Holiday Confessions of a Dietitian

November 24, 2009 in Foodland Chronicles, Health Claims, Mediterranean, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

I must share the truth – I can’t bear to make turkey gravy without the turkey drippings including some of the fat that squeaks by. We need mashed potatoes, with butter and milk – we’re talking absolutely need! Would it actually be Thanksgiving without Aunt Pam’s super rich yams (that are loaded with butter, brown sugar and topped with marshmallows)? O.K., this year I’ll make the stuffing with no fat – yikesss!  I just can’t do it.  How about the pies, whipped cream, and ice cream? I’ve heard that you can whip nonfat dry milk and turn it into whipped topping – the thought is giving me an anxiety attack.

I think that I’m not the only woman who cooks the Thanksgiving meal to make the family happy with their traditional favorites – full-flavored, (mostly) full-fat long-established favorites! In addition, I know that I can make some very tasty dishes with lower calories, lower fat and lower salt, but I want everyone to enjoy their favorite traditional dishes – I don’t want anyone to be sad because their dish doesn’t work for Dr. Grandpa or my fairly narrow regular way of eating.

Yes, I’m torn!  I am truly committed to our American-Mediterranean diet (low fat, low sugar, lots of whole grains, veggies and fruits, and nuts) and keeping the calories under control. I’m also committed to keeping Vic safe from the ravages of diabetes.

Believe me, those of you who have read the newsletter for this past year and this blog should know that I truly believe and practice what I preach – most of the time (the ‘m’ word). Thanksgiving is just not one of those times. Yes, I know the results of eating the fatty traditional foods, on the scale, the blood sugar and the arteries. Actually, I thought that Black Friday was named for my emotion for the Friday after Thanksgiving’s weighing event.

I truly admire all my dietitian friends who are doing all the healthy alternatives (Soy turkey, gravy substitute, skipping the stuffing, cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, and fruit instead of pie). Each of us needs to approach holiday eating in our own way. I don’t suggest that you follow the ‘I’ List (see below), but you may want to take a few minutes to consider making your own ‘I List.’ In the near future I want to write more about David Kessler’s book (former FDA commissioner who took on the tobacco industry and was instrumental in changing the way we think about smoking).  He entitled it The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. I really enjoyed reading some of his hints about fighting back against the food industry and relate to his encouragement for setting rules for ourselves. He says that, our “greatest power rests in our ability to change the definition of reasonable behavior.” He encourages us to set our own rules for eating in a controlled manner.  He also persuades us to understand our own behaviors around food and pay attention to everything we eat.

I have a few hints of how I survive the daylong Thanksgiving eat-a-thon – The ‘I’ List, rules for Dr. Grandma is what I’ve done over the years to get through the holiday:

  • I’m careful with the little bits (olives, nuts, crackers, cheese, hors d’oeuvres and so on) – they’re so often densely packed with fat, calories and salt.
  • I only have a small corner of one of Marilyn’s delicious white-flour rolls.
  • I have a taste of every thing that is brought – it may be only a tablespoon.
  • I have a generous serving of my stuffing – the way my grandmother made it – it’s my Thanksgiving comfort food.
  • I have a little of my fresh cranberry relish, the way my Auntie Lori used to make it – full of sugar, marmalade and fresh cranberries. I’ll post the recipe if you want it – just let me know.
  • I only drink the limewater  (sliced limes in water) – not the applejuice/7-up punch.
  • I pass on chips and dips. (Hint: Consider passing on the foods that don’t matter that much to you.)
  • I eat a fairly small piece of turkey (a good food).
  • I have a couple slivers of different pies with whipped cream (the real stuff).
  • I consider the ‘pie phase’ my dinner calories; but it actually takes the calories beyond what they should be, so I make the slivers small.
  • I find that that by keeping my rules I’m more than full – but not miserable. The net result is that I eat more than a usual day – but less than gorging.
  • I send all the food away with the guests, except some of the stuffing and turkey. We truly don’t need a home filled with pie, and all the extras – calling to us from the fridge.

Black Friday
I try to remember that some of the extra weight registered on the scale is from
eating higher sodium foods than usual – sodium holding the water. It will go away in a couple of days.

  • I don’t skip any meals.
  • I try to have some deficit meals.
  • I go back to our regular food and portions.

If you decide to make an ‘I’ List, be good to yourself. My advice is not to be so restrictive that you feel horribly deprived. No one knows you better that you; you know what you can do and how you’ll probably feel about it. Make any ‘rules’ that you think will help you. And remember; when you’ve survived Thanksgiving – you’ll probably be better off than to have not made any rules for yourself.

gravy skimmer

gravy skimmer