This is an article I wrote for the Verona/Cedar Grove Patch, published November 19, 2010. It’s still relevant, so enjoy!
STAYING HEALTHY THIS THANKSGIVING SEASON
By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
Thanksgiving is upon us and there is so much to be grateful for. But one of the things we often take for granted is our health. During the holidays people assume they get a “get out of jail free” card when it comes to their well-being, gorging on fattening foods and lying around during the four-day weekend watching football.
Would you like this holiday season to be different? I’m sure everyone would love to have more energy and eat freely without dieting. I’ve compiled some tips that have helped me stay slim and energetic over the years, especially during the winter months when our bodies are less active. Try some or all of these tips and you’ll be surprised that they actually work and may even make you lose weight – instead of gain – during the long Thanksgiving weekend!
1. Don’t forget to take your vitamins. During a long holiday weekend, people deviate from their schedules and something simple like taking vitamins can be overlooked. It’s important to remember to keep your health in check and your energy high. If you are feeling tired or fatigued, you will overeat.
2. Drink water. I make water my number one drink because there are so many positive benefits that come with it. Water is a wonderful appetite suppressant. It also helps you lose weight because it flushes toxins from your body. When your skin is hydrated you look younger and fresher. Drinking water aids in digestion and alleviates constipation. During holiday gatherings I make a game of it by drinking an ounce of water every hour. When it’s time to go home, I had my recommended eight ounces.
3. Get up and move. People like to relax during the holidays, and I can be very guilty of that too. But you will feel better if you don’t submit to the temptation of lingering around the dinner table nibbling or hitting the couch to sleep or munch on chips. There are many other things to do: take a walk outside, play with the children, volunteer to walk the host’s dog, clean up or even visit more people! I’ll never forget the year I visited four different homes on a holiday. It seemed like I was eating and drinking all day and I was almost afraid to step on the scale the next morning. But when I did I was actually two pounds lighter! All the running around and mini meals, rather than one big meal, worked in my favor!
4. Food exchange system. You don’t have to stress about giving up your favorite foods during the holidays, but if you can cut corners in certain areas without sacrificing taste, your digestive system will thank you. Mashed potatoes can be replaced with mashed cauliflower or turnips. When seasons right, they are just as delicious. Health food stores have tons of delicious cookies sweetened with fruit juices instead of refined sugars. You can even make your own. Raw nuts are less fattening than nuts that are roasted and salted. Raw carrots, instead of chips or pretzels, are great for dipping – but choose salsa or hummus instead of a creamy onion dip. Salads don’t have to be boring. I always add lots of fun stuff to mine like capers and sun dried tomatoes. Use colorful vegetables and even fruits to make it look enticing!
5. Gross yourself out! This idea is kooky but it works. If you think about what some unhealthy foods are made of, you may never want to eat them again. Cheese is one of the biggest holiday downfalls for most people. It’s on every appetizer and dessert platter. It’s assumed that cheese is just made from milk, but cheeses contain an ingredient called “rennet” which is a natural complex of enzymes produced in the stomach of a cow. Some of my friends who consider themselves vegetarians didn’t even know this. If this fact grosses you out enough to stay away from the cheese platter, you will spare yourself the extra fat and calories.
There’s a popular holiday recipe called “ambrosia” that is made with marshmallows. Most people don’t realize marshmallows are made with gelatin (which is a brittle protein made from animal tissues such as bone and skin). Marshmallows aren’t healthy because they are loaded with sugar, meaning empty calories. My healthy version of ambrosia is a holiday hit! Just combine raw shredded sweet potato (it tastes like pumpkin!), coconut, raisins, organic apples, pineapple and maple syrup. Let the dish sit at least an hour in the refrigerator. It’s delicious!
Take my tips to heart, or with a grain of salt. Or come up with your own. And I wish everyone the happiest and healthiest Thanksgiving ever!