Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I have fond memories of running in the Dallas Turkey Trot with my dad, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with my mom, and then, of course, watching my Dallas Cowboys with the entire family. But it’s time to get honest -- it’s almost un-American to not stuff yourself at a traditional Thanksgiving meal. There is a lot to be said about traditions and it’s the reason why we share the holiday with friends and family each year. It’s also the reason why we include delicious dishes such as stuffing, cranberry sauce (a personal favorite), and casseroles on our dinner table. After all, food plays a central role in family celebrations and holidays. However, it may be time to try some new traditions. Aside from the estimated 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat packed into the traditional Thanksgiving meal, we also must be leery about the sugar hiding in our favorite dishes. Normally healthy and good-for-you foods served on Thanksgiving tend to be weighed down with extra calories and sugars simply by our preparation:
- Cranberries: This generally healthy fruit tends to be a sugar trap due to the large amounts of sugar we put in to make a sauce. It’s even more packed down in the canned variety. Canned cranberry sauce contains about 5 teaspoons of sugar.
- Sweet Potatoes: Any other day, sweet potatoes are filled with important vitamin and nutrients. On Thanksgiving, however, they are often adulterated by adding brown sugar and marshmallows. A typical sweet potato casserole contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar.
- Pumpkin Pie: By itself, pumpkin is a nutritious gourd; however, it becomes weighed down with sugar and fat on Thanksgiving. To make it even worse, we often add whipped cream to it. Pumpkin pie with whipped cream contains almost 8 teaspoons of sugar!
It is important to have a plan of attack when headed to, or preparing for, your Thanksgiving feast. This list is by no means comprehensive, but may provide you with some new ideas or suggestions.
- Workout before and/or after your Thanksgiving meal. This year, some of our own Genesis PURE employees are participating in the Turkey Trot! Whether you take a brisk walk, play football, go to the gym, or shopping, make sure you get moving.
- Head to your Thanksgiving meal with a plan. Skip the typical cheese and cracker appetizer and fill up on fresh, raw vegetables. Opt for a glass of fruit infused water or club soda instead of a heavy cocktail or regular soda.
- Fill up your plate with ½ vegetables, ¼ protein, and ¼ starch or complex carbohydrates. In order to stave off overeating, start with a colorful salad. Conversely ending with a salad not only helps move food through your digestive system, but may help balance out the lethargic effect you feel after a big meal. Make your plate colorful!
- Pick your foods wisely: We are usually faced with a plethora of food choices at Thanksgiving. A large percentage of the traditional Thanksgiving meal contains carbohydrates, which are converted to glucose or sugar. Don’t feel that you have to eat everything in sight. If you only get mom’s pumpkin pie once a year, choose a small piece (avoid the whipped cream) instead of a roll that you can have any other time of the year.
- Volunteer to cook! Make the sweet potatoes, but skip the brown sugar and marshmallows. Bring a healthy side dish, such as roasted, herbed Brussel sprouts. If you normally bring mashed potatoes, substitute mashed cauliflower. Make baked apples for dessert, drizzled with apple juice and sprinkled with cinnamon. Challenge yourself to think outside of the traditional Thanksgiving meal plan.
If you are hosting Thanksgiving, use natural sugar substitutes in moderation. Make sure to adjust your oven temperatures accordingly. Substitutes include:
- Agave nectar
- ¾ cup pure maple syrup or raw honey for 1 cup granulated sugar. Note that cooking with honey may take away some of the beneficial properties. If you do choose to use honey, reduce the liquid by ¼ cup for each cup of sugar replaced and reduce your cooking temperature by 25 degrees.
- Fresh fruit juice
- Pureed banana
- Finally, what do you do with all the leftovers? Immediately box them up and send them home with your guests, see if a local charity will take them, or place them in meal-sized freezer containers and freeze them for a future special occasion. Try making a healthy soup with your leftover turkey but don’t be afraid to throw sugar-laden dishes away to help keep you on track days after your feast.
My final challenge to you would be to shift your focus from the carb and sugar-heavy meal and the potential to feel miserable the next day, to gratitude. Take a moment to pause, reflect, and remember what Thanksgiving is all about and enjoy being with your friends and family. If you do choose to indulge, get back on track the next day with your regular workout routine and healthy eating habits. Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
By Amy Kurtz BA, BS, CI-CPT, Certified Health Coach
Genesis PURE Wellness Education Specialist
This blog and its contents are provided for nutrition information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information and topics may not apply to every individual and sometimes are based on alternative healthy philosophies rather than traditional scientific views. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any health or nutrition concerns you may have. The information in this article is not intended to promote any specific product, or for the prevention or treatment of any disease and should not be a substitution any medical needs or advice.