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This Year's Thanksgiving Tip: Hara hucki bu | Nov. 25, 2010

In an effort to avoid the dreaded “holiday weight gain” this year, consider these words to live by “Hara hachi bu”.  This is an expression used by the Okinawans which means eat until you are 80% full.  The Okinawans are famous for having the longest life expectancy in the world. By taking only what we need or really want on the Thanksgiving spread and stopping eating before getting full, you will find that you are actually more satisfied with the meal.  You will also avoid the sleepy feeling you get after lunch or dinner. Eating until 80% full works well because our brains are about 10-20 minutes behind our stomachs.  In other words, our brains don’t tell usually tell us we are full until its often too late and we are over full. 

So, how do you know when you have reached that 80% mark?  Here’s a great trick.  Try using a smaller plate.  If you want to try a bit of everything, then do just that, but only a small piece.  In culinary school they call this a “tasting”.  Try a tablespoon or two of all of your favorite foods.  After all, ½ cup and 1 cup portions of many foods won’t fit on your small plate.  Another trick is to eat slowly. Try to put your fork down every couple of bites. This gives your slow brain a chance to catch up and read the signals from our stomach.

Here are some other important survival tips:

Appetizers—Stick to fresh veggie plates with low fat dips or hummus rather than chips, cheeses and crackers.

Turkey—Choose the white meat without the skin.  White meat is lower in fat and calories.

Mashed potatoes—Use chicken broth instead of butter to flavor mashed potatoes or let your guests add their own amounts of butter or low-fat sour cream. Use a spoon to serve up gravy rather than a gravy boat, you will use less.

Stuffing—Use whole wheat bread if you make this from scratch. Cornbread stuffing is much higher in calories. Cooking the stuffing inside the bird causes it to soak up the turkey fat and also draws moisture away from the bird, increasing the likelihood of having a dry bird.  So cook it separately if possible.  Using chicken broth, onions and celery adds flavor to stuffing made with decreased fat. 

Cranberries—Fresh or frozen cranberries are much lower in sugar than canned.  Adding new flavors like ginger, cardamom can mask their tartness.  Or pair them with naturally sweet fruits like pineapple or cooked apples.

Veggie Sides—Stick to side dishes without the cream sauces such as steamed broccoli, glazed carrots or salads. If you must make green bean casserole, use fat free condensed mushroom soup.

Pie—Choose pumpkin instead of pecan and pass on the whipped cream.  Or try a fruit pie and eat less of the crust and more of the filling.

Making healthful substitutions and practicing Hara huchi bu can keep you fit and lean through this holiday season.  Happy Thanksgiving!