While most people view Thanksgiving as the most notorious meal of the year for over-indulgence and gluttonous calorie consumption, I propose that Thanksgiving may just be the most healthful meal of the year. Wow – did a dietitian imply that we enjoy Thanksgiving guilt-free? You bet. Here’s how:
1. Think beyond the main meal. November is National Diabetes Awareness month and Thanksgiving can be a tricky time for any of the 29 million Americans with diabetes. Plan healthful snacks such as pumpkin pie popcorn mix. California raisins are all natural, no sugar added, dried by the sun fruit with one ingredient: raisins. And a 12-week study of individuals with type 2 diabetes showed that regular consumption of raisins instead of snack crackers positively impacted post-meal glucose levels and systolic blood pressure. So to keep blood sugar under control, it’s important to keep the carbohydrate intake consistent throughout the day.
2. Think about the menu. First of all, it is a refreshing change to have a meal that is driven by culture and tradition instead of marketing. Food is not just about a calculated sum total of calories and nutrients, but also about tradition, culture and identity. So embrace your unique or typically American traditions when it comes to this yearly feast.
3. Veggies and fruits usually play large supporting role. Turkey may take center stage for this meal, but when you tally up all the seasonal veggie and fruit side-dishes, they often outweigh the bird when it comes to plate space. Healthful recipes of potatoes, yams, beans, corn, cranberries, fruit salads etc. are an excellent way to up the produce in your diet. This may be the one time during the year that Americans easily meet or exceed the proposed daily 9 servings of fruits and vegetables.
4. It’s homemade. Typically, the Thanksgiving meal is prepared at home. How many other meals can claim that ideal title during the year? With the daily grind and the hectic pace of today’s society, so many meals come in Styrofoam, plastic, or microwaveable cardboard. There’s a huge nutritional disparity between processed and prepared at home.
5. It’s enjoyed with family. We eat lots of meals with many loved ones throughout the year, but in reality, how many meals do we really enjoy? We may be squeezing dinner in between music lessons and soccer practice, inhaling it in the car on our way to some event or other, or zoning out with the TV at mealtime. Thanksgiving is a long, lingering meal that we savor, and enjoy while renewing relationships with those most important to us. This is a vital and often overlooked role of food.
The rest of our mealtimes during the year could stand to take a lesson from this yearly feast. So with the culture, tradition, produce-packed, homemade, enjoyable meal – I say thank heavens for Thanksgiving!