Don't become a stuffed turkey this holiday season

November 22, 1999

Thanksgiving is a special time for socializing and celebrating with family and friends. It's also a time of feasting - often more than we really care to do or wish we'd done, as we later struggle to lose those "holiday" pounds.

cont. from lifestyle

Most people don't overeat every day. Rather, they sometimes overeat and, less often, undereat. It is this sometimes overeating and, less often, undereating, that gradually puts on those unwanted pounds.

There are at least two ways to gain control over the problem.

One way is to match the amount overeaten on one day with a similar amount undereaten on the next day. While this sounds great in theory, our appetite control center in the brain is not very responsive to fatty substances in the blood. It's more interested in having a continuous supply of glucose coming into the brain. As a result, we're usually as hungry the day after we've eaten too much as we are after a day of normal eating.


A second way is to eat less in the first place. This sounds less exciting but provides better assurance that we won't have that "stuffed" feeling at the end of the day. Eating less does not have to mean less fun! It simply means taking smaller helpings, selecting between potatoes and dressing, loading up on relishes and plain, green vegetables, stopping at one roll with or without a small amount of margarine and jam, and asking for a small piece of pie with or without very little topping.

For the host or hostess, de-calorizing Thanksgiving dinner can be a rewarding experience in gourmet cooking. For example, instead of serving a rich sausage dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy and candied sweet potatoes, select one starch and one green vegetable. The starch might be wild rice, herb-baked potatoes or a sherry bread dressing with chopped celery, onions and green peppers.

The green vegetable might be broccoli, brussels sprouts, french-style green beans, mixed Chinese vegetables, etc. Calorie-wise, the green vegetable chosen makes very little difference - the difference is in the sauce and seasonings used. For example, each tablespoon of butter or mayonnaise contributes 100 calories. In contrast, each tablespoon of sour cream, medium white sauce or cheese sauce contributes 30 calories, and each tablespoon of plain yogurt adds only 10 calories. Yogurt or sour cream mixed with herbs such as basil, minced onions and/or garlic salt can make a delicious gourmet dressing for any green vegetable or salad.

Another high-calorie portion of Thanksgiving dinner is dessert.

A piece of pecan pie (one-sixth of the pie) provides around 600 calories. Pumpkin pie provides about half the calories, although a dollop of whipped cream may add an additional 50 calories.

In contrast, one-half cup of pumpkin-pie ice cream or a pudding dessert may provide only 150 calories, yet serve the same purpose.

Thanksgiving dinner need not be synonymous with painful feelings of over-consumption. With a little imagination and self-control, it can be a thankful occasion for our health as well as our taste buds.

Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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