The RHM Guide to Turkey Day Bliss

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

Written by Menopause Minute® Editors

We’re in charge of the turkey this year. It’s really a tradition at this point. For several years now, we’ve been providing the turkey for our friends and family to feast on. At our gatherings, there are never less than eight table settings. We are serious about giving thanks for our harvest.  It’s usually an all day affair where everyone brings something to the table. We celebrate in the quintessential American tradition; it’s big, it’s spirited, it’s scrumptious.  The steps we take to prepare ourselves before the dinner are equally as important as those during and after.

Before Dinner:

Turkey Cooking Safety
As the designated turkey chef, each year I aim for turkey perfection. I always think of that plump, perfect bird about to be carved from Norman Rockwell’s oil painting, Thanksgiving Dinner.  Not a year goes by where I am not plagued by the same cooking questions. To brine or rub? To tent or open roast? To stuff or not?

The FDA routinely receives calls from their hotline regarding turkey. Storage and safe handling are among the most common. Once you bring your turkey home, you need to immediately place it in the refrigerator to prevent the growth of bacteria and increase shelf life. A fresh, whole turkey will store in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days and in the freezer up to 12 months.

When you’re ready to cook, remember the only sure sign a turkey is cooked and safe to eat is by using a food thermometer to ensure it has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Check the internal temperature of the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
When it comes to stuffing the bird, I don’t mess around. I listen to the experts. Alton Brown (my favorite turkey expert) AND the FDA both say NO STUFFING. Cook the stuffing outside the bird (it’s technically called dressing when prepared like this). That way, you avoid any salmonella and bacteria juices that may drip out of the bird and soak into the stuffing.

Should you go Organic?
This is another question we face every year. Due to this year’s feeble economy, we will be asking ourselves, do we really need to go organic? According to Smart Money, an organic Thanksgiving can cost up to $100 more. Does it pay to go organic? Health experts are really divided about the direct health benefits of an organic diet. Eating organic foods reduces exposure to harmful pesticides, but for some foods, this exposure is so low in the first place, it doesn’t really matter.

The Environmental Working Group tested pesticide residue of 43 types of fruits and vegetables to see which are probably best to purchase from the organic food section of your market. Undoubtedly, going organic is the more environmentally-friendly way of eating. But the reality is, I can’t always afford to purchase organic foods. So, as a general rule, for me, meat and dairy are the most important choices, even if I have to pay more for organic. For my turkey, I buy locally first (even if not organic). If there is an organic, local option, I shell out the extra money.

During Dinner:

Gobbling the Turkey
I love food and I love eating. Throughout the year, I try to eat small portions of healthy meals. My BMI is reasonable and I make a big effort to exercise regularly.  But, the holidays usually throw me off because I am such a foodie.
How can I possibly pass on the mashed potatoes? They are buttery, mouth-watering mountains of pure heaven! My motto is everything in moderation. Instead of piling my plate to the sky with loaded buttery goodness, I take one or two teaspoons for a serving. Don’t overeat. When there are seven to eight side dishes to sample, a teaspoon of each can add up!
Have a sweet tooth? Skip out on some sides. Limit your intake during dinner and indulge in a thin slice of pumpkin pie instead. Balance it out so your caloric intake does not exceed a reasonable amount. This amount is different for everyone.*  Remind yourself that everything on the table is probably waaay more calories than you would expect (i.e., six ounces of white and dark turkey is 340 calories).

After Dinner:

Loosening the Belt
Don’t let the tryptophan fool you!! The tradition at my Thanksgiving party is to bundle up and go for a walk after doing the dishes. Warning: do not get dragged down by the food coma. Everyone makes the mistake of plopping in front of the television, or even going to bed! Take a 10-15 minute walk and you’ll feel revived, refreshed and may even start burning some calories.

In the next few weeks before Christmas, don’t become overly obsessed with the diet and exercise. You have the potential to injure yourself if you jump right into an exercise routine you’re not used to. Warm up to everything slowly. Drink plenty of water, eat small meals and take everything in moderation. Before you know it, Christmas will be here.  Then, the year is almost over, right? That means it’s time to set that New Year’s Resolution for losing weight! In the meantime, try to have a Happy Thanksgiving!

*Grab your calculator and find out what your personal calorie requirements are daily. Your Basal Metabolic Rate is how many calories you’d use if you spent the whole day lying in bed. This is a formula used by many nutritionists and sports professionals for adult women:

Basal Metabolic Weight (BMR) = 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

But now you need to take into account how active you are, so you need to multiply your results by a percentage. To find out how many calories you need to maintain your current rate, here’s the formula:

  • Sedentary (no exercise, sit at a desk most of the day): BMR x 120 percent (ie. an extra 20% on top of the BMR)
  • Light Activity (no exercise, on feet during the day, eg. shop work): BMR x 130 percent
  • Moderately Active (exercise 3 or more days a week for 30 minutes or more): BMR x 140 percent
  • Highly Active (exercise 5 or more days a week for 30 minutes or more): BMR x 150 percent

References:
Bumgardner, Wendy. "Thanksgiving Calorie Calculator." About.com: Walking. About.com, Web. 16 Nov 2009. <http://walking.about.com/library/cal/blthanksgivingcalories.htm>.

"EWG Shoppers Guide." Food News. Environmental Working Group, Web. 16 Nov 2009. <http://www.foodnews.org/EWG-shoppers-guide-download-final.pdf>.

"Food Safety of Turkey…From Farm to Table." United States Department of Agriculture Food and Safety Inspection Service. 05 04 2009. USDA, Web. 16 Nov 2009. <http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Turkey_from_Farm_to_Table/index.asp>.

Zimmer, Erin. "Alton Brown Says No to Stuffing the Turkey." Serious Eats. 10 11 2009. Web. 16 Nov 2009. <http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/11/alton-brown-says-no-to-stuffing-the-turkey-dressing-thanksgiving.html>.

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