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Even though it's almost two weeks 'til Thanksgiving, it's never too early to make plans for this traditional family feast. Here's thanks to Consumer Reports for their help in providing today's "'Turkey' Savings and Smart Eating Tips."

1. Beware of fasting before dinner. Starving yourself in the morning or, for that matter, even eating a bite or two definitely can lead to ravenous overeating on up in the day. Further, it's wise to eat some protein for breakfast (eggs, peanut butter, and so forth) so your stomach isn't bellowing later in the day.

2. If you're the hostess, don't feel obligated to put every food gift out. Those "sweet" hostess gifts lend themselves to guests' grazing and, thus, overeating. Unless you've designated someone to bring dessert for the meal, then freeze every other foodstuff with which company arrives. (Do thank the gifter individually, however.)

3. Forget fried foods for appetizers. If you can't come up with fresh hors d'oeuvres on your own, then google some ideas, such as veggie trays, stuffed mushrooms, and low-fat cheese trays, for example.

4. Rather than providing a (fattening and expensive) open bar, create a spritzer or another signature drink. For the spritzer, mix half red or white wine and half seltzer in a wine glass and add a slice of lime. If you prefer a signature drink, try either of my personal Christmas favorites – one a punch and the other an individually-served drink. For the punch (and depending on the number of guests), mix one 1.5-liter bottle of Sangria with two 2-liter bottles of Sprite; after pouring these into a pretty punch bowl, stir in slices of oranges, pineapple, and grapefruit. If your guests prefer a less sweet drink and, again, after determining how many dinner or party attendees to expect, continue the red and green motif. Have available for each person's drink 1 ounces of vodka, 5 ounces of cranberry juice, ice cubes, and a lime wedge. Guests can then pour the liquor and juice over ice and garnish with the lime. If more pleasing or convenient, pour the liquids into the punch bowl for guests to help themselves. (Of course, liquor is optional so always present a non-alcoholic drink for those of us who don't imbibe.)

5. Careful eating at a buffet is mandatory. I never get my money's worth dining at a buffet while, on the other hand, Hubby feels like this type of dining offers him a personal challenge! Rather than loading up your plate, decide what you really crave before snatching the first morsel. Another strategy is to take a bite or two – and no more - of all that looks and smells most appealing.

6. Eat slowly. Don't be in such a rush. Your hostess has gone to a lot of trouble to create a fine dining experience and will appreciate the sight of her guests savoring each bite. Plus, the more slowly we eat, studies show the less we eat. No mindless calories for this holiday meal!

7. Wait a bit rather than immediately serving dessert. In fact, a clever hostess knows a wait between a heavy meal and that sumptuous pecan pie is probably appreciated. When my husband's clan gathered at his mother's for Thanksgiving many years ago, we always took a relaxing stroll during that time around the neighborhood. The crisp air and family chatter made the time speed by, and the walk invigorated each of us with anticipation for the multitude of desserts that awaited our renewed appetites.

8. Clear away all nibbles as soon as the meal is over. Mindless snacking – especially on an already-full tummy – only leads to uncomfortable fullness and empty calories.

9. Clean up while guests offer to help (and, if we're the guests, make the offer). Some hostesses prefer to put up leftovers by themselves or to wash their own dishes; however, many of us like the extra assistance so we can sit back and relax when our company departs.

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340

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