Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Health Care and Thanksgiving 2009

Americans are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. It is usually a time for families to gather and give thanks. In 1789, according to BeliefNet.com, President George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving in honor of the United States Constitution. In 1846, Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of a Godey's Lady's Book magazine, began a campaign to have the last Thursday in November designated as a national Thanksgiving Day. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln decided that the national Thanksgiving Day would be held on the last Thursday in November. In 1941, Congress named the fourth Thursday in November Thanksgiving Day rather than the last Thursday of the month.

The history of this holiday pre-dates these official recognitions. According to BeliefNet, the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 when the the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. Only half the colonists had survived the first winter, and in the spring the Wampanoag Indians shared their seeds and showed the colonists how to grow corn. Harvest celebrations had been a tradition among many Native American tribes and in Europe before the arrival of Christianity.T he act of giving thanks can be both spiritual and secular. Gratitude as an every day practice is one of the most powerful things people can observe.

According to SeattlePI.com, the Pilgrims, as every school child used to know, arrived in 1620 and, save for the local natives, especially a conveniently (providentially) placed English-speaking Christian native named Squanto, would have starved. By the fall of 1623, things were looking up. So William Bradford, governor of Plimouth Plantation, proclaimed a day to "render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God" for survival, abundant food and protection from the "ravages of the savages." Bradford's proclamation said nothing about consumption, conspicuous or otherwise, but ordered "all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones," to get themselves to "ye meeting house" and "listen to ye pastor."

Today, the biggest event of the holiday, though competing with watching parades and football games on TV all day, is the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal. Thanksgiving Day is a time-honored American tradition, a time for family gatherings and a holiday meal that encourages over-the-top decadence, according to WebMD.com. And for many (some 97% of us), the thought of a Thanksgiving without turkey is heresy. Americans gobble up roughly 45 million turkeys to celebrate the annual holiday.

Do you know that the average Thanksgiving dinner has over 2000 calories? It can be a real challenge if you are watching your waistline, according to HealthCastle.com. The following are some eating tips so that you can still look good and be healthy after the Thanksgiving dinner without having to deprive yourself. Here are some healthy tips for the day. If you are a guest of a Thanksgiving dinner:
1.) Don't go to the Thanksgiving dinner hungry: we often eat faster and more when we are hungry - therefore eat a wholesome breakfast and lunch on the day to avoid overeating at dinner time.
2.) Thanksgiving dinner is not an all-you-can-eat buffet: Fill your plate half with vegetables, one quarter with a lean meat and the rest with a starch of your choice. Eat slowly and stop when you are full.
3.) Turkey - go skinless: choose your 4-oz turkey portion skinless to slash away some fat and cholesterol. Save your appetite for the side dishes and desserts.
4.) Side Dishes - watch your portion size: go for smaller portions. This way you can sample all the different foods. Moderation is always the key.
5.) Make a conscious choice to limit high fat items: high fat food items can be found in fried and creamy dishes as well as cheese-filled casseroles in a traditional Thanksgiving meal . For instance, mashed potatoes are usually made with butter and milk; green bean casseroles are often prepared with cream of mushroom soup, cheese and milk and topped with fried onions; candied yams are loaded with cream, sugar and marshmallows. If you cannot control the ingredients that go in to a dish, simply limit yourself to a smaller helping size. Again moderation is the key.
6.) Drink plenty of water: alcohol and coffee can dehydrate your body. Drink calorie-free water to help fill up your stomach and keep you hydrated.

If you are the honorable chef of a Thanksgiving dinner:
1.) Substitute high fat ingredients with lower-fat or fat-free ingredients.
2.) Leftover Turkey? Instead of turkey sandwiches, use the leftover turkey to make a pot of soup with fresh chunky vegetables.
3.) Experiment with new recipes: Do a search on Google for numerous delicious yet healthy low-fat contemporary Thanksgiving recipes. Experiment!

According to WebMD.com, it's always important to follow safe food handling practices to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. This year, consumers may also be worried about the potential for bird flu in their turkeys. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service reassures us that bird flu (avian influenza) is not transmissible by eating poultry. The real concern, as always, is viruses and bacterial contamination. The Mississippi Department of Health (MDH) encourages all holiday cooks to add food safety to their list of necessary kitchen ingredients. In the home or in a restaurant, preparing food involves both health and safety, so please observe the following advice:
--Remember to cook turkey to the proper internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (°F). --Cook roast, pork, and fish to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit, ground beef to at least 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauces, soups and gravy must come to a boil when reheating.
--Do not cross-contaminate, and be sure to cool foods properly. Never place cooked food on a plate which previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
--Always cook dressing separately from the turkey. Place the dressing in the turkey after both are cooked.
--Always wash your hands before and after handling food. Wash your hands with hot soapy water after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets.
--Wash surfaces often. Those preparing the meal should wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.
--Refrigerate or freeze prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
--Do not overload your refrigerator: space items loosely so that cool air can circulate.
--Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling.
--Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave — never defrost food at room temperature.

The National Turkey Federation and USDA suggest following these guidelines -- along with using a meat thermometer -- when roasting an unstuffed bird:
8-12 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12-14 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14-18 pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18-20 pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20-24 pounds: 4 1/2 to 5 hours
As you prepare for your upcoming celebration, keep these safety and preparation tips in mind to make sure you enjoy a happy and healthy holiday.

In modern times, Americans observe Thanksgiving as a time to be with family and friends, to watch football on TV, to indulge in lots of food all day long, and figure out when to get to the mall on "Black Friday," the biggest shopping day of the year. The holiday has lost much of its original meaning. However, in keeping with the spirit of the day, Americans should recognize the source of blessings. Thanksgiving is kept alive even today through our undying faith in what our forefathers believed in, the freedom of the soul to chose between what is right and what is wrong and our inner strength to practice this faith in God and ourselves openly. According to Thanksgiving4All.com, in our national songs, “In God We Trust” or our Pledge of Allegiance “one nation under God”, this faith finds special attention as well. Thanksgiving in America is an embodiment of goodness and contentment. In a land partaking in plenty, this secular festival marks the coming together of distant family members to celebrate and pray for each other's well being and thank God for his immense grace.

Additionally, and most importantly, the spiritual health of a nation must be constantly guarded, strengthened, and encouraged by its people and its leaders. George Washington, in an address in 1789, proclaimed with these words, "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor...[we] recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God." Hence for all of America, Thanksgiving is a time to rediscover the spiritual being within, look to God for our strength and source of blessings, and draw strength from our founders and political zealots whose prolific faith has created a nation that all citizens as well as our progeny will be proud of for all time.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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