As preparations ensue for this year's day of football, feasting and fellowship, the diets and healthy eating habits of millions of black people are poised to be thrown to the wind.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than three out of every 10 black men, and five out of every 10 black women in the United States are obese. Heart disease, cancer and stroke remain the leading causes of death among black folks, and the CDC cites discrimination, cultural barriers and lack of access to health care as the top reasons for increasing health disparities in our communities.
Meanwhile, historically black colleges and universities are among the fastest growing group of advocates in the fight to preserve and extend the quality of life for all Americans, but specifically black Americans, with several campuses featuring undergraduate and graduate programs in nursing, public health, nutrition science and other fields. Their goal: To raise awareness and to provide resources that will inspire healthier eating habits and exercise routines.
Before you throw down at the table, here are a few tips from a panel of HBCU faculty on how to get through your holiday weekend healthier and as full as you want to be.
"Eat smaller portions more frequently and for some having a small snack prior to the meal can keep the appetite better under control. In another words, don’t overload your digestive system because this can create a sharp increase in insulin (the glucose-reducing and fat-storing hormone) level. Insulin is released in response to the carbohydrate in Thanksgiving meals, and the presence of high fat can enhance fat deposit in places where we don’t really want it!" -- Hengameh G. Allen, Ph.D., MPH, MS, MT(ASCP) Executive Director / Dean School of Applied Health & Medical Sciences at Saint Augustine's University
"Drink lots of water before your meal rather than juice and soda and Southern tea! Additionally, add a healthy salad (small amounts of dressing) to the meal." -- Deborah Milling, MSN, RN; Division Chair, J.F. Drake State Technical College Department of Health Sciences
REDUCE SALT AND FAT INTAKE
"Make your recipes healthier with less fat, sugar, and calories. Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make gravy. Use sugar substitutes in place of sugar and/or fruit purees instead of oil in baked goods. Reduce oil and butter wherever you can." -- Dr. Denethia Sellers, Director of Governmental and Sponsored Programs at Benedict College
"Use salt sense (Morton salt) to lower your sodium content without the loss of flavor, Or, instead of using so much salt, use other seasonings for a unique flavor. I use a lot of combinations like the 5 Cs. Cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, cumin, and cilantro." -- Dr. Joanne Morse, Associate Professor in the Hampton University School of Pharmacy
KEEP CALM & STAY ACTIVE
"Exercising helps relieve holiday stress and prevent weight gain. Sensibly increasing daily exercise during the holidays can also help reduce the urge to overeat." -- Dianna Hughes-Marion, LPN; Director of Student Health Services at Rust College
"Stay relaxed because stress can increase cortisol (the stress hormone) level which causes an unnecessary increase in blood sugar levels. So, keep the drama minimal! Also, go for a walk, if the weather permits, so the insulin hormone can do the job of lowering the post-meal high sugar surge in your blood." -- Dr. Allen (Saint Augustine's University)