Navigating Food Choices On Thanksgiving Day!

What started for one purpose (to give thanks) inevitably turned all (or mostly) about food. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy this Thanksgiving.

All holidays are great but you have to love Thanksgiving. You can wake up and run a 10K road race, get home in time to watch most of the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade, sit around and watch football and drink beer while other people cook and then stuff your face since you burned off several hundred calories in the morning.

Then the next day when your alarm rings at 4 a.m. you may find yourself immediately turning it off and rolling over in your food-stupor and going back to sleep until 11 a.m. - well after the Black Friday sale items have been snatched up by eager beavers (or the insane as I call them).

For some countries dinnertime is about sharing with family and enjoying company.
For some countries dinnertime is about sharing with family and enjoying company.

Thanksgiving seems to create a state of food anxiety among many people across the U.S. What started for one purpose (to give thanks) inevitably turned all (or mostly) about food. Not that this is terribly surprising given our food-obsessed nation. For some countries dinnertime is about sharing with family and enjoying company.

Here, it's about how fast you can put food on the table and eat so you can get on to the next task (and yes I am eating a meal, or something that resembles a meal, as I type this article). Next thing you know you ate more than you should have, found yourself snacking later and a few weeks from now your clothes don't fit quite right.

Tips For Thanksgiving

So back to Thanksgiving - the holiday of all holidays that is centered around food and physique-unfriendly drinks. As you approach this day, what do you need to know? First of all, take the focus off of food and the notion of "good" food and "bad" food. Once you put a mental tag on a certain food as being "forbidden" you are setting yourself up to binge on it.

Food isn't "good" or "bad" the way a small child is depending on the day and what you catch them doing. Yet I seem to run into people all the time who like to educate me on what is "good" and "bad". French fries? "I never eat those, they are awful," an obese woman once told me.

Veggie chips? "Horrible! Those are the worst thing a child should eat!" several school nutrition employees once told me (all had one or more obesity related chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome etc.). "You are going to get high blood pressure!" my uncle has lamented after seeing me salt my food (of course he blames his hypertension on salt and not his obese abdominal area, i.e. fat gut).

Most people I know with a forbidden food list half as long as my nephew's Christmas list are overweight or obese. Why? They lecture anyone around them about what to eat and not eat, "diet" while others are around and then binge on those foods behind closed doors. So, if you don't want to look like them, skip the forbidden foods.

Don't treat Thanksgiving as an all-you-can-eat buffet. I don't remember the concept of buffets growing up. But I've found the South is loaded with them. People pay one small price and go in and stuff themselves on cheap-quality fat-laden food like they are eating their last meal.

There's nothing like a huge meal to prompt a heart attack or bout of acute pancreatitis. Please, do 911 workers a favor and don't put yourself in a predicament where you'll need their services. Here's a reality check: there is nothing that you will eat on Thanksgiving Day that you can't eat any other day in this country.

Pumpkin Pie? Check the freezer section of your local grocery store. Cobbler? Same place. Stuffing - rice/pasta isle. Seriously, food is everywhere and this isn't the last time (hopefully) you are going to eat whatever is served this day so get the idea of gorging out of your mind. I guarantee you'll only feel like garbage later if you overeat.

Don't diet during the day. If you eat very little all day you will overeat by the time Thanksgiving dinner is served. The idea of "saving" your calories for later doesn't work. Eat like you normally would so the desire to stuff yourself doesn't overwhelm you.

A Few More Tips

If you are watching your calorie and fat intake (and yes, this can be done even on Thanksgiving), fill up on salad or steamed veggies before digging into the casseroles and pies. Bring a veggie platter to the feast and snack on this while watching TV.

Beware of the side dishes. The majority of calories and fat come from the side dishes and desserts on Thanksgiving, not the main course (turkey). Even deep-fried turkey (if cooked at a high temperature - above 350 F , the entire time the turkey is cooking) without the skin, isn't that fattening. Casseroles and mixed dishes though? Expect those to help you pack on the pounds.

The majority of calories and fat come from the side dishes and desserts on Thanksgiving, not the main course, turkey
The majority of calories and fat come from the side dishes and desserts on Thanksgiving, not the main course, turkey.

Eat slowly and stop when you are full - novel concept, I know. Chew on this - do you really need another helping of squash casserole or pecan pie? The experience of eating it lasts a brief period of time. The weight you may add to your waistline usually lasts for weeks or years for some people. So, savor the flavors, textures and smells of the food on your plate.

Drink water or lower calorie beverages throughout the day. If you are drinking alcoholic beverages, alternate them with water, tea, Crystal Light or vitaminwater (B vitamins + tasty hydration).

Skip the seconds or go outside and throw a football after your first course. By the time you go in for seconds they'll be gone.

Choosing Thanksgiving Foods

If you really feel the need to eat a lot of food, take a look at the information below and at least be cognizant of how your favorite dishes stack up. Choose dishes with fewer calories and fat and eat those first.

If you stuff yourself with healthier options you'll have less room (I hope) for less healthy options. Here's a sneak peak at some common Thanksgiving dishes :

Serving Food Calories Fat
1/2 Cup Canned Gravy 60 2
1 Cup Dark Turkey Meat And Skin 309 16
1 Cup Cornbread Stuffing 360 17
1 Cup Sweet Potato Casserole 460 18
1/2 Cup Green Bean Casserole 200 10
1 Crescent Roll With 1/2 Tbsp Butter 150 11
1 Slice Pecan Pie (1/8th Of A 9" Diameter Pie) 503 27
2 Wine 246 0
1 Cup Mashed Potatoes Made With Butter, Whole Milk 237 9
1/2 Cup Canned Cranberries In Sauce 210 0
1 Piece Pumpkin Pie 316 14
1/2 Cup Canned Cranberry Relish 245 0
2/3 Cup Homemade Macaroni And Cheese 280 8
1 Cup Mustard, Kale, Collard, Turnip 252 24
1 Cup Pumpkin Pie 316 14
1 Cup Potato Salad 190 20
1 Piece Cornbread 188 6
1 Piece Sweet Potato Pie 340 17
1/2 Cup Candied Yams 210 0

Conclusion

Have a great Thanksgiving and keep these tips in mind. This holiday should be about the 3 Fs: family, friends and football. Keep your focus on the real purpose and truly enjoy the food you are eating and you won't start 2009 fighting with gym members over the allotted time on the cardio equipment.