I want to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.
This is an important holiday to all of us — a chance for us to be thankful for the good things in life and to spend time with loved ones. It’s probably the only time this year that my whole family is going to get together. Twenty-eight people are coming to my house. OH MY…and I’m doing a lot of the cooking.
Having fun is my top goal. But I also want to eat and drink healthy and keep my weight under control.
Traditional Thanksgiving foods tend to be heavy and prepared in a high-calorie way — after the meal, you feel like just rolling straight into bed. For many of us, Thanksgiving can sabotage a successful weight loss plan. If you lose control and go hog wild, then it can be hard to regain your healthy eating momentum as you cruise into the holiday season of parties. But many Thanksgiving foods are initially quite healthy and can be prepared in ways that preserve nutrients and don’t add calories and fat. With a little thought and planning, it’s possible to control your weight and keep a healthy course through this distracting time of year.
Many people prepare fruits and vegetables representing all the colors of the rainbow. From yams to red cabbage and from cranberries to asparagus and more — each color gives you specific nutrients that complement each other and help your cells stay healthy. Many of these fruits and vegetables contain their own sugars that come out naturally through the cooking process. Spices help provide flavor and variety without extra calories.
For our Thanksgiving, two turkeys are coming from an organic farm in Maine. They’ll be roasted and basted on a rack (I’d suggest not cooking your turkey in a plastic roasting bag — we don’t know the safety or dangers or cooking at high heat in plastic). I’m going to cook the stuffing outside the bird to avoid adding fat. To make up for that loss of flavor, I’m going to add chestnuts, carrots, celery and spices. I ordered a case of mushrooms from Trader Joe’s for mushroom soup (sautéed with onions and celery, spices, chicken stock; simmered a long time then blended). I’m also responsible for the roast potatoes — both sweet and white (quartered lengthwise, roasted in a little bit of olive oil with a sprinkle of kosher salt at 400 degrees for 40 minutes until soft on the inside and golden on the outside, toss the potatoes in the pan regularly). I’m also cooking roasted Bartlett pears with chocolate — delicious and simple (cut the pears lengthwise, remove the center pit, drizzle balsamic vinegar glaze syrup on the bottom of a roasting pan, place the pears cut-side down; roast for 35-45 minutes until soft and golden; serve warm or room temperature with a few small chocolate pieces or sauce). Everyone else is bringing something: rutabagas, red cabbage, yams with marshmallows (kids’ favorite), mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, and all kinds of pies (apple, pumpkin, pecan).
Most of the foods are on the Clean Fifteen list, so they tend to have the lowest levels of pesticides and can be non-organic. But several of the foods are on the Dirty Dozen list — the pears, apples, and celery — I make sure to buy those organic.
Let’s not forget about the beverages, which brings up the hot-button issue of alcohol. For many people, including me, having fun, feeling festive, and enjoying good food means enjoying some wine. But since my diagnosis, I’ve cut back my alcohol consumption because it’s associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (wine, beer, and hard liquor all count). Most weeks I stick to 2 or fewer glasses of wine. During special vacations and holidays, I limit my consumption to 5 or fewer drinks per week. The easiest way to limit alcohol consumption is to make sure you have a bunch of appealing non-alcoholic alternatives on hand: seltzer with a splash of cranberry juice and a lime, Virgin Marys with celery, etc. It also helps to spread things out: add ice to your wine to make it last longer. Drink water or “mocktails” in between the alcoholic beverages.
Of course, I have the most control over what I cook myself and very little say about what everyone else brings. That’s OK. I can’t worry about everything. I have to remind myself that this is a time of gratitude and giving thanks, a time to let go of nagging fears, and a great chance to have fun with the people closest to me. Those are my highest goals!
I wish you and your loved ones all the best on Thanksgiving!
Marisa C. Weiss, M.D.
The Patient Doctor
President & Founder, Breastcancer.org