Thanksgiving time for parades, food, family, football


The time has arrived, to talk turkey! Thanksgiving is the holiday that focuses on parades, food, family and football, not necessarily in that order. But it is the time when many get-togethers allow for the chance to simply re-connect. However, leave it to a doctor to remind everyone about the healthy meals we should eat. 

History of Thanksgiving has it starting in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, by the pilgrims who were celebrating a good harvest. It’s more than a good chance that the earliest meal did not look at all like our meals today, much less the number of calories we consume! 

Here’s the fun facts before we get to the serious business. In the United States we consume around 51 million turkeys on that day alone. The largest pumpkin weighed 2,100 pounds at the time of print and that was enough to make 700 pumpkin pies. And each year 7.5 million barrels of cranberries are produced. 

Now the serious part. According to the Calorie Council, the average American eats 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat during a Thanksgiving dinner. Keep in mind that a moderately active woman should consume 2,000 calories a day and a moderately active man should consume around 2,600 calories a day. Blockbuster eating day indeed! 

Need to figure out about how many calories are in what? Here’s the common ones: baked mac and cheese (1 cup), 360 calories; pumpkin pie with whipped cream (1 slice), 260 calories; red wine (5 ounces), 122 calories; green bean casserole (3/4 cup), 161 calories; mashed potatoes and gravy (1 cup), 110 calories; and finally, turkey breast (4 ounces), 120 calories. 

So, what are the ways to work around the calories? Here are some of the healthy swaps that the chef of the day can make to cut the calorie content. Instead of heavy cream use coconut milk in soups and stews. Same texture and taste, half the calories. Instead of sour cream, use Greek yogurt, saves 55 calories per ¼ cup. A major culprit, salt (to taste), squeeze a little bit of lemon or lime to bring out the flavor without adding sodium. 

Not to be a total “buzz kill”, what is an “eat this, not that”? White meat (turkey breast) instead of dark meat. Mashed potatoes with light drizzle of gravy instead of stuffing, green beans instead of candied yams with marshmallow topping, one dinner roll instead of cornbread, homemade cranberry sauce instead of jellied cranberry sauce and yes, the pumpkin pie instead of the pecan pie. Calorie difference 731 to 1,281. 

The SPCA has some recommendations as well. Not to forget the fur babies of the household. To be safe, it is best to avoid giving your pet turkey. Turkey skin is high in fat, which can cause pancreatitis, and seasoning, which can give your animal indigestion. Poultry bones are brittle and can easily break, lodging in your pet’s throat. 

Here are poisonous foods that can affect your pet as well: yeast dough, raisins or grapes, onions, chocolate, Xylitol, pie filling, raw eggs, meat and alcohol. What can be a treat however is pure, canned pumpkin (not pie filling). It is a low-calorie, nutrient packed treat that is filling and tasty. 

However you spend your Thanksgiving Day, please remember those who are working while we all enjoy the time together. Thanks to the folks serving and making dinners, those who are taking care of the sick and injured, including our fire and EMS providers, and especially those who are protecting us here at home and afar. 

May your day be one filled with gratitude for all you and yours have and may it be one that finds all healthy and safe and surrounded by love and kindness! 

Debbie Kulick is an EMT who writes a weekly news column for the Pocono Record.

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