An article on CNN suggests you take the skin off your turkey for “A healthier Thanksgiving in 8 traditional, simple, calorie-conscious courses.” Consumer Reports says to have your sweet potatoes without marshmallows and throw a bunch of chopped vegetables into the stuffing. Just about everyone who wants you to have a “guilt-free” Turkey Day puts creamy green bean casserole on the no-go list.

We’re here to tell you that’s nonsense — nothing you do today will make a bit of difference. If you eat reasonably well year-round, a couple extra servings of turkey and gravy mean nothing. And if you gorge on fast food five times a week, subbing in cauliflower mashed “potatoes” — seriously? — won’t lower your weight or your blood pressure.

There’s an entire industry set up around urging you to eat less on the fourth Thursday of November. Or rather, because the average American devours between 3,000 and 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving, it’s set up to make you feel guilty.

But all those articles miss the point — unless the point is to inject anxiety into what should be one of the best times of the year. Thanksgiving is the kickoff to the holiday season, full of warmth and nostalgia. For many Americans, it’s also the start of a four-day weekend. There’s family, parades and football — even a dog show now for people who don’t care how the Cowboys or Lions are doing.

Most of all, it’s a break. Thanksgiving is one of the few days on the calendar when, for most Americans, the world powers down. (For emergency personnel, retail workers manning the ever-expanding Black Friday sales, and a few others who have to work, it’s a different story.)

During the day anyway, few stores are open. News, in large part, takes a break. No one has appointments, or any place to be, really, except on the couch or near the kitchen. It can be loud, chaotic and busy, but only because the dining table needs to be set and the turkey put in the oven, not because a deadline is nearing or the kids need to get to practice. It is about interacting and enjoying family and friends, not fulfilling responsibilities.

For a few hours, it’s an escape from the hamster wheel we run on the rest of the year, and you shouldn’t spend it worried about extra calories.

In fact, it may not even be as many calories as you think. While all of the “Have a healthy Thanksgiving” articles lean on the 3,000 to 4,500 calorie estimate put forth by the Calorie Control Council — buzzkills that they are — others say it’s not nearly that many.

In any case, it’s not going to kill you — not by itself anyway. Sure, people with health problems that could be exacerbated should take it easy. But most Americans will be fine, if a little sleepy.

So think twice before you look up how many steps it takes to burn off a half-cup of cranberry sauce. It really doesn’t matter.

And besides, what’s Thanksgiving without green bean casserole?


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