Holidays are steeped in tradition, and no holiday in the U.S. has more food based traditions than Thanksgiving. Turkey’s a must (baked, fried, on top of a duck inside a chicken - oh the places you will go!), casseroles (pass the butter & cream, please!), sugar laden pies and of course stuffing, stuffing and more stuffing. It's also the most traveled holiday of the year, meaning that many of us will be outside our normal element fighting off Grandma as she tries to say for the third time today, "What's wrong with a little chocolate for breakfast - the kids need their calories. They're growing like weeds." Thanks Mom!
These two factors, combined with the added stress typically brought on by holiday gatherings, can have you knee deep in cookies and butter cream in seconds. But don't fret. We've put together a few simple tips to help you get through the holiday without the five extra pounds and with your sanity intact (if you don’t have any to start with then consider it one less thing to worry about - lucky you).
Got travel? Pack snacks.
The biggest mistake we make, time and again, is not adding snacks to our packing list. "We'll stop on the way" or "We'll just grab something at the airport." Roadways and airports offer little variety or choice in the healthly food department and are incredibly expensive to boot. Head to the store and pick up of as many hand-held whole food snacks you can get your hands on. Nuts and dried fruits are great for travel and can be great for grazing pre & post Thanksgiving dinner. Portable fruits like clementines and frozen grapes are also great grab-and-go snacks (bananas also work but bruise easily so I suggest leaving them at home). Need something more? Pick up a few bags of Go Chews for the whole family to enjoy. They travel well, are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, and will give you the energy you need to get through the holiday craziness.
Never show up empty handed.
Maybe you're the one cooking this year. Maybe you’re just contributing a side dish. Maybe you’ve been told, yet again, to just bring some wine (well maybe you’re not the best cook). Whatever the case may be, bring something healthy that you love and you know your family (kids especially) will enjoy. Other adults can fend for themselves. Try any of the recipes on the momme meals blog to bring along or simply make the family favorite. With many of our recipes, much of the work can be done in advance, making "game day" super easy.
Freeze now or forever hold your….piece of pizza.
When push comes to shove and hungry mouths are screaming, delivery can be the easiest solution. Avoid having the delivery guy call you by name and use the weeks leading up to the holidays to pack away a few freezer meals. Try making a pesto for a quick pasta dinner or cooking some hearty soup or stew that even your significant other - who has been known to cook with oven mitts on both hands - can pull together in a snap. Time, sanity and dollars. All are worthy of being saved.
Substitution is the mother of reinvention (and the saver of lives).
Simply removing unhealthy family favorites from the Thanksgiving table could result in picket lines and protests. Yes, Grammy may be fragile but she knows how to lead a revolt and is not afraid to get a little blood on her hands. So avert any disaster by tweaking some of those traditional dishes to be a bit more healthy. For savory dishes, pull back on the fat content and slightly reduce the amount of oil or cream used. If your leeks call for butter, try olive oil or another healthier fat instead. If you find yourself to be a bit heavy handed on the salt, take a look at our post on The Salt Balance; sometimes all a dish really needs is a few fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon. If you're baking, take a look at our Holiday Recipe Swap: Baking for ideas on how to make that sinfully sweet treat just as delicious but with a little less sin.
Make new healthy food traditions.
Every family tradition starts somewhere, so why not make some new ones? Give new recipes a try this year - healthier ones - and add them to the spread on the table. If you hear, "this is my new favorite" you have a winner. If you notice that the dog seems to be eating better than anyone else at the table, go back to the drawing board. There are hundreds of incredibly delicious healthy recipes available online and on our Go...Blog so give one or two a try. Ask for family feedback. Have a healthy recipe contest. Make it fun and get their buy in. If it's going to be a new family tradition you'll need it.
Ask for what you need.
So often we tell family or friends, “just bring yourself” because we got this dinner for 20 with two kids and a newborn thing covered. Next thing you know, the door bell rings, you're behind on dinner and Uncle Tim & Aunt Barb are standing there holding something even your pets aren’t sure is edible. Why not just ask for what you really want and/or really need? Ask guests to make a dish and let them know about any dietary restrictions. Be specific and send over recipes. I'll admit, sending a recipe may seem a bit ballzy, but why not? Did you really want to do the meal on your own? Ask for help in your kitchen. Invite the friends and family you like most (gasp - I know you love them all equally) to come over early with a bottle of wine (or mocktail if you’re pregnant) and help you get ready. So much can be done the morning of or the night before and will help make "game day" a little less stressful.
Be Active (Together) - Sure you may have been running around all day - but have you really been running? Make a commitment to yourself to get in some exercise each and every day of the long holiday weekend. Wake up early and get in 20 minutes before the craziness ensues. Take a walk outside. Have the kids, family members and friends join you or go out by yourself while guests entertain each other. Remember that if it's not on the calendar it will never happen. It doesn’t have to be much and a professional gym or your yoga mat is not required. Just get yourself in motion and follow this pattern – Breathe. Walk. Breathe.
When it comes to the Thanksgiving table, just do the best you can. Remember that every little healthy thing you incorporate is another great step in the right direction. So eat well, relax with loved ones, and enjoy!