What do you imagine when you hear “Thanksgiving”? Family? Gathering with friends? Flying or other means of travel? Those are all great “F” words with blessed meanings, but I always think of my other favorite “F” word…FOOD! Now, we eat everyday so, of course all of the above thoughts are what makes Thanksgiving special because you’re reminded of what to be thankful for in life. However, Halloween has just passed and some of us are still trying to clear our bowls of the leftover sweets. Now that Thanksgiving is here and we are all going to be socializing, let me help you avoid a few areas of adding extra poundage this year.
For most families, traditionally, your meal is centered around the main event…sound the trumpets! The bird! Yes sir, the bird is always the word for this holiday celebration. Turkey is among the leanest and most common bird you can choose from to have at your feast. A close second is chicken. Both turkey and chicken have white meat which is leaner than dark meat found in several other birds. They are also not fatty animals like pork or beef. When cooking, try roasting or smoking your white meat instead of deep-frying or self-basting. A lot of folks do not like turkey or may not want chicken, but choose to have a ham for the event. This is OK, of course, just be sure to watch your portion size when filling up your plate. Now, I know, I know, “But after eating turkey, it makes me sooo sleepy on Thanksgiving.” Well, true, turkey does contain L-Tryptophan, which has been proven to aid in sleep, but so does chicken and a lot of other food. It’s the other factors in the holiday that dub Thanksgiving the holiday of drowsiness.
Think about it, Halloween most people think of goblins and candy. Christmas is pictured with Christ, bright lights, trees, and presents. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is thought back to historically a friendly feast amongst rivals, pilgrims and indians, learning to collaborate with one another and live in unity. They gather around a large table filled with yummy fixin’s prepared by both parties. Another commonly used word when describing Thanksgiving is “feast”. What is a feast? It’s a “rich or abundant meal.” After bringing those points to light, When preparing for Thanksgiving, you make a list of all yummy food favorites and cook them all to appease everyone at your table. So, in conjunction with the L-Tryptophan in turkey, loading up on carbohydrates and fats only make the digestive system work in over time. Your body works as a team. If you have an infection in one area, the rest of the body sends their best to help make it better. In this case, your body redirects blood to the digestive system to help take care of the job which leaves a lack of blood flow everywhere else leaving you feeling less energized and sleepy. In addition to those factors, once L-Tryptophan is metabolized, it’s released as serotonin and melatonin which are the “relaxing” hormones. This has got me looking forward to my Thanksgiving coma.
When planning on side dishes, try to prepare seasonal fruits and vegetables. A popular side dish I plan on cooking tonight is butternut squash and Brussel Sprouts. This almost feels sinful to say, but try skipping the stuffing and gravy. Hello? You still there? Stuffing and gravy are both so hard to slim down when altering the recipe so, if these are your two favorites to indulge on, try scooping smaller amounts than normal. By the time you finish the other tasty sides, you may feel content. Remember, there’s also dessert (we’ll get to that in a minute)! Prepare a yummy seasonal salad with apples, pecans/walnuts, cranberries, feta or goat cheese, with a light dressing all on a bed of fresh spring mix. Make your dishes ‘skinny’ by altering some of the ingredients like limiting the amount of butter. Even better, eliminate it. Try using 3/4 cup of olive oil in place of every cup of butter that you would typically use in a recipe. If you can’t imagine a dish without the creamy, rich taste of butter, try the brand Smart Balance, Olivio, or Earth Balance. Those three brands have been backed by promising research to be the healthier route. Another place to eliminate butter would be on your baking pans. Instead, use parchment paper or cooking spray.
Oh, the desserts table. I have five siblings and five nieces and nephews and a child of my own. My mother is used to picky eaters and to keep up with everyones different palates; she bakes a little bit of everything. It’s mesmerizing to see and even more hypnotizing to taste, I promise you. My Mother-In-law bakes some of the best and most flavorful sweets I’ve ever tried. If she and my mother opened a bakery, Betty Crocker would be a thing of the past! Back to Thanksgiving, there is so much variety to choose from on the sweets end. Like the gravy and stuffing, it would be sinful to suggest skipping the sweets, so another way to jazz it up would be adding a little honey or stevia for sweetness and limit the sugar cane. Try using healthier options for pie crust like graham cracker and use almond flour for your cakes in place of traditional flour. Almond flour will add a good nutty flavor which is perfect for those who don’t care for the true nut texture. When baking with eggs, use 2 egg whites in place of whole eggs in a recipe. For example, if the recipe calls for one whole egg, use just the egg white and an additional egg (just the white).
My favorite beverage to have during the holidays is a nice cold glass of mimosa. It’s so sweet and light, it’s perfect for the occasion. When you’re choosing an alcoholic beverage, think of it as if you’re buying lean meat. You want to stick to your lighter in color drinks like vodka, rum, or gin in place of darker liquors. Although, like food, beverage companies have created their own version of “low-cal” drink options. Set out a bottle of chilled white wine or a Cabernet Sauvignon for the red wine drinkers. When searching for non-alcoholic drinks, set out a bowl of lemon and lime wedges for guests to add a little flavor to their waters. Also offer unsweetened tea, ginger ale, or sparkling water for other guests.
It’s a holiday suggested to feast, but especially if you’re like me and have three or four meals to meet for and houses to get to, always portion size, portion size, portion size. If you’re going to two in one day, half your portion size. Eat enough to feel content, but not too much that you have to loosen your belt. Yes, I know it’s delicious and most families wait an entire year to fix certain holiday dishes, but to stay as trim as your bird, opt for a to-go box instead of a second helping.
I hope this list helps when preparing your meals. Leave a comment if you have any other suggestions to help other readers. Happy Holidays, y’all!