Thanksgiving should be a time of joy and love, spent with the people who mean the most to you. However, with our society's increased focus on a healthy diet and lifestyle, many of us feel guilt about partaking in Thanksgiving's main event: the meal.
Don't let the fear of overeating muddle the celebration for yourself and your loved ones. There are several healthful aspects of Thanksgiving that work for you, and reminding yourself about them can combat food guilt and allow you to enjoy your holiday.
Here are the three big ones:
1. Physical Activity
You don't have to participate in the family football game to feel like you've earned your meal. Give yourself credit for these forms of holiday-related physical activity, as well:
- Cooking. Preparing a Thanksgiving meal takes a lot of time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that activities done while standing and lifting objects of less than 50 pounds are considered to be of moderate intensity, burning 3.5 to 7 calories per minute. So, if you prepare food for 2 to 4 hours before your big meal, you could burn anywhere from 400 to 1,200 calories before you even sit down!
- Enjoying your family. Whether you're standing and socializing with your adult guests or running around after the kids, your body is using energy. Handling children falls under moderate-intensity activity, while standing is considered a low-intensity activity (burning fewer than 3.5 calories per minute).
- Cleaning. This is an inevitable part of hosting a party and is considered a moderate-intensity activity, so what better way to motivate yourself to bring out those dustpans and sponges? If you're not hosting the meal this year, consider staying to help your host clean up; your body and your loved ones will thank you!
While you may be eating larger-than-normal amounts of food, note that many of the traditional Thanksgiving foods contain nutrients essential to your body's health:
- Cranberries. These tart berries are a great source of bone-supporting manganese. They're also full of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, which help reduce inflammation and combat chronic illness. Keep the skins intact for a good dose of fiber, which helps maintain digestive-system regularity.
- Pumpkin. Pumpkin offers up vitamin A, which is essential for eye, bone, and immune-system health. This fall favorite is also a good source of potassium, a mineral integral to the maintenance of heart rhythm and water balance in the body.
- Sage. The herbs in your meal are working for your body, too! Sage is a great source of vitamin K, which regulates normal blood clotting.
Thanksgiving is a great time to practice mindfulness when it comes to food guilt. Throughout the day, be sure to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? How hungry are you? How does the food taste? Listening to your body in this way will help you enjoy your holiday more; you won't feel overly stuffed as you continue to hone the relationship between your mind and body.
Thanksgiving feeds your spirit along with your body. Spending time with your loved ones and stopping to appreciate everything you're truly thankful for is the food off which your spirit lives. Remember, if your mind and your spirit are healthy, your body won't be far behind.
Thanksgiving is a holiday of love and thankfulness that happens just once a year. You can combat food guilt by reminding yourself about the physical activity in which you'll partake, the variety of nutrients you will consume, and the mindfulness and spirituality you continually practice.