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Celebrating a Healthy Thanksgiving

The proverbial Thanksgiving meal brings to mind images of buttery mashed potatoes, turkey with gravy, stuffing, creamy green bean casserole, mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows, cranberry sauce, pumpkin, cherry or pecan pie and many other tasty dishes. Who could pass that up?

Studies have shown that the average person will gain over one pound during the holiday season. While one pound seems harmless, research shows that this extra weight can be quite stubborn, still present a year later. When next year’s holiday season rolls around, another pound is put on and the cycle continues.

The average American will consume more than their fair share of food on Thanksgiving Day alone. Estimates on how many calories are consumed range from 3,000 to 4,500 calories just for that day.  Whatever the number may be, the fact is, Thanksgiving Day offers ample opportunity to “overdo it.”

However, there is a way to enjoy these classic dishes without going overboard, gastronomically speaking. Below are some tips to accomplish just that.

Start with smaller portions. This can be achieved in many ways. Using smaller plates gives the illusion that we are eating a lot as we fill it up. Another strategy is to cut down on the portions of each dish. Instead of two full scoops of mashed potatoes, try one scoop. You can always go back for more if you are truly hungry for more. Using these strategies allows you to taste a little bit of everything without overdoing it.

Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. This is one of the primary recommendations from MyPlate, and it makes sense. If you fill up first with vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and fruits, chances are you won’t feel that hungry for foods high in fat and calories.

Remember, dessert often follows the main meal. Pumpkin pie and other delicious desserts are often staples for Thanksgiving. To truly savor the flavors and aromas of these, eat them while you are still feeling slightly hungry. In the words of a child: “Save some room in your tummy for dessert!”

Beware of liquid calories. Good wines and other spirits may be offered during Thanksgiving. Juices and other sweetened beverages may be available to children. Practice portion control with these and try to drink water as well.

Get moving. It takes an average of one to three hours (longer if you are pregnant) for food to be digested. The more we eat and the more fat content is in the food, the longer it will take our bodies to digest it. To encourage digestion, take a walk after dinner or engage in another gentle physical activity.

The real purpose of Thanksgiving is..? Remind yourself that the celebration you are sharing with friends and/or family is about being thankful. It is about being with people you love and esteem while appreciating the blessings in your life. It is not about the food.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Depression during the holiday season

The holiday season is fast approaching, and we see lots of red, green, gold and silver in the stores and our homes as we prepare for upcoming celebrations. But for some, the dominant color of the holidays is blue.  Some may wonder, “How can this be?  I’m supposed to feel happy and excited, looking forward to spending time with family!”  Others may think, “How can the holidays be enjoyable when I have so much added stress with decorating, preparing meals, not to mention buying gifts when we hardly get by paying our bills each month. Where’s the money going to come from?” Finally there are those who may think, “I dread the thought of having another family argument at Thanksgiving because Uncle Jerry gets drunk and tells everybody what he really thinks!”

To survive, and even thrive, during this time, consider the following recommendations according to WebMD:

  •      Be realistic: There is no such thing as a “perfect” holiday (someone would have discovered it by now).  Concentrate on the traditions that make holidays meaningful for you and your family.
  •      Know your spending limit: Money is the largest factor for stress during the holidays, and is compounded by current economic strain.  Keeping your spending to a realistic amount will greatly reduce stress for both you and your loved ones.
  •      Share the tasks:  Expect (or allow) others to help with food preparation and other tasks.  Engage your children, grandchildren, nieces/nephews, etc.  in the preparation in an enjoyable manner to  continue old traditions or create new ones.
  •      Learn to say “no”:  It’s important to let others (and yourself) know you have limits.  Consider the positives in setting limits for others.
  •      Keep a regular schedule:  Eating, sleeping, exercising and limiting your alcohol intake are vital ingredients for managing stress and reducing depressive symptoms.
  •      Get support if you need it: This may be the first holiday season since the death of a loved one, a breakup of a significant relationship or seeing family member(s) you avoid due to conflict.  Although it may be difficult or embarrassing, asking for help can be more beneficial than doing it alone.  “Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” is a common myth for dealing with depression but it only further isolates individuals who need support.

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