I often find myself wondering how Thanksgiving has evolved to become a carbohydrate lovers dream! Stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls; and that’s all before dessert!
Perhaps it was fine to eat that way hundreds of years ago, when people routinely worked in the fields, chopped their own wood, and grew their own food. But the metabolic requirements of today are vastly different, and diseases of the time represent the change in our environment and our health habits.
Many of my patients are overweight and have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Others have difficulty properly digesting carbohydrates, leading to an increase in blood sugar levels. I’ve been working with them around the challenges of healthy eating throughout the holiday season, and especially Thanksgiving.
A patient told me the other day that she felt it was virtually impossible to not gain weight during this holiday. She described how once she sat down at the Thanksgiving table, with all the family and all the food - will power, planning and control were all thrown out the window. She desperately wanted help to figure out a new way to approach situations such as these.
Holidays are usually accompanied by food, and Thanksgiving has become a serious food event. Here are some perspectives that have worked for my patients. Some of these you might have heard of or thought of before. The idea is to pick and choose the combination that feels right for you.
1. Have a metabolic shake before you go to the dinner.
Your stomach will be full and this will decrease your food cravings, resulting in smaller food portions.
2. Skip the appetizers.
This is a pet peeve of mine. I’ve seen people consume what would normally be their dinner while hanging out with their friends, unconsciously eating and drinking. If you can’t do this, then bring a platter of carrot, celery and radishes with some hummus to enjoy during this time.
3. Have a Gluten Free Thanksgiving meal.
This really is not as difficult as it sounds. Gluten Free bread is easily found in all major supermarkets throughout the country, and is just as easy and tasty to use for stuffing as regular bread. It is also easy and delicious to mix the Gluten Free bread with some rice, wild rice is especially delicious, and then continue with your usual recipe to make your traditional stuffing.
Eliminating gluten improves your gut health and lowers your inflammatory quotient. Being Gluten Free eliminates many of the foods that may look good on the table but are not so good for you when in your stomach.
4. Control your portion size.
Don’t let someone else put food on your plate. A good thing to know is that one heaping serving spoon equal ¼ cup of food. If food is being served family style, it’s easy to take your plate to where the food is on the tale to serve yourself. Many families have a buffet, and that makes it very easy to have control of both what is on your plate and how much of it!
5. Change your self-image.
Start to use the phrase “I’m a petite person” in reference to yourself. It might feel strange at the beginning but eventually it will start to impact your behaviors in ways you couldn’t imagine.
6. The many days of THANKSGIVING!
Yesterday a patient was listing all the things she wanted to eat on Thanksgiving. I realized there were too many items to fit on a plate, more or less eat in one sitting. So I proposed she break down the items into Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.
A breakdown of the food on your plate can look like this:
Day 1: Turkey, 2 serving spoons of stuffing, cranberry sauce, vegetable.
Day 2: Turkey, 1 serving spoon of sweet potato dish, cranberry sauce, vegetable.
Day 3: Turkey, 1 serving spoon of mashed potato dish with dab of gravy, cranberry sauce, vegetable.
Notice I didn’t suggest using gravy until the mashed potatoes were on the plate! Although these are often a Thanksgiving tradition, I have a recipe for a much lighter and healthier version. And your guests won’t even know the difference!
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
1 large head organic cauliflower
2 Yukon Gold organic potatoes
¼ stick organic unsalted butter
¼ cup organic half & half, or heavy cream
salt & pepper to taste
Steam the cauliflower until soft.
Peel the potatoes, cut into same size pieces, and boil in salted water until tender.
Strain the potatoes and put into bowl with the cooked cauliflower.
Heat the cream with the butter until the butter has melted and the liquid is warm. Poor over the potatoes and cauliflower.
Mash with a potato masher.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
This idea really worked for her; she took leftovers home and divided all her favorite items into three different days. A total win situation for her; she got to eat all of her favorite things and she didn’t eat to the point of being over stuffed!
7. Don’t forget to “give back”.
There are always others who are not as fortunate as we are. I dropped off 2 turkeys to a battered women’s shelter this week and asked the director what she thought she would need for the women and their children for the Christmas holiday. Helping others like this is a joyous activity for me!
I wish you and your family a healthy and joyous Thanksgiving!