Q: [All Ages] How do I incorporate health and fitness for my family around Thanksgiving?
A: While Thanksgiving memories can be commonly associated with an excessive intake of food and drink, here are some sensible recommendations to make for a more health-conscious holiday.
Involve Children in Meal Preparation: With more school-age children on holiday for the entire week of Thanksgiving, there is an increased opportunity to have children assist in food selection and cooking. Have younger children collect more colors (translation: fruits and vegetables) to use in the big meal. Have older children help measure out ingredients and in the process learn about the different components of each type of served food. Use the help of children to prepare more meals from scratch rather than relying on processed foods, which have more salt and preservatives.
Strike a Solid Balance: Indeed, some traditional Thanksgiving favorite dishes aren’t perhaps the most nutritious offerings. However, as long as you try to balance out the table with other selections that might be more beneficial for overall health, you can still enjoy the unique offerings of the holiday.
Be Careful with Thanksgiving Morning Football: While playing outside is generally better for fitness than just sitting on the couch watching football, trying to imitate your favorite professional greats or relive past glory days can be a health hazard. Too many Thanksgiving meals have been altered by hamstring pulls, sprained knees or banged up shoulders from seemingly innocent touch football games. Take ample time to warmup beforehand, and playing something less than all out might keep you from having to sit out later in the day.
Limit the Pre-Meal Snacking: Leave plenty of room for that Thanksgiving meal by reducing pre-meal snacks that might be tasty but are commonly full of unneeded salt, sugar or unhealthy fats.
Slow Down and Slim Down at Meal Time: With a bounty of tantalizing Thanksgiving foods, there often is a perception to load up the plate with large servings and then hurry through a first course to get to a second (or more) course. Use the size of your fist as a guide for a more proper serving size. Try to slow down between bites and wait for around 20 minutes before going for another plate. Giving more time allows for a sense of fullness and less chance of overeating.
Take the Family for a Turkey Walk-Off: Rather than succumb to that post-Turkey nap, gather up the group of family and friends and go for a brisk walk between meal and dessert. This will help overcome that Thanksgiving food coma and give you more energy for the rest of the day.
Shop for Good Fitness: From grocery store runs to Black Friday adventures, shopping trips are another beloved staple of Thanksgiving. While many might covet that prized close parking spot, parking the car farther away and getting in more steps can be a fitness bonus. If you are one to line up for precious Black Friday deals, don’t be afraid to pass the time with exercise (pushups, air squats and even balancing on one foot) rather than just sitting or standing around. If you aren’t rushing to chase down a particular sale, take time to window shop for 10-15 minutes before actually entering the stores. Use the stairs instead of escalators or elevators, and step-up your shopping fitness not just for Thanksgiving, but all year round.
Be Truly Thankful: Part of good health and fitness is the mental and emotional aspect. This means taking the time to give appropriate thanks during Thanksgiving, especially for important people in your life.
Dr. Chris Koutures is a pediatric and sports medicine specialist who practices at ActiveKidMD in Anaheim Hills. He is a team physician for USA Volleyball, the U.S. Figure Skating Sports Medicine Network, CSUF Intercollegiate Athletics, Chapman University Dance Department, and Orange Lutheran High School.