(NaturalNews) How many families have Thanksgiving where the extended family gathers together at a long dining table, full of a bountiful feast, with more food than they could all possibly eat in that one day? Is it also often followed by a menagerie of pies laden with meringue and whipped cream? And how many families follow up the feast with a long afternoon of couch warming, watching one ball game after the next? How many of these families feel terrible the next day, due to overeating and lack of exercise?
Thanksgiving doesn't have to be an unhealthy holiday. If one is hosting Thanksgiving, it's easy enough to control a large amount of the food preparation; however, eating elsewhere presents its own problems. Either way, there are certain things to keep in mind if one wants a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.
Be Careful about the Meat
It's advisable to avoid the usual suspects - turkey and ham - altogether, if possible. Not only does consuming animal protein on a regular basis contribute to heart disease, cancer, and more, but mass-produced meats may also be the culprits of the usual treatment of meats in America: meaning they could be chock full of hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification. Who wants to ingest all that?
Want a healthier, happier Thanksgiving? There are several simple choices a person can make: one can simply skip the meat altogether or may instead decide to buy from an organic (preferably local) farm that doesn't use typical industrial-farm techniques. Others may choose to eat a plant-based meat-less protein imitation. Any one of these options is preferable to the alternative.
Don't Overdo the Overly Refined Carbohydrates
Look over a Thanksgiving buffet table, and one is likely to see a cornucopia of overly refined foods, ones that are known for increasing a person's blood sugar levels, contributing to obesity and diabetes. Some of these culprits at the Thanksgiving table include rolls and breads, gravy, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, which become possibly half of one's Thanksgiving plate!
Want a happier, healthier Thanksgiving? For starters, choose to eat whole grain breads only. Refined flours are stripped of fiber and nutrients, leaving only unhealthy calories and empty carbs behind.
Stuffing can be made the same way - with whole, rather than refined, grains. And if it's stuffed with veggies like onions, celery, and garlic and baked in vegetable broth, it's much healthier than the kinds that can be purchased prepackaged at the supermarket.
Gravies can be improved as well. Instead of eating a traditional turkey-fat-based gravy, why not instead eat a mushroom gravy? Spoon for spoon, it's bound to have more nutrients than turkey gravy.
Finally, mashed potatoes don't have to be bad. Real potatoes should be used instead of instant flakes, and including the skins makes them that much more nutrient-dense. And opting for a vegan alternative to butter and almond milk instead of animal products like butter and cow's milk can make mashed potatoes much healthier.
Thanksgiving can be healthier than it has been in years past, and watching meat and refined carbohydrates are simply two ways to begin. See Part II for more tips for making Thanksgiving a healthier, happier holiday.
Cindy Jones-Shoeman is the author of Last Sunset and a Feature Writer for Academic Writing at Suite101. Some of Cindy's interests include environmental issues, vegetarian and sustainable lifestyles, music, and reading.