Every year when November rolls around, I think of Thanksgiving and how I always looked forward to it as a child. It meant the start of the Holiday season–that magical time of year when your favorite old Christmas shows were on, your schedule filled with get-togethers with friends and family, and, oh, so many different kinds of food that we only had that time of year. I’d wake up Thanksgiving morning to the scent of turkey in the oven and the sounds of pans clanging together in the kitchen.
Thanksgiving was special at our house. As the youngest, I always looked forward to seeing my brothers and sisters return from college. Extended family came for dinner, too, each bringing a special dish to share.
My sister-in-law usually showed up with her marinated vegetable salad–one of my favorites. Aunt Barb brought her cooked red cabbage dish–none of us are quite sure exactly how she made it. And Mom always made her fresh cranberry sauce–who wants canned?
We greeted our guests at the door and added their dish to the rapidly growing mountain of food on the table: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, green beans, dinner rolls with butter, cranberry bread, pumpkin bread, pickles, olives, milk, wine, sparkling juice for the kids, and dessert–apple pie, pumpkin pie or other desserts. Phew! That was a lot of food! But unless I’m mistaken, it’s still a fairly typical Thanksgiving feast.
Food always has been, and probably always will be, an integral part of Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, the average American consumes around 3,000 calories in that one meal alone. That’s more than most people need in a single day. If you add in calories from the other meals and snacks you’re well over the recommended intake for the average American.
Now, before guilt sets in at the thought of eating all that food, let’s get something straight. Don’t feel guilty. We should eat and enjoy good-tasting food–food that God so generously provides for us. We should eat with a spirit of thankfulness and joy as we share our table with others. But too much isn’t wise either. Thankfully there are some simple things we can do to make our Thanksgiving a little healthier, while still enjoying the food and fellowship.
- Plan a simple table – You don’t have to have three kinds of bread, two kinds of potatoes, and four kinds of dessert. Choose those items that you absolutely love and go with them.
- Find and replace – Choose to serve healthier choices over less nutritious food. Serve fresh veggies with hummus dip instead of chips and ranch dip; or try a stuffing made from quinoa or wild rice instead of traditional bread stuffing.
- Eat intentionally – Be aware of what you eat, when you eat, and how full you are. Always sit at the table when you eat–don’t graze. Take small portions of the food you like best. Savor it, and stop eating when you first start to feel full. Remember, it’s okay to leave food on your plate.
- Take a walk – Put on your walking shoes after the main meal instead of lying on the couch. You’ll burn off some of the excess calories that you just took in.
- Eat joyfully – Don’t let guilt spoil time with family and friends. Enjoy your food, because one meal alone doesn’t destroy a healthy lifestyle.
- Concentrate on conversation – Converse with friends and family during the meal. It will help you eat more slowly and, as a result, eat less.
- Be of service – Serve others and stay busy helping. You’ll have less time to eat, but more spend more time interacting with others.
- Focus on gratitude – A healthy Thanksgiving isn’t all about food. Yet food is a vehicle that drives us together to celebrate and give thanks for all the blessings in our lives. Thanksgiving is a time to share our table with others, while deepening relationships and forging new ones. That’s what it’s all about; and it’s a healthy, joyful attitude that’s good for us – body, mind, and soul.