How to Prepare for Thanksgiving Without as Much Stress
© 2021 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
While most people visualize their Thanksgiving Day as a warm and loving time surrounded by family, cozy aromas of turkey and stuffing cooking in the oven and feelings of gratitude, it can also induce stress brought on by high expectations, hectic preparation for the big day, family spats and nagging worries of overeating. It’s things like this that build up and many times take the joy out of what could be a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday.
The key is to be prepared in advance before the holiday to create your ideal Thanksgiving, one without stress and chaos.
If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner there are 10 things on your checklist to make it as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.
Your 10-Step Checklist to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving
Sit down and write out your plan—Write out your guest list to include the number of guests so you know how much you’ll need to buy to make your meal. Planning ahead is the key to alleviating stress because it helps to avoid everything piling up at once and creating an overwhelming atmosphere.
Plan a potluck or ask guests to bring a dish, decorations or paper products—These are great ways to get others involved and spread out the responsibilities of cooking and preparation. By calling guests ahead of time and giving them an idea of what to bring you can avoid having 15 sweet potato casseroles and ensure variety in your meal. For those who don’t enjoy cooking, you can ask that they bring drinks, a special punch, paper products or decorations.
Do your shopping -- the earlier the better—Get to the stores and stock up in advance as the grocery stores become mobbed with last-minute shoppers closer to Thanksgiving Day. You may also risk stores running out of certain items if you wait too long to do your shopping.
Make as many dishes and desserts in advance that you can—This includes your side dishes, desserts, and breads and also prep time for cutting and storing vegetables, measuring out seasonings and labeling the bags.
Experimenting with a new dish? Do a practice test run first. If you’re going to attempt a new recipe or use a special ingredient you haven’t used in the past, practice beforehand so there are no unpleasant surprises at meal time.
Encourage the whole family participate in the festivities of the day—Your children can get involved by helping with cleaning the house, folding napkins, setting the table and making decorations such as place cards or pictures to display on the refrigerator. These activities can keep them busy while you tend to the meal preparation.
Take your turkey out of the oven and leave it covered for 20 minutes before slicing—This will buy you some time in the last minute stretch to get everything on the table at once. It will also assure that your turkey stays tender. You can always use your microwave oven to reheat other food before serving when all the burners on the stovetop are occupied.
Serve your meal buffet-style—This will help both with space and cleanup time and gives guests the opportunity to get up and help themselves to seconds whenever they want.
After your meal sit around and share stories, love and knowledge—Stories from grandma and grandpa create the tapestries of the past and family history. It gives children the chance to learn how older family members dealt with problems in their lives and gives them the tools needed to be less fearful of what the future has in store.
Put family issues aside, swallow your pride and forgive—Let go of any previous grudges and vow to make a fresh start and new beginning with others.
Most people look forward to mom’s homemade stuffing or a slice of pecan pie along with a glass of eggnog on Thanksgiving Day, but are overridden with guilty feelings about it the next day. To overcome this guilt, some experts recommend relishing the day and getting back on track on Friday.
Another expert encourages enjoying all of the food, in small amounts:
“My approach is to pick and choose,” said Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, who wrote the 2006 book What to Eat. “I taste everything, keep the servings really small, and save room for seconds of the foods I really like. But if family dynamics mean that the cook will never forgive you if you don’t eat the food, it’s best to eat the food, enjoy every bite, and deal with dieting later in the week.”
Whatever approach you decide to take, there are six simple actions you can follow to achieve a healthy eating outlook on Thanksgiving.
Five Ways to Enjoy Your Thanksgiving Dinner Without Calorie-Counting Guilt
Get out and exercise the morning of Thanksgiving Day and after your Thanksgiving meal. One simple and easy way of doing this is going for a brisk walk with some family members.
Enjoy the foods you love in small portions.
Plan other activities around the day so the focus isn’t solely on food. Before Thanksgiving Day you could also work on reprogramming the way you think about food. As you eat, think about the food, give thanks for it, and really taste each bite. When you savor your food in this way, you will feel full and satisfied on much less food. If you have trouble feeling calm and focused when you eat, try reprogramming these unhealthy habits with prayer and or meditation.
Calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body, with mental relaxation techniques which are essential in today's hectic days by being in touch with preparations that allow you enjoy the moment allowing these to become your new healthier habits.
If you are preparing the meal or bringing a dish, make something that goes along with your nutritional needs
After the big meal is served, get up and clear the table, put the food away immediately and pack leftovers to send home with guests. You don’t have to throw out all of the healthy, unused vegetables and fruits you were going to use for your meal, as there is always a way to extend their freshness.Wrap and seal all the left overs in parceled portions for all the guests to take home as well as keeping some for the hosts. .
Thanksgiving is a time for giving back to others and thanking them for all of the good they have brought to your life. You can start a new tradition in your family by sitting at the dinner table just before the meal is served and have everyone around the table express on thing they are grateful for over the past year. This is especially helpful in teaching gratitude to children.
Additionally, one of the greatest gifts you can give at this time of year is your time to someone in need. There are several ways you can reach out to do this. Here are five ways you can give back and add something special to someone else’s life.
Five Ways to Express Your Gratitude Toward Others in Need
- Donate to a favorite charity, such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill
Go through your closets and cabinets and pick out items such as old toys, clothes or home furnishings that you no longer use, but that can come in handy to others. If you don’t have time to go through your items and still want to give back, you can always write out a check for a monetary donation to the charity of your choice. If you’d like you could personalize it by including a short note on why you chose their charity and support their cause.
- Visit a hospital or volunteer at a senior center or a veteran's home
The hospital can be extremely lonely place particularly during the holidays when patients can’t be with their families. You can get your kids involved by having them pick out a toy they think a needy child might like and have them go with to deliver it to a local children’s hospital. Elderly people in nursing homes or veteran’s homes love to share stories of their past. By visiting and sitting and listening or playing a game of cards with them, you can bring an hour or two of joy to their lives when they otherwise would be spending it alone.
- Send a care package to soldiers overseas
Put together a holiday care package for soldiers oversea who won’t be coming home for the holidays. Some of the things you can include are everyday necessities like soap, razors, toothbrushes, and travel-sized toiletries. You can also include some snacks like cookies, Rice Krispies® Treats and gum or games, like a pocket-sized Sudoku or crossword puzzle books they will enjoy to have on hand for their free time.
- Provide a Thanksgiving dinner for a family in need or donate or volunteer at a women’s shelter
You can make a big difference to one family in need this holiday season by offering to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner through your church or an outreach organization in your community. Your children can participate by helping you make the shopping list and going grocery shopping with you.
You can donate a turkey to your local women’s shelter or take some time to volunteer to serve food at a homeless shelter.
- Invite Those You Know Will Be Alone This Year to Your Thanksgiving Dinner
If you know of a family member who has recently lost someone or will be alone this Thanksgiving, extend an invitation to your home for dinner. This act will make them feel loved and give them a sense of belonging.
Better Homes and Gardens