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!
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE