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Thanksgiving dinner is the largest eating event in the U.S., eating more than any
other day of the year. There are healthier versions of some of our all-time favorites
that won't make you feel deprived.
TEXARKANA, Ark. –
Thanksgiving dinner, just over a month away, is the largest eating event in the United
States. People eat more on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year. How did
this tradition get started? We have our early Pilgrims and Indians to thank for this
tradition. Without the joining of the Pilgrims and Indians, we may not have had a
Thanksgiving to enjoy.
You likely remember the story of how the Pilgrims set sail on September 6, 1620 for
the New World on the Mayflower.
They set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating.
The cold snow and sleet were exceptionally heavy, interfering with the workers as
they tried to construct their settlement. Many died during the hard, long winter.
Thanks to an Indian brave who taught the Pilgrims how to tap maple trees for sap,
how to plant Indian corn, and other crops, the harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one.
It has been said that they would not have survived without his help.
The Pilgrims decided to celebrate their bountiful harvest with a feast, by including
the Wampanoag Indians who had helped the Pilgrims survive their first year. The feast,
which lasted three days, was more of a traditional English harvest festival than a
true "thanksgiving" observance.
The Pilgrim Governor, William Bradford, proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to be shared
by all colonists and neighboring Native Americans. It is not certain whether wild
turkey was part of their first feast. It is suggested that the first turkey added
to Thanksgiving dinner was after 1800. By 1857, turkey had become part of the traditional
dinner in New England. However, it is certain that they had venison, ducks, geese
and even swans.
One of the staples at Thanksgiving is pumpkin pie. It is unlikely that the first feast
included that treat. The supply of flour had been long diminished, so there was no
bread or pastries of any kind. However, they did eat boiled pumpkin, and they produced
a type of fried bread from their corn crop.
There was no milk, cider, potatoes, or butter, as well as no domestic cattle for dairy
products. The newly discovered potato was still considered by many to be poisonous.
But the feast did include fish, waterfowl, clams, berries, watercress, lobster, dried
fruit, clams, venison, pumpkin and plums.
In 1789, George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving, in honor of
the ratification of the Constitution of the United States. Later, in 1863, during
the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in
November Thanksgiving Day.
After the war, Congress established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Although other
countries celebrate their own Thanksgiving, it is seen as a time in the United States
to focus on the home and family, with friends and traditional foods.
For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609. We're
online at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook and Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at
Now that we know a little about the history of the first thanksgiving dinner, here
are healthier versions of some holiday favorites you might want to try this Thanksgiving.
They are sure to be a hit.
9 oz crushed unsweetened pineapple, juice packed
3 oz sugar free cherry gelatin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar substitute equivalent
1 cup fresh cranberries, ground
1 small orange, ground
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup pecans, broken
Drain pineapple, reserving juices. Set pineapple aside for later use. Combine pineapple
juice with water to equal 2 cups liquid. Prepare gelatin according to package label
using juice-water mixture for the liquid. Once gelatin is dissolved, stir in lemon
juice. Chill until partially set. In a separate bowl, combine pineapple, sugar substitute,
cranberries, orange, celery, and nuts. Pour into large mold or 8 x 8 pan and chill
Nutrition information: Servings: 8, Calories: 80, Carbohydrates: 11 g, Fat: 3 g
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup egg substitute or 4 egg whites, slightly beaten
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
12 packets aspartame (Equal)
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
12 ounces evaporated skim milk
10 in. unbaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 425° F. Combine first 8 ingredients beginning with pumpkin and ending
with evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425° F for 10 minutes. Reduce oven
temperature to 325° F and continue baking for another 45 minutes or until knife inserted
into center comes out clean. Cool. Serve with whipped topping if desired.
Nutrition Information without whipped topping: Servings: 10, Calories: 163, Carbohydrates:
22 g, Fat: 7 g
By Carla Due County Extension Agent - FCSThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Carla Due County Extension Agent - FCSU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854 (870) 779-3609 email@example.com
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay. The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.