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home : health : health January 17, 2018

11/21/2017 12:41:00 PM
The Thanksgiving calories avalanche
By Andrew Loscutoff

Thanksgiving is a holiday to reflect upon the good fortunes, experiences, and lessons throughout the year. Gratitude and respect is laid at the table with a spread of traditional foods. Nostalgia, memories, and the warmth of family create a cozy and comforting setting in which to enjoy some of fall's iconic bounty.

This idealistic setting comes with the tradition of overeating, overstuffing, and indulging ourselves. The American Thanksgiving meal can contain over 2,500 calories - more than the entire day's allotment for most people.

This is not a tradition that should live on, while so many in society are struggling with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Thanksgiving's most-valued dishes include mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole. A closer look at the calorie counts reveals these as carrying the highest density of calories. There are obvious discrepancies in calorie counts, but look at the average for traditional preparations: 1 cup potatoes (mashed with milk and butter) around 220 calories. One cup stuffing, 380 calories. One cup green bean casserole (like Mom used to make), 450 calories.

Imagine all the exercise needed to burn these foods. Assuming a person of average age and 150 pounds: 16 continuous minutes of jump rope for the potatoes; 53 minutes of moderate weight training for the stuffing; and 45 minutes of running at 5 mph would take care of the green bean casserole.

A workout warrior would have a great time trying to accomplish this, but consider, these are only the biggest blunders of Thanksgiving's feast. Rolls, yams, turkey, and pumpkin pie should also be considered.

Is there a better way to gorge oneself on Thanksgiving without the calorie avalanche? Try starting the meal with a good portion of greens. Focus on protein; especially the calorie-scarce white meat (three ounces only has 115 calories). Use mindful eating techniques: slowing down, chewing the food thoroughly, and savoring the experience of being with family and friends. It's OK to set the fork down and engage the captive audience with your latest and greatest stories.

Is there a way to keep the tradition of thanksgiving alive whilst still keeping consumption in moderation? Try squash instead of yams (70 vs. 180 calories in a cup). In the casserole, omit the heavy cream for a milk alternative (save up to 100 calories) and mash the potatoes with low-fat sour cream, adding toasted garlic and herbs to ignite the dish's flavor instead of butter and cream.

Loading a plate is a fun endeavor, and finishing it is satisfying. There are studies that show that plate size actually can influence the amount consumed. Smaller plates, frequently filled, amount to less eaten than the giants brought out for holiday meals. A small plate, or just keeping portions in check (one can always head back for more!) will keep appetite and consumption down to earth.

Take this advice with a grain of salt. Thanksgiving is to be enjoyed, and the delicious foods make over-consumption inevitable.

Enjoy Thanksgiving - and respect the fact that so much food is available to us for the sheer enjoyment of gathering with family and friends.

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