Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. From delicious food lovingly prepared to time spent with family to the crisp autumn weather, it just doesn't get any better. At our Thanksgiving dinner it's customary for everyone to say what he or she is thankful for. While global conditions are certainly not ideal (including high unemployment in the U.S. , the default crisis in Europe, and alarming levels of obesity and diabetes everywhere), they are considerably better than at many other times in history. I believe it's important to remember the wonderful things we have going for us as a nation (the Four Freedoms, no imminent threat from abroad, and infinite amounts of information at our fingertips online, to name just a few) as well as our own personal blessings.
For many, Thanksgiving is synonymous with "dietary overindulgence" as well. Some expect to overeat, but others try to maintain some semblance of restraint on this holiday. However, despite their best intentions to eat moderately, even conscientious types tend to consume high-calorie and high-carbohydrate appetizers and sides, turkey with plenty of gravy, and a generous slice of pie a la mode to top it off. For those newly committed to a low-carb lifestyle, it may be very difficult to resist your favorite foods. I can relate.
This will be my first Thanksgiving eating low-carb, as well as the first time I've eaten the turkey in about ten years. Tofurkey has served as my main entree since 2001, and I'm so glad to be rid of that rubbery, highly processed soy concoction once and for all. And while I'm definitely very happy eating low carb, I've got to admit that I'm going to miss the stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, cranberries, and pumpkin pie (the rolls I could always take or leave). But as good as these foods may taste, they're just not worth soaring blood sugar levels followed by the inevitable reactive hypoglycemia. For the person restricting carbohydrates for weight control, is eating a traditional Thanksgiving meal really a fair trade-off for the nausea, bloating, and several pounds of fluid gain that are sure to follow the next morning?
It's my turn to host the holiday meal, and I'm going to make sure to have all of those items on my table for the rest of my family (except Tofurkey -- everyone thought I was crazy for eating that year after year!) But I'm intent on having a delicious, low carb, healthy, satisfying, real food feast of my own.
So what will I be eating for dinner on Thursday, how much, and how many carbs will I end up consuming? Here's the plan:
1. Organic turkey, dark meat, no gravy. 6 to 8 ounces; zero grams carbs
2. Mixed green salad with olive oil and red-wine vinegar. 2 cups; 5 grams carbs
3. Yams with butter and cinnamon. 1/2 cup; 15 grams carbs
4. Green beans with butter and garlic. 1 cup; 7 grams carbs
5. Berries with whipped cream. 1/2 cup berries: 5 grams carbs. 1/2 cup whipped cream: zero grams carbs
6. Bite of my husband's pumpkin pie (no crust). About 2 grams carbs
The total for this meal is around 34 grams of carbs, which is 10-15 grams more than I usually eat, but still pretty low and definitely much less than any Thanksgiving dinner I've eaten in the past. Packed with fiber, moderate in protein, high in healthy fats, and rich in vitamins and minerals, this meal has a high satiety factor as well as being extremely nutritious.
So what am I personally thankful for? My family and friends, wonderful job, and home are certainly up at the top of my list. But good health is equally important, and I feel so fortunate to live in a country where nourishing foods are available year-round and we're free to eat them in whatever quantity we desire. We are the only ones who ultimately have control over what we eat and drink, so let's choose wisely this Thanksgiving and always in order to be as healthy as we can be. Have a wonderful holiday!
This weekend, November 11-14, the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) is holding its 12th Annual Wise Traditions Conference in Dallas. As has become my pattern with events I'd love to attend, I learned about this one too late. After taking a look at the list of distinguished speakers scheduled to present, I'm wishing more than ever that I were there. Anyone who has seen the movie Fat Head (if you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend watching it) will surely remember the discussion about the healthful aspects of fat and cholesterol by WAPF co-founders Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD.
For those unfamiliar with the WAPF, it is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the research of Weston A. Price, a dentist who in the 1930s-40s performed extensive studies of several diverse societies worldwide in an attempt to discover why some people thrived while others in nearby regions suffered from various diseases. Not surprisingly, the healthfulness of one's diet was found to be the prevailing factor. High intake of whole plant foods including fruits and vegetables rich in enzymes, unprocessed or raw animal foods, and liberal amounts of butterfat and other saturated fats were determined to be highly health promoting by Dr. Price. He photographed families who were isolated from civilization and consumed traditional diets as well as nearby "civilized" groups who consumed "modern" ( processed) foods, and the differences in the quality of their teeth and facial bone structure were striking. Dr. Price discovered that cavities and crooked or crowded teeth were due to nutrient deficiencies and that the state of one's teeth closely mirrored the health of the rest of the body.
Now, I know this website is called Low Carb Dietitian. The WAPF is not really advocating a low-carbohydrate for most people, although they certainly advise against consuming all refined sugar and processed grains and suggest that people people with diabetes or sensitivity to carbohydrates cut down on them. But I feel the emphasis on whole, unprocessed, sustainably raised foods rich in vital nutrients is ultimately the most important factor in achieving optimal health for all of us. It's very easy to follow WAPF principles and continue a low-carb lifestyle by simply foregoing any problem foods (these are different for each of us depending on our unique genetic makeup, physiology, and presence of various disease states).
Below are ten WAPF recommendations I feel we can all benefit from:
1. Daily use of cod liver oil as a rich source of vitamins A and D
2. Choosing butter instead of margarine (even "healthy" spreads)
3. Using small amounts of natural sweeteners (if at all) rather than artificial sweeteners
4. Eating fermented foods
5. Consuming grass-fed meat and pastured eggs
6. Eliminating soy
7. Consuming bone broth regularly
8. Eating organ meats
9. Consuming raw and/or organic dairy
10. Limiting or eliminating caffeine
So am I doing all of these things? Not quite, but I am close. I haven't yet embraced organ meats. I only recently began eating meat again, and I've never liked liver (and have never even tried any other organ meats), so I'm not in a hurry to try this, although the health benefits are huge. I also haven't tried raw dairy yet, mostly because it's difficult to find. As far as caffeine, I drink one weak cup of green tea every morning.
For those interested in learning more about Weston A. Price and his foundation, please check out the WAPF website. Also, I just finished one of the best books I've read all year, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, Ph.D. It's more than 10 years old, but it's packed with highly relevant information about the benefits of traditional diets and contains hundreds of recipes along with interesting sidebars by some of the leading authors and researchers on whole foods and traditional diets.
On a final note, there are a number of registered dietitians who belong to a WAPF Yahoo group that is trying to promote change within the American Dietetic Association. One of the group's primary goals is to sever ties with sponsors like
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE