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We’re putt i ng t oo much t urkey on our f orks. We’re scooping up t oo big a port i on of sweet potatoes on our spoons. I t ’s no surprise t hat many people gain over f i ve pounds of weight during t he holiday season.

There’s no end of holidays at t his t i me of year. And holi days usher i n days of endl ess eating. We wonder how much significance a holiday would generate if f ood were not part of t he day. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christ- mas and Kwanzaa bring f orth t houghts of t he past, prayers, symbols and, of course, l ots of f ood.

Thanksgiving has come a l ong way since i t s beginning but we still gather f or a big meal j ust as t he Pilgrims and t he I ndians did i n 1621. We enjoy t he memories of t he f i r st Thanksgiving i n which t he Wampanoag I ndians of Massachusetts and Rhode I sland provided some of t he f ood f or t hose hungry Pilgrims in Plymouth, Mass. According t o l egend, Captain Myles Standish, who sailed f r om England with t he Pilgrims on t he Mayflower, presided over t he meal.

President George Washington believed in Thanksgiving but it was President Abraham Lincoln who pushed for a National Thanksgiving Day in 1863 to be observed on the last day of November. In 1939 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved the holiday forward a week to the second from the last Thursday in November in order to stretch the holiday shopping season. This did not work out and, in 1941, President Roosevelt and a Joint Resolution of Congress moved the holiday to the fourth Thursday of November.

This year, 2012, and again i n 2017 and 2018, Thanksgiving will be observed on t he f ourth Thursday of November but t hat won’t be t he l ast Thursday of t he month. Thanksgiving i n 2013 will be on Nov. 28, i n 2014 on Nov. 27, i n 2015 on Nov. 26, and on Nov. 24 i n 2016. Hanukkah begins on Saturday night, Dec. 8, Christmas and New vear ’s Day are on Tuesdays and Kwanzaa, will be observed f r om Dec. 26 t o Jan. 1 with a f east on Dec. 31.

On all t he holidays, a f east i s part of t he observance. As we r ecall t he past, we eat and eat. Sometimes we get sleepy f r om t he t r yptophan in t he t urkey. Why at holiday t i me, are we able t o eat so much? I t could be t he wine or j ust t he endless conversation f r om f amily and f r i ends.

The average person eats more t han 1,600 calories at Thanksgiving. To r uin your eating enjoyment we offer some calorie statistics f or t he Thanksgiving meal: 6 ounces of white meat, dark meat or cured ham are approximately 340 calories. A half- cup of stuffing will contain about 180 calories and 500 mg. of sodium and 4 grams of f at. A half- cup of cranberry sauce 250 calories, half- cup of gravy 150 calories, half- cup of mashed potatoes 150 calories, a half- cup of candied sweet potatoes 150 calories. A half- cup of sweet potatoes with marshmallows 300 calor i es and 20 grams of sugar. One piece of pecan pie 480 calories, one piece of apple pie 400 calories, one piece of pumpkin pie 180 calories.

Enjoy t he holiday! Just swallow l ess.

Dr. Milton Friedman can be reached at tcgn@montgomerynews.com.

Health& Science