Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to stay healthy on Thanksgiving, 2013….

Today's Post:  Tuesday, 11-26-2012  

There are two ways to a healthier Thanksgiving Dinner.

Yesterday's post was about ways to prepare a healthier Thanksgiving Dinner.

This post today is mostly on how to stay healthier eating a Thanksgiving Dinner no matter how it's fixed.

There's no perfect way to do either. 

The focus at Thanksgiving & at Thanksgiving Dinner must be on enjoying the day.  Enjoy the food.  Enjoy the company.  And, enjoy the time off work!

My Brother in Law once said at Thanksgiving Dinner that he did NOT want to hear anything about what he shouldn't eat for Thanksgiving Dinner just in case I had any ideas of doing so.

I didn't then; & I won't this year.  I agree with him.  I believe as he does that the focus at Thanksgiving & at Thanksgiving Dinner must be on enjoying the day.  Enjoy the food.  Enjoy the company.  And, do nothing to distract from that focus.  If anything, help make it happen instead!

That said, here are some ways to stay a bit healthier and leaner and still enjoy the food.

1.  Focus on the people.  Find out what people have been doing and catch up with what's been happening with them.  Enjoy the people you enjoy; and be mellow, courteous, gracious, and if necessary, a bit forgiving with the rest.

2.  Practice the strategic sandwich method.  Before and after Thanksgiving, eat a bit less food and make virtually all of it be the healthiest you know how - and, keep up your exercise routine to the very best of your ability at least two weeks before and particularly for the two weeks AFTER Thanksgiving.

If necessary, do some kind of workout in your room if you are away from home or cut the intensity a bit; but do your very best to exercise several days a week the two weeks before &  after Thanksgiving (& before Thanksgiving next year.).

This method works.  Once when I was getting the amount of exercise each week that I should be before and after Thanksgiving and eating right otherwise, I ate very well at Thanksgiving to the point of being very slightly stuffed.  And, I gained ZERO pounds for November and December both.

 A couple of years ago, blogger Vera Tweed came up with a delightful strategy for thinking about this that I read.

Her idea was to think of the Holiday Season the way an athlete trains for a competition.  Focus on eating right and exercising as if you are in training during the Holiday Season.  Every meal that isn't a holiday dinner or other event, at all your other meals, eat right and only eat right.  And, make sure to exercise during this time.

Her idea that I liked best is to start NOW to do this instead of waiting until January when all you can do is catch up and repair the damage of the holiday season as many people do!

3. During your Thanksgiving dinner, eat strategically.  Eat well from the healthiest foods; eat a small portion for one serving only of the less healthy foods that you enjoy; but have them and enjoy them; and do your best to edit out the worst for you foods.

a) The turkey and the vegetables are the best for you.  So eat well and generous-sized but not very large portions.  (You need to not overdo those so there's enough to go around and YOU have room for at least some of the other foods.) 

Cranberry sauce may have sugar and even some kinds have high fructose corn syrup; but the cranberries are a superfood you likely don't eat often; and they add a festive air and are a great pair with turkey or gravy and mashed potatoes, flavor-wise. 

Cranberries are, along with organic wild blueberries the most health enhancing berries on the planet.  (You can also ask to bring a version you make at home with thawed diced organic cranberries from the frozen food section at Whole Foods with zest from organic oranges and diced organic raisins.  That will have some sweetness and extra flavor with no added sugar or HFCS to worry about!)

Many people rarely have green beans or Brussels Spouts or yams or sweet potatoes or cooked onions; but they are often served at Thanksgiving.  They are all good for you.  And, they fill you up so it's much easier for you to eat smaller portions of less health OK foods than you otherwise would.  If they aren't your favorites, try pairing them with a good tasting food.  Eat some green beans and then immediately eat a bit of stuffing with gravy and cranberry sauce for example.

A recent article even found evidence that the alpha carotenes in carrots, squash, yams, sweet potatoes, darker greens, and broccoli may be as effective or more in turning off cancers as raw broccoli or cauliflower do with their cruciferous vegetable phyto-nutrients.  Alpha carotene was found to be connected to a 39% lower risk of dying from any cause the study reported.  Even better, when cooked and eaten with fats or oils, the carotenes of all kinds in food become more bioavailable and likely to benefit you.

Believe it or not, that specifically means that the filling in pumpkin pie is good for you!  For this nutrient, cooked broccoli works in fact.  Yams or sweet potatoes or the filling in a sweet potato pie are also good for you.

Last year I tried making a dairy free pumpkin coconut oil pie filling.  I used two 15 ounce cans of pumpkin puree, the free flowing 9 ounces from a 13 ounce plus can of coconut milk.  I used about half a tablespoon each of allspice, powdered ginger, and cinnamon.  I added about that much dark molasses and 2/3 cup of dark brown sugar.  I stirred those together until smooth over low heat in a cast iron frying pan large enough.  I then whisked together 3 extra large raw eggs in a separate container.  Then I poured that into the rest and using the whisk, I stirred it in for several minutes until it was thoroughly cooked.

I then let it cool enough to be OK putting into the refrigerator in a glass container large enough.

When I tasted it the next morning it was delightful.  I’ll serve it with a bit of pumpkin pie spice to sprinkle on top for people who want that traditional flavor.  But, just as I fixed it, it had more flavor and tasted far better than 95% of the pumpkin pie fillings I’ve ever had.

Serving it by itself this way makes it gluten free and grain free as well.

My wife found out that nonfat Greek yogurt plus dark molasses also work in a pumpkin pie filling as a substitute for evaporated milk.)

If raw vegetables are available in a relish tray, the cruciferous ones and the ones with carotenes are the best for you.  Broccoli florets, radishes, carrots, and cherry tomatoes are particularly good. 

Have very little dip unless you know what's in it.  Some dips have hydrogenated oils.  One year my wife wanted to just buy a dip and all of them but one had hydrogenated oils!

My wife and I bring the relish tray.  One year we were bringing sour cream with nothing added and hummus with the container showing the ingredients for dips.  Hummus is good for you but avoid overdoing it to leave room for the dinner.  Sour cream is OK in small amounts occasionally; but don't overdo it.  We were bringing guacamole; but no one but me ate any before, so I no longer do that.  But if your family likes it, do bring some.  It's actually a good for you dip.

b)  Stuffing, particularly if it was cooked inside the turkey; gravy; mashed potatoes; the filling in the pies, and many other dishes have great flavor but include less than healthful ingredients.  If you are exercising and eating right otherwise and have no serious health problems to be very careful of, the strategy I use is to have some of them; but hold myself to one small serving.
That way I enjoy them but avoid overdosing my system with their less OK ingredients.  And, having had turkey and vegetables first I don't have room left to eat a large amount anyway.

c)  Soft drinks, rolls, biscuits, pie crusts, most commercial jam currently, and candied marshmallow topping for sweet potatoes are the worst foods and drinks for you in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  Simply don't eat many of those or to the best of your ability pass on them.  Or, if you do eat some, have tiny, quarter of normal sized portions.  And, only eat the ones that you most enjoy. 

If you've already eaten well from the healthier foods that's much easier to do. 

Here's personal example of that.  I've always loved pie, including the pie crusts. 

But I've found out since that many, if not most, of the pies I'm likely to get at Thanksgiving have crust made with refined grain flour and Crisco, which is basically massive amounts of Trans fats (aka as partially hydrogenated oils). 

What I do now is take small servings of my favorite pie or pies & only eat the fillings.  So I can enjoy cherry or blueberry pie filling, pumpkin pie filling, and/or candied pecan filling; but I leave the crust.  The only exception I might make is to have one single bite of a browned bit of crust since it has the most flavor.  Two years ago I didn't even do that as I no longer had room for it.

This year my wife is making pies with a gluten free flour she has pre-tested to work to make decent pie crusts AND she used Kerry Gold Irish butter from grass fed cows which we bought at Whole Foods. 

Butter tastes about three for four times better than Crisco in a pie crust. And though you want to avoid eating too much butter too often, hydrogenated oils are such a potent heart attack starter, butter is about ten times better for you!

4.  A relish tray with the best for you vegetables and good tasting dips that have no hydrogenated oils and pies with crusts that have no gluten and use real butter from grass fed cows, illustrate another method. 

Arrange to bring foods that you know are good for you or less harmful and which others will also like.  That way you for sure have foods at the dinner you can fill up on or eat at all when you otherwise might not.

5.  Limit your alcoholic drinks to one or two or at most three if you drink.  And, drink when you first arrive or at the start of the Dinner.  That way, if you need to drive afterwards, the effect will have mostly worn off plus it will be buffered by the torrent of dinner.

I found out the hard way once that if you drink much more than that, it prevents you from enjoying the people you really wanted to talk with.  That year I only really got to have the first half of Thanksgiving and lost the rest. 

(Some people are better off not having any alcohol.  They may be unable to stop at 3 if they have 3 or have to drive soon after the dinner and late at night and not metabolize alcohol well.)

 The Martinelli's sparkling juices in yesterday's post over ice can be a decent festive substitute. 

I love the flavors in a Bloody Mary.  So I also recommend the Virgin Mary drink as it has almost the same flavor. (Unfortunately, the Virgin Mary mixes have high fructose corn syrup and are not very good either so only get a Virgin Mary if a real bar tender is making it or you make it from an online recipe you’ve tried and liked.)

Since I first wrote that, I have since tried Bloody Mary mixes that had bad ingredients and tasted worse!  So be sure to use or have a version with health OK ingredients and that you already know tastes good.)

Red wine is a bit better for you and goes with the dinner. 

And, if you do have more than 3 drinks, leave later or stay overnight -- or to be safest, have someone else drive.  That way you can enjoy Thanksgiving next year too!

Do the best you can with these strategies.  Enjoy the day and the people. 

Have a happy Thanksgiving!  

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