Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! (If Christmas decorations go up in November, I’m allowed to wish you Happy Thanksgiving in December… Right?)
I will proudly declare that over Thanksgiving week, I did absolutely zero cooking whatsoever (which explains the lack of SMM posts last week). I am not normally proud of this, but in this case I am so very proud to be friends with this beautiful woman, Caitlin Parker:
Caitlin owns Firefly Coffeehouse, which is the best coffeehouse in Santa Cruz, serving possibly the best bagels in the world. She single-handedly cooked an entire glorious Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people. And I get to be friends with her. So for that I am PROUD! (And thankful, of course.)
I know that for Thanksgiving we like to stuff ourselves like a Tur-human (instead of Turducken… Will that joke catch on?), but I have to say, aside from the All-American gluttony that we embrace for this holiday, and aside from the questionable history of the “first Thanksgiving”, I think it’s a pretty awesome holiday.
It is a day where the focus is on being thankful for all that you have. There is no focus on gift-consumerism, it is not religion-based so there is little conflict there, and the traditional dinner is full of amazing dishes that really get me geared up for winter. Plus, even in the 15 years that I was a vegetarian, there were always a dozen side dishes to keep me stuffed. I never really understood why people pitied me, as a vegetarian, around Thanksgiving.
So, let’s take a look at all the awesomeness that I consumed, and then we’ll talk about just how awesome it really was, from a health-standpoint.
What a gorgeous plate. And I’ll have you know, even though I was taking pictures I was not restraining myself with the knowledge that my gluttony would be broadcasted on a health food website. So this is not a censored this-is-how-a-healthy-person-should-eat plate, but a Jamie-plans-to-eat-anything-she-darn-well-pleases plate.
I like the white meat, which has about 150 cals per serving. Dark meat bumps you up to about 200 cals, and if you’re eating skin, add another 50 cals. Regardless, you’ll get about 28 grams of protein (score!) and 8-13 grams of fat, depending on whether you like light or dark meat. I like to think of tryptophan (the essential amino acid in turkey that makes you sleepy) not as making you feel exhausted from eating, but feeling relaxed– Like you just got a big ol’ turkey massage. Turkey is also a great source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins.
Health consensus: YES! LOAD UP!
What is Thanksgiving without stuffing?! Of course, how healthful the stuffing is, like everything else, mostly depends on how it was prepared. Whereas raw vegan stuffing is super light on fat and calories, traditional bread stuffing– like this one– will rock your body at about 350 cals per cup. A cup seems like a lot, though! My helping was a half cup, or ~175 cals.
Health consensus: Enjoy but don’t indulge.
It’s essentially nutrient-less, so treat it like it’s dessert.
Mash potatoes is known as a fatty, high-cal culprit, but let’s see about that. One cup of mashed potatoes contains about 200 cals, if made with whole milk and butter like this big bowl of yum. I had about 3/4 cup, so I’ll clock mine at 150 cals. It has a bunch of random nutrients– Vitamin C and a bunch of Vitamin Bs and such. Plus, one thing that I love about potatoes is that they give you that yummy, guilt-ridden sense of over-processed carbs without actually being over-processed or guilt-worthy.
Health consensus: Not bad, but either go for moderation, or nix the stuffing and bread rolls and just indulge in the taters.
You’re seeing right– Caitlin hollows out orange peels for single-serving sweet potatoes. I think she might use the orange in her cranberry sauce. Freaking brilliant.
(I did not have any marshmallows on mine, due to my sugar sensitivity.)
A half-cup of mashed sweet potatoes yields about 125 cals, a TON of vitamin A (over 200% of your daily need), plus other stuff like vitamin B, C, manganese, etc.
Health consensus:YES! LOAD UP!
Now, this is not some raw healthful green bean crap. This is freaking Thanksgiving. These beans have bleu cheese, pecans, and bacon (I rarely eat bacon unless it’s turkey bacon, but I made an exception).
These beans are sooo tasty. The beans alone would yield 80 cals per cup, and vitamin C, A, and manganese. The bleu cheese, pecans, and bacon added on 100 extra cals, plus we got a few B vitamins and calcium.
Health consensus: Enjoy!
(But don’t trick yourself into thinking they’re calorie-free, just because they’re green.)
I only had a little bit, since it was made with sugar. About a tablespoon full, to spread on the turkey.
Cranberry sauce clocks in at about 25 cals per tablespoon, and although cranberry sauce has (the dreaded) sugar, cranberries have a bunch of antioxidants. And since they’re in season, I have to think that there’s something in them that your body wants for the cold season.
Health consensus: GO FOR IT.
If you love cranberries and want more than a couple tablespoons, consider saving it for dessert and skipping the pie.
There’s always going to be some kind of salad on the table at Thanksgiving, right?
We know that salad is generally good for you, so let’s skip the detailed analysis and say…
Health consensus: OF COURSE!
(Unless it’s covered in a heavy dressing.)
Caitlin did a trial run of these on a few friends before Thanksgiving, and they were so good that 6 people polished of a batch of 50 rolls in one sitting.
When it comes down to it, white bread doesn’t have much of any nutrient, though it might give you a burst of energy to get through dinner before you collapse into a food coma. I’m going to estimate that one roll had about 85 cals.
Health consensus: Skip or enjoy, but go easy on them.
Even if they are fresh out of the oven, homey balls of doughy goodness, try to keep it to one or two.
I didn’t take a picture, but the gravy was country gravy– the creamy white kind that you want to dump over biscuits. Country gravy generally has about 50 calories per tablespoon, which really adds up if you dump it all over everything! We can be generous and say that there is some calcium in there, but it’s heavy-whipping-cream calcium. Nothing to write home about, in the health department.
I rocked it on the mashed potatoes and stuffing, so I’m counting that as 100 cals.
Health consensus: OBVIOUSLY it’s delicious, so don’t deprive yourself– But if there is one item to go easy on, it’s this one. Use as little as you can.
Ok, so in total, I got a whole array of nutrients, and the calorie count leaves me at…
Can you see how easy it is to eat a few thousand calories, by returning for seconds or thirds and dumping gravy over everything???
As this is a once-a-year event for me, I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about it. In fact, considering the statistics on how much people consume on Thanksgiving, I’m actually perversely proud that I *only* had a thousand cals.
Happy belated Thanksgiving! I hope this is information you can keep in mind as we approach the similar Holiday dinners…