No. Definitely not. Don’t sneak kale into the holiday stuffing.

Put it there if you like kale and if it will make the stuffing taste good. But don’t put it there to “healthify” the holiday.

Here are two other things you don’t have to think about this Thanksgiving:

  1. Making sure you stuff your kids with healthy snacks before the main meal.
  2. Make sure your kids eat their veggies before they nose-dive into the pie.

Unless you want to risk teaching your kids to overeat. ‘Cause really, no one passes up the pie just because they’re full.

The pressure to make Thanksgiving healthy is misguided. It’s part of a trend towards the medicalization of meals.

I recently saw a video where a Registered Dietician was showing some children how to make tacos that followed the MyPlate guidelines. Everything that went into the tacos was “justified” by its health benefits.

The tomatoes, the RD offered, should go in because—and I don’t remember the wording exactly— they were packed with healthy things like vitamins and Lycopene. As an afterthought the RD added something about how great tomatoes taste.

As long as we continue to talk about food in terms of health, and not in terms of taste, we’ll never sell the “good” stuff, and we’ll keep selling the “good” stuff—if you know what I mean.

I’ll write more about the medicalization of meals another time. But it’s important to think about this during Thanksgiving because you don’t want to put too much pressure on this lovely holiday.

Besides, how valuable is “healthifying” Thanksgiving if you don’t teach your kids some healthy holiday habits?

The skills and habits you teach your children about how to handle holiday eating will last a lifetime.  So, what are you going to teach them?

I’d like to suggest:

  • Have fun.
  • Enjoy the food.
  • Don’t throw up.

I’m only partially joking.  An incredibly important holiday survival strategy is learning to indulge without grossly overeating, i.e. without throwing up.

So much attention is placed on one or two celebratory days.  When really, if you have developed the right eating habits, you should be able to go wild—if that’s what you want—for each and every holiday of the year.

There are three habits that translate nutrition into behavior.

  • Proportion: Eating healthy food more frequently than mediocre or junky food.
  • Variety: Eating different food over time.
  • Moderation: Only eating when you’re hungry, and stopping when you’re full (and not eating because you’re bored, sad, or lonely).

During Thanksgiving focus primarily on teaching Proportion and Moderation. (If you want, you can include variety during step 3 below: Bookends.)

Here are three strategies to teach your kids that will serve them well over a lifetime of holiday eating.

  1. Eat What You Want
  2. Pace Yourself
  3. Bookend the Holidays with Healthy Eating

For tips on how to implement these strategies, read Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~