Second Helpings Anyone?

Canada celebrates Thanksgiving this weekend, and over the past week I found myself preparing and organizing for Sunday dinner with family and dear friends. Although this year my parents will spend the weekend with my sister in Merritt and our son who works in Grande Prairie won't make it home, we are thankful to have our girls, my hubby's parents and our best friends join us round the table.

Whether you love to do the cooking, or secretly let out that sigh of relief when an invitation comes your way, without a doubt wherever you go this weekend, it will definitely be all about food. Lots and lots of food. How many of you are yawning right now just thinking about that over-loaded dinner plate? And herein lies the problem.

Thanksgiving aside, North American is one of the few places on the planet where an abundance of food has actually become an obstacle to better health rather than a solution. Too many items to choose from often leads to too many items being chosen at one time. This in turn has led us to our current health crisis of multiple lifestyle diseases resulting from the highest overweight and obesity rates in history. Let's face it, we've all been to Costco and come away with a few more items than we intended. Even compared to as recently as 20 – 30 years ago, foods are now packaged in much larger quantities - portions served in many restaurants are often enough for two people. Even popcorn and drinks at the movie theatres are about triple the size I remember getting as a child. It was when this super-sized movement collided with the “clean your plate” generation most of us grew up in, that the problems really became evident. And since it's pretty safe to say that big box stores aren't going anywhere and most people enjoy taking home doggie bags and the free refill of popcorn, what can we do to turn things around?

Start by being thankful. Thankful that because we have such an abundance of food, we also have an abundance of choices to go with. Like choosing to have second helpings. If right about now you're thinking, “Didn't she just say we are eating too much?”, you're right, I did. Just stay with me for a minute and I'll explain.

Typically, Thanksgiving dinner has always been the perfect storm to cause people to overeat. Turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, cranberry sauce with pumpkin, apple and berry pies for dessert – who wouldn't want to try everything? In some families stuffed people is more of a tradition than a stuffed bird. Regardless of what time turkey is served, an hour later everyone moves from the table to the couch and begins dozing off in front of the TV. Sound familiar? This bloated, sloth-like lethargy comes from the blood sugar spike and subsequent crash that comes as a result of eating too much at one time. The solution? Have seconds. By splitting that meal up, eating half at dinner and then the other half three hours later, not only will you avoid feeling tired and bloated, you'll also prevent weight gain and fat storage. And the best part is you were able to enjoy not one, but two turkey dinners. Win!

As you well know if you follow my column, it's all always about the balance. And the good news is that creating balance within our meals by eating a combination of a protein, fat and carbohydrate (PFC) every three hours, literally provides us with more opportunities to enjoy our favourite foods. Eating a PFC meal within one hour of waking and every three hours throughout the day while you are awake (PFC every 3!) allows blood sugar to stabilize. Stabilizing blood sugar creates homeostasis (balance) within the body which in turn lowers blood glucose, balances hormones, releases fat, builds lean muscle, increases energy, improves focus, attention and sleep, reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and improves both immune and cognitive function. Who wants a piece of that pie?

So when you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this weekend, choose your portions assuming you'll be having seconds, enjoying the same amazing meal again in a few hours. You'll be less likely to suffer from the “eyes are bigger than my belly” syndrome and avoid the post-dinner turkey coma in the process. Of course the only drawback to this plan is while everyone else is passed out on the couch, you may be the only one with enough energy left to clean up the kitchen. A small price to pay for health.

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