If you are in the United States, one of our biggest feasting holidays is less than two weeks away. Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday because of it’s focus on friends and family and a great meal. I love to cook and I love to eat.
But the holiday can also be filled with temptation, horrible over-filled feelings, and guilt about eating too much. It is even possible that the holiday could trigger high sugar and carb overload until the New Years resolutions hit.
I believe that the best way to enjoy the holiday season, without guilt, overindulgence, or weight gain, is to be very intentional about it. Decide whether you want to indulge in some decadent treats. Decide what, when, and how much. Savor every bite. Don’t feel guilty and don’t keep eating.
Here are some ideas to help you have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving:
1. For the big meal, choose one or two items that you are going to indulge in. What is that item that you really look forward to each year? It may be full of sugar and even unhealthy fat. If you are cooking, go ahead and make it with the traditional recipe if it will add to your enjoyment of it. Decide ahead how much of it you want to eat. Chew and enjoy! Then consider leaving some or all of the dish for your host, or sending it home with guests if you are hosting.
2. For other traditional (to you and your family) side dishes that you love, make healthier versions of them. How? Find a new recipe or experiment. Most recipes have WAY too much sugar. Eliminate or try natural sweeteners such as dates, bananas, or apple sauce. Replace unhealthy fats with healthy ones. Here are some of my favorites that I make often during the holiday season: a vegetarian and healthy gravy, pumpkin pie (it does call for honey and maple syrup; I think it tastes fine with half the sweetener – I prefer the syrup and leaving out the honey); and egg nog.
3. Add new, healthy, side dishes to the mix.
A nice salad.
Roasted vegetables (for example, cut into approx 1/2 inch pieces: 2 carrots, 1 onion, 1 sweet potato, 1 turnip, 3 cups brussels sprouts halved – add 2 tbsp high heat oil, stir. Could spice with curry or salt and pepper. Put on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until done, approximately 30 minutes. It is difficult to overcook. The amount of vegetables could be increased greatly.)
Sweet potatoes: thinly slice sweet potatoes (1/4 inch thick or less), line in a pan alternating with thinly sliced leeks, sprinkle with cumin and 1 Tbsp butter. Continue layering this way until you use all of the potatoes you want (depending on the size of your crowd). Cover and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes, or until soft.
3. If you are going to someone else’s home for the big meal and you are worried about healthy options, go ahead and bring something you know you can fill up on. Bring a lot, others will probably be excited for the healthy option too!
4. If you are hosting and worried that your guests will not like deviating from their traditional dishes, let them know ahead of time. Ask them to either bring their traditional favorite, or they could decide to make it at their own home to enjoy later.
Holidays can be a wonderful time and can also bring a lot of stress. Creating intentions ahead of time can go a long way in making them closer to the side of wonderful. This includes what you eat, but also other behaviors. Staying with family that you know will be difficult, what is one behavior that you can include to make it more manageable? I have chosen to walk for two hours a day during a tough family time. I decided ahead of time, and it greatly improved my visit. And I think it was better for everyone else too because I was much more present with others knowing that I would take two hours for my own walk. What might stress you out, and what can you decide to do before you get into the situation to help it run more smoothly?