Turkey and gravy and pie, oh my ... Tomorrow marks the beginning of yet another holiday eating season. Are you gearing up to starve yourself for the big day? That is not necessary or even a good idea. Thanksgiving is a holiday steeped in traditional foods, and it only comes around once a year. We certainly enjoy the fellowship of a special meal with family and friends. But it doesn't mean that we can't be sensible about what and how much we eat either. Sometimes there is just SO MUCH food to eat that even if we take small portions, our plate is still overloaded!
Several studies have shown that men and women gain about one to two pounds of weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It might seem like you gain five to 10 pounds during that time, but most people do not. However, most people don't lose those one to two pounds after the holidays are over, either, which then contributes to slow and steady weight gain through the years. Fortunately, those pounds can be avoided with some mindful strategies that you put into place today, before the holidays actually start.
Most Americans are notorious about underestimating the size of portion that they actually consume. So you need to be honest with yourself when it comes to acknowledging what and how much you eat. This one factor can make a difference of several hundred calories to even more than 1,000 calories in just one meal. Often we think that one portion is the amount we put on our plate. But what size portion really is it? Check the Nutrition Facts label and see what the portion size is and then take out your measuring cups and spoons and see if that is the portion size that you really take. For example, if you take a "scoop" of mashed potatoes how much is in that scoop? One half cup would be one serving of potatoes, and one half cup of potatoes would be about 80 calories.
Once you have determined the size of the portion, then what else did you add to the original food that might also contribute calories? Using the same example of mashed potatoes, gravy immediately come to my mind. How much gravy did you put on those potatoes? A serving of homemade gravy is often listed as containing 50 calories for a two tablespoon serving. That might seem like a pretty small amount to you and so four tablespoons (or 1/4 cup) would be about 100 calories. Also think about what else you might have added to the potatoes, such as milk or cream, butter, etc. It's easy to see how the calories can count up quickly.
There are some traditional family recipes that you just don't want to tinker with on the holidays. After all, favorite recipes for stuffing or pie are a treasured part of the holiday. But there may be other side dishes that aren't so traditional and can be lightened up without any complaints. For example, instead of scalloped corn, could you serve green bean almandine? How about a making a salad out of favorite fresh fruits, such as strawberries, blueberries or tropical fruits? Do you really need to have a bun with butter when there is already so much food on your plate?
These are some things to think about as you make your plans for tomorrow and the upcoming month. Awareness and portion control are key points for holiday eating. May you all have an enjoyable and safe Thanksgiving holiday.
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. In addition to her column, you can also find nutrition tips and ideas on the blog she writes at www.averastorycenter.org.