Do yourself a favor this Thanksgiving and sit down for the meal, take small bites, chew slowly and savor the food on your plate.
Shauna Mitchell, health educator, Fort Campbell Army Wellness Center, said your body will thank you for it.
“It takes our bodies time to process what we are eating, so if you are eating great big bites your body can’t really taste it,” Mitchell said. “Your brain isn’t registering what you are eating. Really enjoy your food. Let yourself feel full. Focus on your meal.”
The Fort Campbell Army Wellness Center, 2526 22nd St., provides services to promote and sustain healthy lifestyles of Soldiers, Family members and retirees. The center is part of a U.S. Army Medical Command initiative overseen by the Army Public Health Command.
When making a plate during the holiday, Mitchell urges people to be mindful of their choices. She recommends following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate program to determine if a meal is balanced.
Focus on whole foods and eat lean proteins. Try your best to avoid processed foods that are full of preservatives, she said.
Mitchell encourages people to shop strategically for their groceries by walking the perimeter of the store for fresh items before walking the aisles that are typically stocked with processed items.
“There’s nothing wrong with frozen fruits and vegetables,” she said. “They last longer, which makes them a great alternative for healthy eating.”
Whole grains and pastas, as well as low-fat or fat-free dairy products also are part of a balanced meal, according to MyPlate.
By reducing butter, milk and sodium in certain dishes, your Thanksgiving spread can still include traditional dishes such as mashed potatoes.
“A lot of the times, people won’t even realize you are substituting ingredients to make a dish healthier,” Mitchell said. “If you do it the right way and make sure everything is seasoned it will taste just as good.”
When baking, alternatives such as unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas can be used instead of butter. The amount of sugar can be reduced. Flavors can be amplified by using spices such as cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.
Many people on Thanksgiving will abstain from food until dinner is served. Mitchell strongly discourages this behavior.
“When you do finally allow yourself to eat you may gorge yourself because you are starving,” she said. “That’s such a bad idea. Your blood sugar is going to drop because you haven’t eaten all day, and then once you do eat it is going to spike.”
Throughout the day, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Mitchell recommends drinking water at least 30 minutes before the Thanksgiving meal begins.
Finally, listen to your body. Stop eating when you feel full, she said.
“You are your best advocate. Know your limit and stick to it,” Mitchell said. “It’s hard for a lot of people, but you have to learn to say no.”
Even with the best intentions, some people may stray from healthy eating habits during the holidays. Mitchell said it’s important to avoid backsliding and get back into the swing of things.
“Don’t think you completely ruined your progress, because you didn’t,” she said. “You just start again. You eat balanced meals, exercise and drink water. It’s life and people are not perfect. Just keep going and don’t give up. Tomorrow is a new day, forgive yourself and move forward.”
Fort Campbell Army Wellness Center staff are available to help those who are interested in starting their journey to a healthy well-being.
“We have health coaching where you have a one-on-one appointment with a health educator. We can sit down and talk about your goals, see what your habits are and what you want to change,” Mitchell said.
The center also provides BodPod services to help clients track their progress.
“We also provide metabolic assessment to determine what your calorie needs are if you aren’t sure,” Mitchell said. “We follow that up with a class about upping your metabolism where we go over your results and break them down.”
Fitness assessments also can be administered at the center to help determine your cardiorespiratory fitness, musculoskeletal strength and flexibility.
Fort Campbell Army Wellness Center takes a holistic approach to health. Classes such as “Healthy Sleep Habits,” “Stress Management,” and “Fueling for Health” are offered to teach clients about their health and well-being. For a complete class schedule, visit www.facebook.com/FortCampbellAWC.
The center is open 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays. For more information, call 270-461-3451.