Thanksgiving is upon us once more, and with it comes enticing treats and splurges that we might otherwise pass on during the rest of the year. Will you still be giving thanks after your feast, or will you be left bloated and regretful? If you haven't already set your menu for Thanksgiving -- or even if you have -- take a moment to be mindful of your health and wellbeing.
Though most of us simply buy our food these days instead of working toward and waiting for harvest, Thanksgiving is still a time to be grateful for a bountiful harvest. There is an element of honouring foods as they are found in nature, and the goodness and health they facilitate. What are we saying if we reduce it to a time of indulgence to the point of discomfort, or a spread of artificial replicas of otherwise delicious and nutritious foods?
Five Ways to Stay Healthy This Thanksgiving
1. Keep it real.
Just as a harvest is only as good as the seeds sown, a meal is only as nutritious as its ingredients! Check labels carefully -- really reading them. A study done in the US found that consumers are likely to skim labels and trust whatever "natural" or "healthy" indication is splayed across the front -- even when the ingredients don't reflect that claim. So, if you do choose to use packaged foods or ingredients for your meal, make sure they have as few ingredients as possible and are all recognizable as food. Otherwise, still with real, whole foods, make your Thanksgiving feast. Using recipes for a slow cooker or preparing them in advance can help to make a real-foods spread without taking up too much extra time or effort.
2. Watch portions.
A day off surrounded by food can quickly turn into a day of nothing but food. Watch your portions when you eat, but also before and after the meal. Unless you are already fasting intermittently, skipping meals could actually trick your brain into justifying more indulgence. Instead, eat normal portions throughout the day and then enjoy your Thanksgiving meal as a time of special dishes rather than a time of supersized indulgence.
3. Keep moving.
Nothing keeps you from exercising on or around Thanksgiving or any other holiday. If you've got time off of work, don't divide the time between eating and lazing on the couch. It's a gorgeous time of year -- get outside and get moving! Walking is always beneficial, but if you only have a short amount of time, try high intensity interval training. A 2013 study demonstrated meal-processing benefits of HIIT workouts extending for 48 hours after the workout.
4. Go sprouted (or gluten free!).
Grandma's rolls are the best, and we wouldn't dare presume to do better -- but maybe it's time to nudge the recipe in a different direction. Use sprouted wheat, cultured sourdough, or gluten free recipes to make the nutrients more available and the bread easier for your body to process. Minimizing standard wheat carbohydrates and instead getting them from varied vegetables and grains changes the health factor of your meal significantly!
Don't stress! It's okay if the main course isn't quite right or you don't have the exact ingredients or a side dish flops. Even when meal choices are good, stress can negate any benefits of the food. So breathe easy! The point of Thanksgiving is to reflect on the year's work with your loved ones surrounding you. Taking it all in with a deep breath and a smile is one of the best ways to stay healthy this Thanksgiving -- no matter how rich the pie may be.