Here it comes–Thanksgiving, then Christmas and New Year’s. But each of those days is just one day. You can do anything for one day, food-wise, and it won’t really hurt you. I was going to go through a typical classic Thanksgiving dinner menu and figure out what are the worst things you can eat on that day and maybe give some suggestions on what to do differently. Then I decided not to.
Thanksgiving is a perfect day to talk about exceptional days. By an exceptional day, I mean that some days you are going to eat things that would kill you if you ate like that every day. The beauty of not eating out of boxes and bags at every meal, of not drinking sweetened liquids with every sip, is that on Thanksgiving and Christmas you can partake of that one day’s bounty and it doesn’t just add to the pile of poisons that you have eaten for the rest of the month.
However, if you are in charge of the meal–if it is at your house and guests are bringing food, too–then you can do some things to make it a better meal, nutrition-wise.
The bird, if you are going to find a turkey, can be the purest pasture-raised natural bird you can find and it will certainly be healthier eating than the industrial birds, but unless you know what you are doing, it won’t taste as good as one of those. The Butterball turkey that you can get fresh or frozen has already been pre-basted and brined. That means that it has had ‘ingredients’ injected into the breast meat and it has been soaked in salt water, so that the meat will retain moisture when you roast it and the meal will be savory and juicy when you eat. It tastes better because it’s brined. You can brine your fresh, organic, non-gmo, non antibiotic turkey, too, but you must plan ahead. I own a coleman cooler that perfectly fits my turkey, one gallon of premixed brine (just salt and water) and ice in plastic bags. It must be brined for a day for the salt to get into the breast meat, so all of that equipment is necessary. The ice keeping it cold must be zip locked because melting ice reduces the concentration of salt in the water, watering down your brine can actually take salt OUT of the meat. Not good eats. After brining, your natural bird will taste as good as the very best quality industrial bird. You can find detailed brining instructions at Morton Salt dot com.
The stuffing you eat with your turkey is also an area you can greatly improve upon. If you make your own the natural flavors will all be really natural, instead of the ‘natural’ flavors they list on your ingredients list for your Stovetop Stuffing or Pepperidge Farms stuffing mixes. Your spices will be pure, you won’t use MSG or sugar to enhance the flavor. If you use bread you actually made then your stuffing will be healthy compared to the boxed stuff, but it will still be lots of bread, but hey, “It’s just one day”.
Side dishes are going to be brought by guests at my house, so it’s a little like eating at a restaurant, just enjoy yourself. My side dishes will be fresh vegetables and fruits, cooked at home, nothing out of bags or boxes. If you make your own side dishes using that one simple guideline you will be doing your guests a favor for one day. Many of them will go right back to eating sugar and man-made science fiction ingredients the day after Thanksgiving, but for that one day they could just eat like they did when Grandma cooked the meal.
Desserts are going to be fatty and sweet, but if you create them out of real ingredients and make them yourself not using boxed or bagged mixes then you will be eating almost healthy desserts, and hey, it’s just one day. Sugar is the point in desserts and for centuries people have been eating them without getting type two diabetes at a young age doing it. Eating sugar is not a problem. Eating sugar in every bite you take day in and day out is a problem. Sugar is the kind of poison, like tobacco, that you can use infrequently and it will not hook you. Smoke a cigarette every day and you are hooked. Drink a Coke every day and you are hooked. Eat dessert and enjoy it for the treat it is meant to be–and you can give Thanks that you don’t eat like that at every meal.
The main problem with having Thanksgiving at your house is the leftovers. Leftover pies and cakes are dessert every day. Eating sugar every day or more than once a day is a potential problem, so you have to give them away. I take mine to work, where there are nine other old men that will eat up quite a huge collection of sweets in a single day. Leftovers that came out of boxes and bags are trash. Stuffings, rolls, breads are all trash unless I know where they came from. Home made can be turned into really great breadcrumbs for me. Industrial can’t be turned into anything but bird feed, pity the poor birds. Leftover vegetable dishes are valuable foods that deserve valuable refrigerator space. I will keep them until they mold and I will try to do them the honor of eating them. It helps if your guests carry some of the side dishes away, but usually Thanksgiving leaves me with a great deal of trash, eventually. But it’s just one day.