My Thanksgiving planning started a few weeks ago with an email from our friend, John, asking if we wanted to join him and his wife for dinner. We could eat out, he suggested, or stay in. “My preference is hosting here so we can drink a bunch of wine and enjoy some leftovers,” he noted.

slow-down-savor-thanksgivingMine, too, but I knew I’d have to bring my A game to the kitchen. John makes every gathering special, and as a certified wine pro studying to become a master sommelier, he has a particular knack for matching wine and food. So we spent some time putting together a menu of a dozen dishes for which he’ll be opening seven bottles of wine. To add to the fun, he’s even printed a menu for our “event.” By design, ours will be a long, leisurely Thanksgiving feast.

And that’s just as it should be.

I recently wrote a freelance piece about making the Thanksgiving meal a healthy one. I interviewed dietitians and chefs who all had great ideas for how to trim calories and fat without sacrificing flavor. One of my favorite tips, though, doesn’t require changing a thing about how you cook: Slow down the pace of the meal.

One of my favorite tips for creating a nourishing Thanksgiving doesn’t require changing a thing about how you cook: Simply slow down the pace of the meal.

You know how it goes: You spend weeks planning, shopping and cooking, set everything out on the buffet, and everyone loads up their plates and gobbles it all down in 20 minutes. “People tend to shovel it in, and then they’re in that turkey coma,” NOURISH Evolution advisor Rebecca Katz, M.S., told me.

Slowing the pace is good for the cook and for the guests. People will take time to really savor the meal you’ve spent so much time preparing and cooking. And they’ll probably eat less, since it takes at least 15 minutes for your brain to get the message that you’re getting full. “The longer the meal lasts, the more time there is for digestion,” Katz reminded me. Everyone will leave the table satisfied but not stuffed.

Slowing down the meal is easy. Here are three strategies you can employ tomorrow.

  • Don’t serve everything at once. Offer appetizer items first and let people nibble, then move on to the turkey and trimmings, followed by dessert.
  • Use smaller plates. Oversize dinner plates just invite people to overload. Instead, use smaller plates; guests can take seconds of what they really want. There has been intriguing research finding that plate (or bowl or glass) size really does influence how much we eat.
  • Offer visual cues for smart portion sizes. You can prepare individual-size servings of items like desserts. For dishes like mashed potatoes or stuffing, put out an ice cream scooper instead of giant spoon so people can easily serve themselves moderate-sized portions.

Katz recommends starting the meal with little cups of soup. Her advice inspired this creamy mushroom soup, which is rich and luscious and gets Thanksgiving off to a relaxed start.

This Thanksgiving, give yourself and your loved ones the gift of a leisurely feast. They’ll be thankful for it!

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