Yes today is Thanksgiving for those of the U.S. but Thanksgiving Day is also National Family Health History Day. Think about it for a minute and it makes perfect sense. While you have everybody together is a great time to learn more about your family health history. My brother and his wife and Bob and I had a discussion about this last year. My brother and I each had information on different sides of the family so until we put together what we both knew, our information was incomplete. It only took and 15 minutes, it wasn’t depressing and I wish we had gotten around to this sooner.
Don’t turn Thanksgiving into a downer talking about all the death and sickness in the family, but… this may be a good time to casually ask mom, grandma or your favorite aunt a few questions if you have concerns related to your family health history. Knowing your family health history does not doom you to repeating it. In fact being aware of these things gives you the opportunity to adjust your lifestyle to be your healthiest and even prevent certain diseases and conditions. For example, if grandpa died of lung cancer or emphysema you can choose to not smoke.
Don’t be afraid of your family medical history, it’s what you don’t know that can harm you.
As the holidays approach many of us will start planning holiday meals. If one of your holiday traditions is spending three days in a “food coma” from overindulging stop and think, is it really worth it? Is it really enough fun, to make yourself sick over?
This year I would like to offer a few alternatives and substitutions that are just as good without all the fat and sugar. Trust me, they may be different but they still taste very good.
Begin your meal with a salad or a light soup. I like to begin with a salad of spring greens, walnuts, dried cranberries and maybe a little goat cheese with a light vinaigrette dressing or a light and easy sweet potato soup made with sweet potatoes and onion cooked in water or veggie broth, with cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper and puree until smooth in the blender. Sometimes we have both.
Cook your turkey in a healthy way. Don’t add extra fat by stuffing the cavity with butter or frying it. Season the bird well and bake in the oven.
Make your own cranberry sauce. If you can boil water, you can do this. You can control what goes into it, including what you use for sweetener.
Forget the green bean casserole and serve lightly steamed fresh green beans. Add some sliced almonds and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
Leave the “candy” out of the yams. I like to serve fresh sweet potatoes. There are many ways to do this. First there is baked. You can fancy them up a bit by making them “twice baked” either sweet or savory by what you add to them. You can mash them. You can cook them with apples and spice them up with cinnamon and nutmeg. Follow this link to my recipe for Orange Spice Sweet Potatoes.
Serve a healthy relish tray. This was always included in the holiday meal when I was growing up and is still best part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for me. Include lots of raw fresh veggies and fruit with a few of your favorite pickles and olives if desired. If you want dip, consider making one without cream cheese or sour cream. This may be done using white beans or mashed cauliflower.
How about ice cream for dessert? I like to serve pumpkin fruit cream made from frozen bananas, pumpkin puree, almond milk, pumpkin pie spices and a wee bit of molasses.
Every year as the holidays approach I am saddened by the number of people who seem to have become slaves to their holiday traditions. Over indulging in food and drink, over spending, working to the point of exhaustion and extreme stress are too often simply accepted as the way things are. Most of us don’t even enjoy all the holiday hoopla but we feel pressure to participate. If you are dreading the holidays this year I have good news. It doesn’t have to be this way.
You can choose the way you will celebrate, the activities you will participate in and of course you always have the power to choose your attitude. So get ready to make this the best holiday season ever by staying true to your own beliefs and values.