, but not much nutrition to your Thanksgiving.
- Get active. Whether it’s a walk around the block after your meal or a game of tag football in the yard, aerobic activity will help burn off some of the calories you eat. One fun tradition my family has had is to participate in a 5k on Thanksgiving morning which benefits our local food bank — it’s how we “earn” our turkey dinner!
Most of all, focus on the joys of Thanksgiving. Whether you celebrate with many or a few, have a table with a simple meal or a feast, each day is a gift. There are amazing blessings in every day — love notes from God. Count each one today. xo