Thanksgiving: Indulging in the Attitude of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving! Tis the season to overindulge in our favorite foods we wait all year to eat!

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie…I can already feel my waist line expanding.  This year, though…I don’t want just my waist line to expand—I want my heart to expand by remembering the true meaning of Thanksgiving—the art of gratitude.

With our busy lifestyles, endless to do lists, and the challenge of living a healthy lifestyle (eating healthy foods, trying to find time to work out and spend enough time with my family), it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  There are some days I can’t help but feel bad and disappointed in my lack of superwoman abilities to do it all.

When I feel bad, overwhelmed and stressed, I find it hard to make good health choices.

This is where gratitude comes in! Gratitude gives me perspective, making it a key to living a healthy lifestyle. Gratitude pulls me out of the any “stinking thinking” and helps me see what is really important.  By focusing on what is truly important, I start to feel good about life, which leads me to make better health choices.

Exactly, what is gratitude?

Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.—Harvard Health Publications

Researchers have found that gratitude has potential health benefits:

  1. Brighter outlook on life
  2. Better sleep
  3. Stronger relationships
  4. Better heart health
  5. A stronger immune system

The attitude of gratitude is an important healthy lifestyle habit and Thanksgiving is the perfect day to start! Here are a few of our favorite family Thanksgiving gratitude traditions to get you started:

Thankful tree: When my children were younger, I would make a big tree out of paper and hang it on the patio door. I also cut out leaves from construction paper.  Though out the month of November, every evening each child would right something they were thankful for and place their leaf on our “Thanksgiving” tree. By the time the actual holiday arrived, our tree was full of colorful leaves.

It’s not too late to create a thankful tree—create your tree, hang it up, cut out your leaves and as guests arrive—hand them a leaf and a pen, then have them hang their leaf on the tree.

Thanksgiving Book: Create a Thanksgiving book that grows with each passing year. Every family member creates a page of gratitude each year—it could be a drawing, a poem, or simply a list of things they are grateful for. Be sure to write the date on it and then place it in a binder. It’s fun to place the Thanksgiving book on a coffee table during the month of November to allow your family and guests to reflect on the gratitude and gifts of years past and present.

Thankful Tablecloth: Find a large plain, light colored sheet or tablecloth to use for the Thanksgiving table. Provide markers in a variety of autumn colors.  At Thanksgiving dinner, have each person add his/her mark to the tablecloth. Guests might choose to write their name, draw a picture, write something they are grateful for, trace their hands, or find any way to leave a mark that says, “I was here.” Save the tablecloth and add to it each year. It’s fun to read the tablecloth at Thanksgiving dinner each year and remember Thanksgivings of years past. (Some people take the time to embroider over the writing each year after Thanksgiving, but permanent marker works just as well!)

Thankful Leaves: Place blank leaves at each place setting when you set the Thanksgiving table. As guests arrive, instruct them to take time to visit the table and write something on each person’s leaf. It might be a compliment or something they are grateful for about that person. When guests arrive at the table for dinner, they’ll be greeted by a “warm fuzzy” on their plate.

Do you have a family Thanksgiving gratitude tradition?  Please leave a comment below and share with us.  The Be Well South Dakota team wishes you a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving holiday.




Stress-Free Thanksgiving

November 20th, 2013 | Posted by admin in Lifestyles | Recipes - (0 Comments)

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I must say, this has to be my favorite holiday meal of the year!  Not only is it a day to remind ourselves just how thankful we are, but a day to sit back, count our blessings and eat, eat some more and then eat again!  If you chose the short straw this year and are the lucky winner to host the holiday this year, you might be stressing over the big day!  But, no longer worry, follow this guide below to help you plan a stress-free Thanksgiving!

  • If you have not yet made a guest list of family and friends, you may want to do this!  Once you know who is all coming, determine what each guest can bring to contribute to the holiday meal!
  • Make your grocery list and purchase them in advance!
  • If you’re buying a frozen turkey, get it now (if you have the freezer space).  Allow 3/4 pound per person for a whole turkey and 1/2 a pound per person for a turkey breast. Don’t buy turkeys larger than 15 pounds.  Time your turkey. Roast 12-15 minutes per pound at 325 degrees F.   The turkey should be done about 1 hour before dinner so it can cool slightly and carve easily.
  • Allow 1 day of thaw time for every 4 pounds of bird. For example, a 12-pound bird will need 3 days to thaw. Make sure there’s room for it to thaw in the refrigerator. Use a large pan to catch any juices that might escape as it thaws.
  • Make your desserts ahead of time. Plan on 1 ½ servings per person. Typically, people like to sample a couple of desserts, so make sure you have enough.  Check out the recipe below!
  • Prepare any side dishes that can be held overnight, such as cranberries or sweet potato casserole. Cut and chop ingredients for salads but don’t toss with dressing until just before serving.



Petite Pecan Tarts

8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
1 egg, beaten
1 egg white, beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare two mini muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray.
Place one sheet of the phyllo dough on a cutting board. Spritz with nonstick cooking spray. Repeat with 3 more layers, spraying between each layer. Cut the dough into circles using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter or cut into 2 inch squares using a knife or pizza cutter.  Place one piece of dough into each well of the muffin pans. Repeat with the remaining 4 sheets of dough.  Combine all the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Spoon one tablespoon of the batter into each prepared dough shell.  Bake for 23- minutes. Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature. If serving the following day, refrigerate after cooled.  Makes 24 tarts, one serving each.  Nutritional Info:  Calories: 102.5, Total Fat: 5.2 g, Total Carbs: 15.4 g and Protein: 1.6 g.

On behalf of the Be Well South Dakota team, we thank you for all of your support and wish you all a very Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

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Share It, South Dakota: Terra’s Story

November 14th, 2013 | Posted by admin in Lifestyles - (0 Comments)

A few of you had mentioned looking for some motivation on what to write about. I thought I would share my story for some writing inspiration!

My story is pretty simple. I was born overweight. There it is, the truth, or at least what it feels like it! I have been the ‘the girl with a pretty face’ for what seems like eternity. Like somehow that statement is supposed to be a compliment, right? A childhood of mac and cheese and fruit-by-the-foot’s didn’t help the situation. Adding the perils of college just feed fuel to the fire. I was unhealthy, plain and simple. Sure I still had fun and took pride in myself and even played sports throughout my life, but there was always a part of me that knew those abilities and even my fun-loving personality were limited greatly by my unhealthy lifestyle.

Shortly after college graduation I made a commitment. I was going to change. I had no more excuses for the lack of time, money, or resources. I became diligent to tracking every morsel of food on and attending ‘boot-camp’ at my local gym. I had to overcome the fear of failure before I could accomplish any goal. No longer could I hide behind excuses. I was determined NOT to be the last one around the track in my fitness classes. And then it happened. The excuses and fear were gone, and so were fifty pounds. Since then, I have played with that number back and forth. Through my partnership with Be Well South Dakota and DAKOTACARE I was able recommit to my old healthy habits. Willpower and dedication returned as excuses and fear faded.

My message to everyone is simple. Every mountain is climbed one step at a time and every journey has a beginning. Once you lose the fear and excuses the sky is the limit. Set your goal and stay motivated!

I find it much easier to eat healthy at home than when I dine out…with all those yummy menu choices, it is easy to forget my wellness goals.  Recently, I heard that most Americans eat out 5 to 7 times a week—I wonder if this isn’t contributing to our expanding waist lines. Are you like me and all good intentions to eat healthy get intercepted the minute I begin to place my order? Here’s a quick guide to help you score a touchdown for your well-being!

Punt: By planning ahead, I fumble less by checking the play book. Most restaurants have free downloadable guides that show us the nutritional content of meal choices.

Pass:  When dining out, score some winning points by:
Meal Choices:
•    Choose main dishes that include vegetables, such as stir fries, kabobs, or pasta with a tomato sauce.
•    Order steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes instead of those that are fried or sautéed.
•    Order an item from the menu instead heading for the “all-you-can-eat” buffet.
•    Choose dishes that include vegetables, beans and/or seafood.
•    To minimize calories & fats, avoid foods with excessive butter, heavy cream sauces or gravies.
•    Don’t be afraid to ask to have items prepared the way you want them. For example, have them grill the salmon, steam the vegetables, bring sauces and dressings on the side, and add extra grilled vegetables.
•    Ask for whole-wheat instead of white bread, and brown instead of white rice.
Proper Portions: If main portions at a restaurant are larger than you want, try one of these strategies to keep from overeating:
•    Order an appetizer-sized portion or a side dish instead of an entrée.
•    Share a main dish with a friend.
•    When your food is delivered, set aside or pack half of it to go immediately.
•    Resign from the “clean your plate club” – when you’ve eaten enough, leave the rest.
•    Choose a “small” or “medium” portion. This includes main dishes, side dishes, and beverages.
Field Goal: Start your meal with a salad packed with veggies, to help control hunger and feel satisfied
sooner.  Ask for salad dressing to be served “on the side” so you can add only as much as you want.

Touchdown: Don’t Drink Your Calories
•    For a beverage choice, ask for water or order fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, or other drinks without added sugars.
•    If you are drinking cocktails, alternate alcoholic and nonalcoholic to save calories.

Overtime Tip: Start with a small serving like a cup of soup, a junior burger or a small order of fries. If you are still hungry, order something else.

Kick:  Make physical activity part of dining out. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes:
•    Walk from Home or the Office. Pick a restaurant that’s a 10- or 15-minute walk away. You’ll get your meal and 30 minutes of physical activity and avoid the parking hassles.
•    Walk with Family or Friends. Get moving as a group before or after eating. A brisk walk before a meal gives you time to chat. A stroll afterward helps your digestion.
•    Walk Up Instead of Driving Thru. Park your car in the lot and walk inside to get your fast food order. And make fast food an occasional treat rather than a daily habit.

As with any football game, you will have false starts, fumbles and interceptions. When lapses occur, respond quickly by taking a time out and reviewing your game plan. Every healthy choice helps you cross the goal line for a touchdown!

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One of the things I love most about the cold days of winter…a few minutes of work in the morning and I have a hot supper waiting for my family when arrive home in the evening. Whoever invented the crock pot (slow cooker) was a genius! Today I thought I would share a few of my family favorite crockpot meals:

Stewed Chicken Breast Recipe (serves 8)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds)

1 jar thick prepared salsa (high quality)

1 lime (optional)

Coat a medium or large slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Add chicken breasts and pour salsa over them. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

When cooked, shred chicken with a fork and squeeze lime juice into stew. Mix, taste, and adjust for salt.

Serve over tortillas or rice.

This stew will keep in the fridge for a week – and will freeze well. 

Nutritional info per serving: 139 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1.9 g carbohydrates, 23.9 g protein, 0 g fiber, 326 mg sodium

Recipe credit:


Scalloped Potatoes and Ham (serves 8)

5 medium potatoes (To save time, I use a bag of frozen diced potatoes)

2 cups of diced ham

2 c low fat shredded cheddar cheese

1 can 98% Fat Free Cream of Chicken soup

½ c low fat milk

Seasonings of choice (salt, pepper, onion powder)


Place potatoes, ham and cheese in slow cooker.

In a small bowl mix soup and milk and pour over ingredients in slow cooker.

Stir gently.

Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8-10 hours.


Nutritional info per serving: 263 calories, 3 g fat, 37 g carbohydrates, 21 g protein, 3 g fiber


TIME SAVING TIP: To save time with clean up, use slow cooker liners.


How about you, do you have any favorite crock pot meals you can share with South Dakota?

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