Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Preparing for the Holiday Meal

It’s important to prepare yourself for the upcoming Thanksgiving meal when the national norm is overeating to the point of discomfort. Maybe in prior years you tried skipping breakfast and lunch, and then found yourself gorging on seconds and thirds when the stuffing was passed. When sitting down to a holiday meal, ask yourself what you really want. Try to distinguish between the foods you think you want and the foods you really do want. For example, the mashed potatoes may look good, but Aunt Betty brought them and sometimes she cooks ‘from a box’…so they might not be that satisfying. And the rolls…you can get these rolls at the bakery any day, but Aunt Linda’s corn pudding is a once a year specialty.

Think about how you will feel after the meal. Do you want to feel your stomach in your throat and have to loosen your belt? Or, would you like to feel full but not ‘bursting’? Before you eat is a perfect time to focus on how you want to feel when the meal is done.

When filling your plate with the bountiful spread, visualize your plate in thirds. Divide your foods into categories of protein, carbohydrate, and vegetable, and fill your plate in those proportions. For example, turkey is a protein, braised brussel sprouts would be the vegetable, and carrot soufflé or sweet potato would be the carbohydrate. Life is full of choices, and this meal is just another one. Choose the carrot soufflé or the sweet potatoes, or a half portion of each.

Slow it down. Put your fork down between bites, engage in conversation, and chew your food. During the time between dinner and dessert, why not suggest a family walk around the park? Take a half hour to go outside stretch your limbs. When dessert comes, check in with yourself to see how full you already are. Try filling your plate with fruit salad and including one special treat. It’s less about depriving yourself, and more about focusing on how much you really need. This is a holiday about being thankful. Be thankful that you can get up from your chair without feeling stuffed and uncomfortable, and that you have learned healthful ways of treating your body.

Get Rid of the Excess Food

This eating season from Halloween through to New Years can generate a lot of excess food. From leftover candy to leftover turkey and trimmings to leftover holiday cookies and pie, leftovers are sometimes hard to part with. If you are one of the many who can’t bear to throw out good ‘leftover’ food, don’t fret. Tossing the jello salad into the trash does not directly help feed the hungry, nor does ‘finishing it up’ or ‘getting rid of it’ by eating it. If the only way you know how to get rid of leftovers is by eating them….here are some options that will help keep the pounds off.

First of all, pace yourself. Finishing the pie in one day to ‘get rid of it’ isn’t a great strategy. If you love it, have a small piece a few times during the week, while making sure to eat your normal healthy diet throughout the day. It’s possible to incorporate holiday foods into a healthy diet. Slice turkey to top a big green salad, have a portion of stuffing as your starch at dinner. Have a high fiber cereal and fruit for breakfast and save a sliver of pumpkin pie for a snack.

If you don’t want to eat it, do what everyone else does…bring it to the office! Co-workers will be delighted to partake of your leftover corn pudding. If you really don’t want the temptation of leftovers for weeks on end…do you guests a flavorful favor. Since this is the season of giving, gift your guests with dinner for two. If guests are at your home, they won’t have leftovers. So share the wealth. Go to your local Chinese restaurant and purchase some take-out containers. During the holiday festivities, have the children decorate the boxes with stickers, markers, and ribbons. When the meal is over, hand each guest a box for them to fill with leftovers. It’s a great way to teach kids about giving and moderation. Your guests will be delighted at the thought, and you will have put your leftovers to good use.