At that time, all of my children and I (as a breastfeeding mom) had food sensitivities. So when the in-laws declared the menu, I was dismayed at best. All the food was conventional; the idea of eating organic was ridiculous to them. The family insisted on having a turkey made by the most popular mainstream vendor which is basted in butter… a problem for those who are dairy sensitive. Also on the menu were rolls (gluten), mashed potatoes (dairy), gravy (gluten), sweet potato casserole (dairy and sugar), corn bread stuffing (dairy and gluten), green bean casserole (dairy and gluten), apple pie (dairy and gluten) and pecan pie (gluten). There were a few other sundry items that weren’t part of my family’s food traditions, but they too were loaded with either gluten, dairy, or sugar. There were no other healthy items, and there was absolutely nothing on the menu we could eat.
To solve this problem for us, I offered to bring food to share. I was politely told, “No, that’s ok. We already have everything covered.” Frustrated, I replied that I would like to bring a salad so that I was actually able to eat something at dinner. I received a less hospitable “fine” response. So I brought an organic garden salad that was adequate to share with the entire gathering (plus we brought other foods for our toddlers). Of all the people there, I was the ONLY one who ate any of the salad.
Such is the way most Thanksgiving dinners in America go. People love to blame the tryptophan in the turkey for that horrible lethargic feeling we endure after Thanksgiving dinner, but the reality is that we gorge ourselves on an amount of carbohydrates that is sufficient for an entire week, not just one or two meals. Add in alcohol or soda to the menu above, and I would end up in a coma nowadays if I tried to eat as most Americans do.
So how can one go about enjoying Thanksgiving yet making it healthier? I’m not saying one has to banish all one’s favorites for sure. I am suggesting that one moderate and adjust what one eats. There are many ways to do this.
For starters, consider limiting the menu to a rational number of items. Do you really need to eat four different starchy sides at one meal in large amounts? Yes, they are all so delicious, but they can be delicious at several different meals over the holiday weekend. Make stuffing on Thursday, mashed potatoes on Friday, and sweet potatoes on Saturday. Serve one type of pie each day. This will limit the temptation to eat some of everything at every meal.
Another way to help with this overload, especially if you are not the host and therefore not able to limit what is being served, is to restrict yourself to one plate of food. You don’t need to go back for seconds. Start by loading the healthiest available items onto your plate, such as salad or roasted veggies. Then put on meat (if you’re not a vegetarian), and divide the remaining space between small portions of the carbohydrates that are being served. Don’t try to overstuff your plate. You are not starving, and you will be grateful not to feel miserable after the meal. Only have one small piece of your favorite kind of pie, and limit yourself to one glass of alcohol (or none if you don’t drink) coupled with a lot of water.
Switching to serving organic food can also help make Thanksgiving dinner a little less toxic. The contents of some of the most popular Thanksgiving dishes are really alarming. Still, it’s entirely possible to make a very unhealthy organic meal that is loaded with carbohydrates and sugars. Moderation is still necessary! There are also many websites for making items gluten and dairy free if you are having guests with special needs. I grew up in a family which used cornstarch, not flour, to make gravy, so some of the adjustments aren’t even that radical!
As for my house, we’ll be having a simple Thanksgiving dinner. It’s just my kids and me this year. Since two of us aren’t big fans of turkey, we’ll be eating an all-natural ham without preservatives like nitrates and nitrites. We’ll have organic dairy free mashed potatoes made from scratch, organic gravy, and some kind of organic green vegetable. The kids will drink organic sparkling apple cider, and then for dessert for the kids there will be organic pumpkin pie. We might make stuffing for them at some other point in the weekend, and we’ve also got plans for a lemon cranberry bread. I’ll probably make a ham, white bean and kale soup out of the leftover ham and bone. All in all, we’re not going to eat like this is our last meal. We’re going to be sensible and yet enjoy foods we love.
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