4 Tips for a Guilt-Free Holiday (Eat the Pie!)

Photo by sheckys.com
Photo by sheckys.com

It’s Thanksgiving week. Let the overeating begin! Are you already worried about the excess food you’ll consume and how you’ll burn off those extra calories? I am. Or at least that’s my old brain talking. In the past I would strategically prepare for the big meal. Practically starve myself the week before and work out like crazy to burn as many calories as possible. Then wake up early Thanksgiving morning to work out for an hour and get in a walk post meal. After all that, I’d still beat myself up for eating that extra piece of pie. This year that old me is gone. No more holiday food guilt.

This year I faced my eating disorder and vowed to get healthy. I have a new perspective focused on eating to live. The days of overindulging are over. Having to recover from a meal is not how I want to live my life. I gave up alcohol years ago for that same reason. Food is intended to nourish, not make us feel guilty. Over-exercising and restricting before a big meal leads to disastrous results. It gives me permission to eat all 12 desserts. And then I have a legitimate sugar handover for three days. All that pie isn’t worth the crappy feeling and strain on my body.

Don’t get me wrong though, I still LOVE food. Portion size is my main concern. I can still have the dessert if I keep the servings in check. I want to be free to eat what I want without the burden of extra exercise hanging over me. This year the destructive thoughts will be replaced with acceptance. I’m doing my best to keep guilt out of the equation, which turns food from a fun, delicious thing that nourishes me into a big, bad monster.

Why we Eat More on Holidays

All we think about during the holidays is how we don’t want to gain weight. We’re fixated on food and trying to exhibit our best willpower efforts. “I can only have 1 cookie at the party!” Or trying to compromise with ourselves. “Tomorrow I’ll take two spinning classes and do yoga to burn off the sweet potato casserole and pecan pie.” We also starve ourselves before the big meal and overeat as a result. Since food is top of mind, we can’t help but obsess and all that obsessing leads to overeating. If food is on your brain then it’s on your plate. It’s called the Resist-Binge Cycle.

Guilt-Free Guide

1. Go in with a Plan

Write down a set of reasonable rules for yourself. Position your seat farthest from the buffet table, serve tiny portions of all foods and then determine what foods are worth seconds, have an extra serving of mashed potatoes and eat less dessert, etc. I know I can’t sit next to the dessert table since it will taunt me until I give in and eat three slices of each. So I have to sit as far from it as possible. I also have to limit myself to one plate of dessert. One plate and it’s over. My sweet tooth is screaming “NO!!!” right now. But it has to be done.

2. Practice Saying “No, thanks”

This one always gets me. I hate saying “no.” I’m a people pleaser by nature so when I’m offered an extra helping of turkey that my grandmother cooked for six hours, how can I say no? But then my health suffers.

I have to remind myself that I’m the one who has to live with the consequences of eating the extra slice that’s going to put me over the edge. It’s not possible to please everyone at the holidays. Saying no takes a lot of practice. Have a line ready to go so you don’t have to think about it. Begin by thanking the person that offers so they know you appreciate them and then go in for the rejection. “Thank you, it was really delicious but I”m just too full.” Bob Burg has a great insight on this. He advises that your response should to be in line with your values and come from a place of kindness. A kind “no, thank you” goes a long way.

3. Focus on the People, not the Food

When it comes down to it, the food is a far off second. Thanksgiving is about speeding time with loved ones. Forget the food. You could make turkey and dressing any night of the week but your grandmother is only sitting next to you twice a year. Instead of stuffing my face with more pie, I’ll catch up with my cousins and play games with my nephew.

4. Eat the Foods you Love

Remember the Restrict-Binge Cycle. Depriving yourself only makes it worse. Eat the damn dessert and enjoy it. My life is better with chocolate pie once a year than never at all.

Thanksgiving Grain-free “Cornbread” Dressing

Thanksgiving Grain-free "Cornbread" Dressing

When I think of Thanksgiving, I go right to the dressing. Turkey is a side dish. All I want is a huge plate of my Granny’s dressing drenched in giblet gravy with some turkey sprinkled on top.

And yes, it’s called dressing. Not stuffing. Who actually stuffs their turkey anyway? It’s called dressing when you cook it in a pan. If you bake a stuffed turkey, you run the risk of bacteria developing since it takes longer for the stuffing to reach an appropriate temperature than the bird. Then you have an overcooked, very dry turkey.

My Granny’s dressing is famous in our family. She has to use her largest pan to meet the demand. But now that I try to limit grains in my diet, I challenged myself to recreate the recipe. I took the base of my Granny’s dressing and substituted the cornbread for cauliflower and parsnips.

This low carb alternative has an unbelievably similar consistency and it looks, tastes and smells exactly like dressing. Cauliflower absorbs whatever flavor you spice it with and parsnips add some crunch.

The nutrition is unmatched in comparison to the original recipe. The original is made with cornbread and white bread, which offer little nutritionally and cause a great spike in your insulin levels. Heavy carbs are to blame for the lethargic feeling and infamous post Thanksgiving meal nap. My new version adds an extra serving of veggies and I won’t feel guilty going back for that second helping.

Thanksgiving Grain-free "Cornbread" Dressing

Makes 6 servings.

3 cups – cauliflower – minced
1 cup parsnips – chopped
1 ½ cup celery – chopped
½ cup – onion – chopped
1 tsp garlic – minced
1 tbsp butter for roasting and sautéing
1 egg – whisked
½ cup chicken stock
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp salt

►Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut up cauliflower into small chunks and food process until it’s the consistency of rice. Butter a baking pan and spread onto the pan.
►Chop parsnips into small cubes and spread over a buttered baking sheet.
►Bake both the parsnips and cauliflower for 10 minutes.
►While those are baking, sauté the onion, celery and garlic in 1/2 tbsp butter for 3 minutes until onions are translucent.
►Combine cauliflower, parsnips and sautéed vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, stock, seasoning and salt and then mix well.
►Heat oven to 350 degrees.
►Spread into a 13”x9” baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.
►Serve with turkey and generous amounts of gravy.

5 Reasons to Buy Organic & Local this Thanksgiving

Photo by Scott David Gordon - from jbgorganic.com
Photo by Scott David Gordon – from jbgorganic.com

I choose local, organically grown foods. Mostly because I’m a control freak. I like to know exactly how my food was raised. And I also want to know the foods I’m eating are nourishing me. Conventional produce and meats are not able to offer the same standards.

Before I get into the other reasons why I buy organic, I have to explain one misconception. Foods labeled organic are not the only organically produced foods. Many small farms practice sustainable farming but do not carry the USDA Organic seal. The Organic certification process is cost prohibitive and too time consuming for most farmers. It requires a daily record-keeping of all tasks, which is unmanageable when you have weeds to pull and crops to harvest.

The best way to learn how something is grown is by getting to know the farm, searching their website or asking the farmer directly at the market.

Better for our Health
When you eat organic, you are much more likely to consume a larger variety of plant species. The majority of conventionally grown food is locked into one variety of the plant. All across the globe, we’re eating the exact same broccoli, making a homogenous diet and assuming that everyone on earth needs the same foods for optimal health. We know this isn’t so. Every body is different and requires different nutrition. Small farmers typically grow varieties not commonly found in the grocery store so you’re getting a more varied nutritional profile when you consume them. Try replacing those canned green beans for heirloom ones this year in your green bean casserole.

No Pesky Pesticides
Pesticides. Just the word makes my skin crawl. The US still allows the use of these harmful chemicals that have been shown to disrupt brain development. According to Environmental Working Group, a single grape sample can contain up to 15 pesticides.

Organic produce is imperfect and it’s these imperfections that garner my attraction. The European Commission is out ahead of the US in fighting against the dangers of pesticides, banning several types and imposes tight restrictions on imported food.

Environmentally, pesticides are killing off honeybees and other beneficial insects. Organic growing practices contribute to a robust biodiversity. The variety of plants allows pollinators to thrive and keeps predators at bay, which in turn cuts down on the need for pesticides. Organic fields have been shown to have over 100 times more pollinators than conventional fields. This means more honeybees and more of my favorite sweetener.

Produced without GMOs
The first genetically engineered product was approved by the FDA in 1993 and now up 70% of processed foods contain GMO ingredients. And 95% of the animals raised in the US are fed GMO feed. This is new science and has not been properly tested for implications. We are all currently part of the experiment and may not know the side effects for decades.

It is important to point out that the original motivation behind GMOs was to create more nutrient dense foods. That is not the case today though. Corn and soy are the most abundant GMO products. These are largely used to make vegetable oils and preservatives placed in empty calorie foods, which are contributing to the obesity epidemic. Not the best use of technology if you ask me.

GMOs are also limiting the number of foods we eat and cutting those foods down to one variety.

The average person eats 15 different foods. Only 15. There are thousands and thousands available across the globe and the use of GMOs is limiting this availability. Rice alone has 40,000 varieties. With a GMO food model, a family in Ohio eats the exact same dinner as a family in India. Nutritionally, this isn’t healthy and culturally, it’s devastating. In order to live a healthy life, we should consume a wide variety of foods. And GMO foods are making this impossible.

Fewer Cases of Food poisoning
Up to 76 million Americans suffer from food poisoning each year according to the Centers for Disease Control caused by the unsafe production of conventional foods.

Salmonella, e-coli and fecal contamination are found in animal products coming from factory slaughterhouses across the country. The disease-infested growing conditions for most animals force farmers to use antibiotics to keep their animals healthy. These antibiotics are then passed on to us, leading to a growing concern of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The more antibiotics we consume through meat, the less able are bodies are to fighting off disease. Animals raised with organic practices live in sanitary environments, minimizing their exposure to harmful bacteria and need for antibiotics.

Most commercial turkey producers add antibiotics to the animal’s diets. So this year, buy your bird from a reliable source. Look for heritage, organic and sustainable in your local market.

Supports the local Economy
Invest in your local economy this Thanksgiving and keep your food local. Small farmers are changing the food system one growing season at a time, saying no to conventional production methods so families can have healthy, safe food.

Local food from small farmers is less likely to contain harmful pesticides and is produced with ethical standards. The farmers are often more transparent and willing to share their growing practices so you know exactly what you’re putting on the table. At farmer’s markets, the farmer is right there to ask questions and will even allow you to come tour the farm.

Where to Shop

►Local Grocery Store

►Farmer’s Market Guide – Local Harvest,  http://www.localharvest.org/

►Local Farms – Eatwild’s Directory of U.S., Canadian and International Farms & Ranches, http://eatwild.com/products/index.html

►Food Cooperative Food Co-op Directory, http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/coops

Ten Reasons to Buy Organic, http://tennessee.sierraclub.org/pdfs/Why-go-organic.pdf

Ten Reasons Why Organic Food is Better, http://www.earthfuture.com/earth/Organic%20-%2010%20Reasons.pdf

Decreased functional diversity and biological pest control in conventional compared to organic crop fields, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21611171

Did Your Thanksgiving Turkey Take Any Antibiotics?, http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/11/26/247377377/did-your-thanksgiving-turkey-take-any-antibiotics

Environmental Working Group, http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

GM crops currently on the Market in the United States, http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/GMonMarketUS.pdf

Eatwild’s Directory of U.S., Canadian and International Farms & Ranches, http://eatwild.com/products/index.html

Food Co-op Directory, http://www.cooperativegrocer.coop/coops