The holidays are a time of giving, family, laughter, and more importantly – food.
Many of our most anticipated gatherings center around delicious, decadent, indulgent dishes. For many, these meals bring a sense of comfort and warmth. But the foods we hold so dear to our hearts (and our stomachs) can also be unhealthy.
A Plant-Based Lifestyle
In my family, traditional holiday foods like baked or fried turkey, honey-glazed ham, baked macaroni and cheese, collard greens, candied yams, and sweet cornbread coated in butter are the main attractions. They are the staples we expect to see on the table every Thanksgiving and Christmas. But this year, we are switching things up a little.
Over the past few months, my sister adopted a plant-based lifestyle after making the decision to take better care of her health and shed some excess weight. She started with one month of meat-free meals, then two, then three. Before she knew it, she was up to eight months of plant-based eating. Witnessing her journey, newfound energy, and more positive outlook on life inspired me to adjust my eating habits as well. I eat a lot less chicken and red meat and instead supplement my diet with a greater variety of veggies and beans.
Our Thanksgiving Menu Is Changing
Our parents followed suit in order to lose weight and reduce their chronic pain, fatigue, and risk of cardiovascular disease. Since September, they’ve significantly cut back on meat and incorporate more salads and veggies into their meals. For my dad — who originates from Florida and was raised on down-home southern food like fried chicken, pork ribs, chopped BBQ, and fried fish – stepping away from the excessive meat was a bit more challenging. Slowly but surely he’s been making the change!
Now that my family has become more health-conscious, we are making sure these changes are reflected in our holiday meals. Rather than fried turkey and ham, we are having rotisserie turkey and baked salmon. Two different types of mac and cheese will be on the table – the traditional cheesy version and a vegan alternative. The collard greens will be prepared without meat and the candied yams with a little less brown sugar. And I might even put a little less butter on my cornbread this time around.
Exercise Challenge… Is On!
In addition to the menu changes, my parents have also been adding more movement to their daily routines, such as going to the gym, jumping rope, and stretching. They serve as one another’s accountability partners and keep more conscious of the amount of processed food they consume. As my parent’s age and face greater risk of health issues, it’s become all the more important that they take care of their health and wellness.
We Are Thankful For The Health Benefits
In the United States, poor eating habits contribute to the vast majority of the most common health issues that we face, including obesity and heart disease. In the African American community, in particular, hypertension and diabetes affect individuals at a much higher rate. In more recent years, there has been a shift toward veganism in the African American community as a result of a desire to lead healthier lifestyles. We can see the shifts reflected in media we consume, as evidenced by the increasing numbers of resources about veganism becoming more available online, in books, and within various documentaries on Netflix (check out “Soul Food Junkies”).
What’s even better, is that more healthy eating options are becoming available here in our North Carolina communities, with places like Souly Vegan Café, Boricua Soul, The Fiction Kitchen, and Irregardless Café. This holiday season and beyond, I am thankful not only for family and good food but for a renewed focus on health and wellness in all aspects of our lives.
If you don’t know where to start, make an appointment with a Nutrition Counselor. They can work with your diet and lifestyle to help you come up with a healthy eating plan. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) understands the benefits of healthy eating. That’s why we have a large network of Nutrition Counselors, and their services are covered by many of our plans.