Okay, so let’s get real about Thanksgiving and trying to maintain your heart healthy habits. Thanksgiving is a celebration built around food. Which, in itself, isn’t a problem, but that celebration has morphed into a non-stop parade of overindulgence. That is a problem.
A turkey dinner doesn’t have to derail your healthy eating habits. Spending time with family doesn’t have to be stressful. But, often both are true. This year, instead of tips about substituting chicken broth for butter in the mashed potatoes, let’s get real about how to navigate Thanksgiving with your self respect, sanity, and belt in the right place.
- Savor the meal. Thanksgiving dishes are delicious. Enjoy them. Really. Eat slowly, savor the flavors, and enjoy the aromas. Take reasonable portions. This isn’t a meal to be wolfed down.
- Leave the plate dirty. You are too old for the clean plate club. We all are. If you took some of Aunt Sally’s odd looking casserole and don’t like it, don’t eat it!
- Bring something you know you like. If you aren’t hosting this year, volunteer to bring something you know you will like and will fit your healthy goals. Perhaps a nice green salad, or some green beans without all the “fixings”.
- Prepare some table topics. If conversation around your holiday table sometimes gets tense, have some topics ready. Avoid the traps of politics or religion and try something such as:
- If you only had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
- If you opened a restaurant, what kind of food would you serve?
- Who is the funniest person you know?
- If you won a shopping spree, what store would you choose?
- What smell reminds you of your childhood?
- Drink water. Not only will drinking water make you feel full more quickly, alternating water with more adult beverages will help keep your head clear.
- Take a walk. A walk between dinner and dessert is a great way to get some fresh air, some space, and some exercise.
Mind the clock. We often schedule the holiday meal at an odd time, rather than at a typical lunch or dinner hour. This can be disruptive to your internal clock. Do what you can to keep the day on schedule, especially for children. Don’t starve them at lunch time, they will be cranky by the time the 3:00 dinner is served. Plan something light later if the holiday meal is in the middle of the day.
- Keep perspective: Whether you are hosting or a guest, remember no one will recall the turkey or how long it took to get to the table. This holiday is about the being thankful for the people around you and the blessings in your life. Take the time for extra hugs (especially for the harried cook). If you slip away from your good eating habits, don’t beat yourself up. Get back on track on Friday!
- Breathe: When things start to overwhelm you, remember to breathe. …in through your nose, and out through your mouth — more out than in. Blow out the stress and give yourself permission to enjoy.
- Disconnect: Just for a few hours, disconnect from your electronic gadgets and focus on the people around the table. No calls, no texts, and no tweets. Without the distractions you may be surprised how well you connect.
- Remember the thanks: Thanksgiving should be a day to slow down, take a break from your usual busy life and look around. What is good in your life? Who gives you joy and comfort? What are you thankful for this year? (And don’t forget to thank the farmers and ranchers who produce the food we eat!)Wishing you a happy, and healthy Thanksgiving!