Toward a Healthy Thanksgiving
By Mark Finley
Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. But honesty compels me to acknowledge that traditional North American Thanksgivings are not the healthiest days of the year. Overeating is common, especially of sugar-laden desserts. It is difficult to resist mom’s apple pie, grandma’s banana bread, sister’s brownies, and auntie’s chocolate-chip cookies. We certainly wouldn’t want to offend anyone! And what would Thanksgiving be without catching up on family news with a few snacks throughout the afternoon?
Thanksgiving can become a day that we eat more than we should, exercise less than we should, and do less good than we should.
Here are a few tips that might be helpful:
1. Eat moderately. The joy of eating is not necessarily how much we eat, but how much we enjoy what we eat. Nutritionists inform us that eating slowly and chewing our food thoroughly creates greater satisfaction than eating large quantities quickly. So chew and enjoy.
2. Make wise choices. Generally, the more color on your plate, the healthier the meal. Eat a variety of colorful foods, including fresh vegetables and salads, with your traditional Thanksgiving fare.
3. Watch the desserts. After you have eaten the dessert of your choice, tell Aunt Mary that her chocolate-chip cookies look delicious but that you’re just too full and would like to save a few for lunch next week. Desserts keep well. Auntie will be happy, your stomach will rejoice, and your heart will cheer.
4. Get some exercise. After lunch, plan some outdoor family activities. Get out in the yard. Throw a ball. Play a game. Take a walk together. Our bodies were made by a loving Creator to keep moving. That means more than sitting in our favorite recliner pushing buttons on the TV remote.
5. Enjoy relationships. The holidays can often be stressful. The house has to be cleaned, food must be prepared, the table set. And afterward there’s washing the dishes, scrubbing pots and pans, and putting away leftovers. If Thanksgiving becomes an exhausting day of overwork and increased stress, we have missed the point. It might be better to simplify: prepare fewer dishes and enjoy one another more.
Take a deep breath, step back, and prepare as much as possible ahead of time. Don’t let the work of it all crowd out enjoying the people you love. You won’t remember how many desserts you made, but you will remember the fabulous discussion you had with a son or daughter home from college, the talk about childhood with your grandfather, the walk you took with your dad, or playing blocks with your 5-year-old. Thanksgiving is a great time to remember our priorities.
6. Surprise someone with kindness: The holidays are wonderfully memorable times for many families. But for some people they are very lonely times. The retired widow, the college student who can’t afford a plane ticket home, the single parent, the elderly man confined to a nursing home, the lonely neighbor next door—the list goes on and on. As a family you may want to discuss what you can do for someone else this Thanksgiving. Unselfish acts of kindness bless not only the one receiving the kindness but also the one giving the kindness. There is health-giving vitality in an act of unselfish kindness. The biblical counsel is still true: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
7. Be thankful: For years our family has taken a few moments on Thanksgiving to express what we are thankful for. Parents, grandparents, children, aunts, and uncles expressing thanks for something specific is both inspirational and encouraging. Hans Selye, the renowned stress researcher from Montreal, coined the expression “attitude of gratitude.” Selye believed that gratitude and thanksgiving promote health more than any other. This reminds me of the apostle Paul’s statements: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4) and “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18).
Wouldn’t it be wise to incorporate these seven Thanksgiving tips into our lifestyle every day? Let’s make every day a day of joyful thanksgiving, living in harmony with the Creator’s laws, and blessing others with unselfish kindness.
Mark A. Finley is editor-at-large of the Adventist Review. This article was published originally in the Adventist Review November 17, 2011 and is being reprinted with permission. To view the original, click here.