Habits of Healthy Eaters: Don't Make Extra Food

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Next week will be the fourth time that my husband and I host our families at our house for Thanksgiving This year, I'll be cooking for 15 guests—a new record! I like cooking and I tend to make the same Thanksgiving dishes each year: rosemary roasted sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, steamed green beans, garlic mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing from whole-wheat bread, honey-glazed tofu, whole-grain couscous with pumpkin seeds, and of course, turkey (courtesy of my mom). We usually have a beautiful seasonal salad, too, and small amounts of fixings like cranberry sauce and gravy. And don't forget the dessert! I make pumpkin pie from scratch every year (starting from an actual pumpkin!), my sister will usually make a baked apple or pear dessert, my sister-in-law will make some gluten-free cookies, and my mother-in-law brings her delicious rice pudding.
It can be a challenge to cook so much food for so many people in my tiny kitchen, but I think it's fun. I see it as an opportunity to show my family members that you can eat healthy over the holidays and still eat plenty of delicious food! No one ever complains that the bread we serve is whole-grain or that the bulk of our sides are vegetables.
But one holiday tradition I don't believe in is stuffing yourself like a turkey!
Just as I work out on Thanksgiving and other holidays, I treat holidays like any other day when it comes to food. That means practicing moderation when it comes to what I put on my plate and how much I eat of it.
But whether you make all the traditional Thanksgiving foods or you try healthier versions of the classics like I do, one thing we could all benefit from is making less food. Here's why.
Less is more when it comes to weight maintenance and healthy living. A lot of people view Thanksgiving as a time to overindulge, and many will keep returning to the kitchen all day for additional helpings of food. This can add up to thousands of extra calories over the course of the day—and it's far from necessary. Even so, the more you make, the more leftovers you'll have to deal with in your house. I don't know about you, but if I have enough pumpkin pie to last a week, I'll be eating it every day until it's gone. So instead, I make just enough for my guests (and myself) to have a slice on Thanksgiving, but nothing extra.
When you cook just enough for you and your guests, you'll save money, too. Couldn't we all use a little extra green this time of year? Be frugal at the grocery and consider realistic portion sizes that people can eat within the meal itself—not later in the day or later into the week. Who says your small family needs enough food to feed 20 just because it's Thanksgiving? I make just one batch of every food in my spread, and it's always been more than enough for everyone to enjoy a reasonable portion. When there's only one bowl of potatoes or one apple pie, everyone will automatically adjust their portions to allow everyone to enjoy a small amount. Trust me on that one!
Cooking less food also makes the cooking part easier. Limit the number of dishes you serve to the essentials or overall favorites. Few people like gravy at my table, so I make just a tiny saucepan worth. And not everyone likes turkey, so my mom brings just enough for the turkey lovers at the table to all have a portion. When considering how much you need to make, remember that people don't "need" to try everything, nor will they always want to. Try to apply this to desserts, specifically. I have four desserts for 15 people, but I will not make 15 servings of all four desserts. Running out of rice pudding isn't the end of the world. In fact, if you don't want all those sweets sitting around for days, running out of food is a good thing—it's the whole point!
Making just enough food is a great tactic to try when the foods you're making are rich, high in fat and/or calories, or just to tempting for you to keep around the house without overindulging. For many people, that applies to Thanksgiving comfort foods and other holiday fare—especially the sweets. This Thanksgiving, show your thanks not by overindulging, but by enjoying just enough and being thankful that you have just what you need when so many people have so much less. I promise it'll fatten your wallet, make your cooking easier, and keep your waistline in check.
Have you ever tried the tactic of making just enough food to avoid extra temptation? Do you ever get backlash from friends or family members who want to eat large portions when you're trying to keep yours in check?