I love Thanksgiving. What's not to like? A holiday dedicated to preparing and enjoying a beautiful meal? Sign me up! Why do we only do this once a year?!
As a nutritionist, I work diligently with my clients on upgrading the ingredients in their daily diet to support their health needs and goals. When the holidays roll around, we have an honest conversation about what is possible. The trend in the US is to gain 2 pounds every year, 50% of which is gained between Thanksgiving and New Years 1. The first few years of this pattern don't make a big difference in an American's health, but it can increase risk of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers when added up over the years.
To enter the holiday season with realistic and achievable goals, I give my clients two options to consider. What feels like the best way to approach the holiday?
- Keep your nutrition goals in focus through the holidays - add more veggies, drink water not wine, minimize desserts, etc. OR
- Give yourself the permission to enjoy your family and friend time, without worrying about how much sugar was in that piece of pie?
The best option really depends on the person. For the client who has struggled to establish healthy eating habits in the first place, letting them go for any period of time can be very derailing.
For me, it's a combination of both. At home, my meal planning priorities keep my digestive, thyroid, and mood health in mind, alongside cancer prevention. When I travel, my priorities shift a little. I'm still dedicated to my health goals, but also know that the work I have done on my health over the years has really paid off - I am resilient! This strength allows me to be more flexible when I'm staying with my family members who don't eat the same way I do. That said, I don't like to fully let go of my eating habits - and feeling my best - when I travel. This means, that I bring a dish to every meal I share with my family...and it's always full of veggies!
Here are some recipe suggestions to consider for the Thanksgiving table. Believe me: it's possible to navigate the holidays without encountering a health crisis or feeling the dread of your New Year's Resolution hanging over you.
Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts from the kitchen of Dr. Pharis
Roasted Winter Squash and Wild Rice Salad from me :)
Winter Citrus Salad from NY Times Cooking
Mashed Cauliflower from the Kitchn
Roasted Root Vegetables with Honey and Balsamic Vinegar from Epicurious (goat cheese is optional)
Crudite (aka raw veggies) 15 Ways from the Huffington Post
Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls from Asparagus to Zucchini (one of my all-time favorite cookbooks)
Baked Apples (no sugar!) from Elana's Pantry
1) Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries (2016) New England Journal of Medicine
Jesse Haas is a licensed nutritionist and co-founder of Wellness Minneapolis. Her work in nutrition and wellness starts at the intersection of evidence-based nutrition and heart-centered care. She offers individualized and group nutrition services with the mission to empower each client with the knowledge, skills and motivation to take their wellness by the reins.