For most people, Thanksgiving is about connecting with relatives and friends—and, of course, eating favorite Thanksgiving foods. This is great, except the holiday’s prep work and overeating often lead to stress and discomfort. If you enjoy Thanksgiving, but don’t want to feel exhausted from staging the event, or stuffed like a turkey from all the food you eat, here are five ways to optimize your experience:
- If you are hosting the meal, have a plan. This is very basic, but it is amazing how many people fail to do this. Planning the entire event allows you to visualize the overall timetable: How many hot items will be cooking at the same time, and how will you make that happen? Should you prepare some items in advance? If you prepare items in advance, how will you reheat them? How will you keep hot food at the proper temperature? If everyone brings something to your gathering, answering these questions can guide you in assigning food for them to prepare off-site to ease the logistics in your kitchen.
- Instead of drastically changing your food traditions, simply add a lighter, more nourishing new dish or two. More and more people are talking about wanting holiday foods that don’t make them feel bloated and miserable. When appealing, nourishing new choices are offered, people will start to feel better and realize they it’s because they have made better food choices and taken smaller portions of the heavier, overly sweetened foods. Our colorful Rainbow Salad (http://chefmarshallobrien.com/recipe/rainbow-salad/) has become very popular for the holiday season.
- Don’t go to events feeling starved. If you don’t want to overeat, make sure to eat a nourishing breakfast to start your day. Not being starved when you arrive will allow you to take smaller portions of comfort foods.
- Take smaller portions and eat slowly. Taking a smaller portion allows you to make sure what you have chosen tastes as good as it looks. You can go for seconds if it does! Practice thoroughly chewing your food, and do so slowly. This will allow your digestive enzymes to do their work and better break down your food, AND your brain will have time to signal, “I’m getting full” before you have overeaten. The key here is just to slow down on your eating so you end up eating less.
- Bring a dish to share. If you are particular about the foods you eat, or if it is a pot luck, bring a dish to share so at least you know that there will be one thing that will fit within your meal plan. Our Butternut Squash-Wild Rice Pilaf is an amazing make-ahead dish, perfect for Thanksgiving: http://chefmarshallobrien.com/recipe/butternut-squash-wild-rice-pilaf/ )