Holiday Survival Guide, Part One: Don’t Stuff Yourself Like A Turkey


I’ve always been partial to Thanksgiving because it falls on or around my birthday each year. I was also a bizarre child who didn’t like birthday cake, so I much preferred candles in pumpkin pie anyway. I suppose I had an affinity for beta-carotene from an early age.

In this age of good and plenty, we are thankful to 1) have a bountiful food supply and not suffer from risk of malnutrition and 2) also very grateful to not be under constant fear of attack from local indigenous peoples (although I daresay the drivers in my neighborhood like to play Frogger with us pedestrians) (also, to be fair, the early settlers definitely deserved some kind of negative punishment for, you know, land usurping, but I’m not sure if scalping was moral justice) unlike our historical Thanksgivings. Unfortunately, our modern Thanksgivings have become a bridge to a deep food binge. In fact, in the hunger/fullness scales many dietitians use to assess satiety, “Thanksgiving full” is usually referred to as the pinnacle of fullness. As in, can’t.. move.. off.. the.. recliner… to.. pick.. up.. the… remote control post-feeding. Although we are now safe from imminent mass murder at the table (unless you commit the sin of using canned cranberry sauce, then you probably deserve a venomous fate), we are now in danger of completely reckless food intake.

I’ve been practicing safe Thanksgiving for 27 years now and can offer the following advice;

  1. Consider brunch. My family adopted this tactic about seven years ago and never looked back. When you schedule a Thanksgiving late meal, you spend the whole day agonizing about what to eat to keep you from fainting but also to satiate you until dinner. You wind up so anxious about the day’s eating that you either nibble on celery all day and then go hog wild at the dinner table, or you overportion your breakfast and lunch and feel as though dinner is going to cause an intestinal rupture. Also, how torturous is it to sit and smell the scrumptious wafting oven smells of sweet cinnamon and roasted succulent meat all day tantalizing you from the kitchen while you sit and pick at a crudite your malicious aunt put out on the coffee table in order to “tide you over” until dinner? When you position the large meal as your first meal of the day, these issues evaporate. You can wake up and proceed straight to the steaming ample spread of holiday favorites. Bonus: breakfast foods make a cameo appearance!! Turkey and buckwheat pumpkin pancakes, anyone? Fruit salads with fresh whipped coconut milk cream? Also…#mimosas.
  2. Think green. Picture a cornucopia; (yes, those things have a name!) you know, those straw things shaped like a horn with heaps of fruits and vegetables tumbling out? It’s a suggestion: your Thanksgiving meal should be plant-based. Think of all the autumnal produce in season; squash, plums, apples figs, pears, sweet potato, cherries, cauliflower, endive, huckleberries, pomegranates, swiss chard, turnips, etc. Pinterest will inspire you beyond your wildest dreams with endless ways to serve your Fall favorites. Canned yams topped with marshmallows? Lame. Roasted butternut squash casserole with a cinnamon-walnut crust and a maple glaze? Now we are talking.
  3. Trim the fat. Literally. Turkey and meat trimmings are for dogs. Actually, I wouldn’t even fed my dog those! You can bake plenty of moist goodness into lean cuts and white meats. Ditch the gravy, also. You can flavor your meats with fruits (pineapple is an excellent tenderizer due to its bromelain enzyme), homemade cranberry sauce (don’t let us catch you using anything out of a can!), and apple cider vinegar-based glazes (apple cider vinegar is implicated in appetite suppression). There are also ways to lighten up EVERY recipe in the world. Want to know exactly how? Ask your Essence dietitian 😉
  4. Bacchanalians are extinct. There’s a reason those wild feasts ended (these festivals celebrated the Roman god Bacchus with sickening amounts of food and alcohol ending with severe gastrointestinal distress and even death). There is no need to stuff yourself. Survey the scene: take an account of all the dishes served and pick your 3-5 favorites. Don’t waste your calories on things you don’t even like that much. Pace your courses; chew and eat slowly. Drink a glass of water before your meal. Try tiny bites of everything so you don’t feel left out, and perhaps a full portion of your VERY favorite item. Savor every bite of that stuffing. It’s easy to allow your eyes to govern your portions, but keep in mind, your stomach becomes full with a mere 1-2 cups of dense foods, so you are likely to overdo it. If you miss some items, don’t worry, we all know there WILL be leftovers for tomorrow. Oh, and alcohol? Limit yourself to 1-2 drinks. We’d rather save tummy real estate for the edible goods!
  5. If you are indeed having a dinner, eat light but eat smart during the day. Choose a breakfast and lunch with a healthy combination of lean protein, some fat, and complex carbohydrate to keep your energy up and appetite satisfied before dinner. Perhaps a pack of plain oatmeal + ½ cup of raspberries + ½ cup of organic lowfat or 2% milk for breakfast + a mountainous kale salad + 3 oz of grilled fish + olive oil + lemon for lunch? Have a small snack about 3 hours before the big meal. Suggestion: half a banana + ¼ cup of raw nuts. Avoid foods that can cause bloat during the day such as carbonated beverages, alcohol, salty foods, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, broccoli, and beans.
  6. Save me a slice of pumpkin pie. Or else.

Essentially Yours,