Column: Thanksgiving dinner, an exercise in moderation

By Sam Gilbert

Mustang Daily, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo via UWIRE

Distant relatives have purchased their plane tickets, Dad pre-ordered the turkey a week ago and all football games planned for Nov. 27 are TiVo’d. Anyone else ready for Thanksgiving?

This is the time of year for family to come together and feast in celebration of the day the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that moderation is key when surrounded by overwhelming amounts of food.

What people shouldn’t do is starve themselves before the dinner because then they overeat, food science and nutrition professor Susan Swadener said.

“Research shows if you skip meals, then, if you normally eat 2,000 calories a day, you’ll end up eating around 4,000 because you’re so hungry,” Swadner said.

The portion size for meat is about three ounces, or the size of the palm of your hand, Swadener said. A serving of potatoes is about half a cup, and a serving of vegetables is a cup.

What tends to add up is generally how things are prepared, food science and nutrition professor Laura Hall said.

“Gravy, mashed potatoes with a lot of butter and cream in them or sweet potatoes with a lot of sugar in them all end up having more calories and are generally less healthy because they’re high in fat,” Hall said.

If you can cook a healthier meal in the first place by trimming off the fat on the turkey, using low-fat milk in the mashed potatoes and making healthier choices, then you can cut the fat in your diet, Hall said.

Little things such as deciding not to put whipped cream on your pie or choosing low-fat ice cream instead can make a difference, Hall said.

Swadener and Hall both offered tips to keep in mind when making a conscious decision about what to eat on this sacred holiday.

Studies have shown that if you eat on a bigger plate, or put more on your plate, then you’re going to eat it, Hall said. If you use a smaller plate, or put less food on it, you won’t eat as much.

Enjoy the company of the people you’re with, take your time and drink water to not overeat, Hall said.

It’s a good idea to have some of the foods from Thanksgiving such as turkey or cranberry sauce throughout the year, Swadener said. If you eat them more often, then you’re less likely to binge on them.

Kelsey Hollenbeck, STRIDE public relations and media coordinator, said you should avoid snacking throughout the whole day.

“I know that when we cook in my house, I’ll just be eating little pieces of everything as we make it, and then I’m full by the time dinner comes around,” Hollenbeck said.

Everyone overeats at Thanksgiving — it’s part of the culture of it, Hollenbeck said.

Students also generally go home after being used to having little food on hand or eating ramen, whereas Thanksgiving offers an opportunity to gorge on food other people make, Hollenbeck said.

This time of the year involves more socializing, and there are foods you wouldn’t typically eat, such as pies, so it’s easy to overindulge, Hall said.

You always hear that people gain weight around this time because they’re eating differently and they may not be exercising like they normally do, Hall said.

It’s important to let yourself feel full and to not overeat, Hall said. You can always have leftovers and don’t forget to be physically active.

A good way to not gain a lot of weight during the holidays is to make it a family tradition to take a walk before or after dinner so you don’t sit around and eat all night, Swadener said.

This is the time to be with each other, and sometimes if you do more physical activity, such as a walk, then you spend more quality time with one another than just sitting around and watching the television, Swadener said.

Good food in moderation and even better company is the trick to finding the balance to a perfect Thanksgiving.

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