5 Thanksgiving Facts You Didn’t Know

Thanksgiving-FeastThanksgiving is about more than just great food and family; it’s also one of the most interesting holidays from a historical perspective. Many of the facts that you think you know about the real history of Thanksgiving aren’t quite the way they were portrayed in school plays though. Read on to discover more about the hidden history of Thanksgiving and find out some fun facts about how we celebrate it today.

Thanksgiving Day Was Really a Weekend

The first Thanksgiving at Plymouth wasn’t a one-day event. Like modern Turkey Day fans, they ate leftovers – three days’ worth of them, in fact. The weekend-long feast celebrated an excellent harvest, and the food that the Massasoit and other native Americans brought to the table was a welcome addition to an already bounteous meal, rather than a gift to hungry Pilgrims as is often portrayed. Like most harvest festivals, the event lasted long enough to let all the revelers eat their fill many times over while putting away supplies for the long winter.

The First Thanksgiving Menu Was Different from Today’s

If you imagine the first Thanksgiving as something pretty close to what we eat today, give or take a green bean casserole, think again. Turkey, or at least some kind of poultry, was on the menu, but it played a supporting role to the main dish: venison. According to the Smithsonian, corn porridge or pudding was also on the table, but mashed potatoes were nowhere in sight. If there was stuffing, it was probably whole onions and herbs, not bread; wheat fields weren’t yet well established, so bread-based stuffing, dinner rolls and pie dough weren’t part of the feast. Although the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag probably ate pumpkin during the meal, it wouldn’t have been in a dessert because there was no sugar. The original Thanksgiving at Plymouth could have included fish, oysters and clams, all of which were plentiful.

Traditional Thanksgiving Foods Have a Victorian History

One of the first magazines for homemakers, the Godey’s Lady’s Book encouraged home cooks to be adventurous for important feasts, and Thanksgiving was no exception. Many of the foods we think of as traditional Thanksgiving fare today were exciting novelties to the Victorian palate, including mashed potatoes, jellied cranberry sauce and spiced pumpkin pie. Sarah Hale, the magazine’s editor, was one of the biggest proponents of an established national holiday for Thanksgiving and did her best to popularize the holiday. We still celebrate it today more than 130 years later, so her efforts clearly worked well!

Calories, Not Tryptophan, Are Why You Need a Thanksgiving Nap

Almost everyone loves to take a nap after the big Thanksgiving meal, but most people blame it on the turkey. A naturally occurring amino acid called tryptophan is associated with putting people to sleep, and cooked turkey is high in the compound. Originally, researchers put these two facts together and assumed the tryptophan was putting everyone into a turkey torpor, but it’s really everything you eat, not just the bird, that makes you need a nap. A traditional Thanksgiving meal can contain thousands of calories, and your body has to focus more energy on digesting such a big mouthful. Your brain makes you sleepy, so you’ll stay in one spot and digest.

Football on Thanksgiving Is Older Than You Might Think

When you take that Thanksgiving nap, chances are good that a football game will be on the TV, but the tradition of football on Thanksgiving Day predates television by decades. The first officially recognized NFL season was in 1920, and that year, six games were played on that Thursday. None of the teams from that year are still around, but the Akron Pros beat the Canton Bulldogs 7-0. Today, only three Thanksgiving games are played, but the audience they draw is considerably larger.

Thanksgiving may have come a long way from its roots, but one thing about the holiday hasn’t changed: It’s still a time for gathering to offer gratitude for good company and great food.

7 Healthy Substitutions for Your Thanksgiving Feast

Healthy-thanksgivingThanksgiving dinner celebrates friends, family and the abundance you share, but it can take a toll on your waistline. You can indulge in great taste without overindulging in fat, sugar and salt with a few simple switches. These changes add plenty of flavor to your Thanksgiving feast while taking away some of what you don’t need on your plate.

1. Swap your candied yams with marshmallows for roasted sweet potatoes
Canned yams in heavy syrup taste more like dessert than a side dish, but the natural sweetness of oven-roasted sweet potatoes still in their skins is a perfect foil for the savory delights on your table. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A and fiber, so they’re a healthful choice when they aren’t swimming in syrup. They’re also easier on the chef than the usual yams. Just prick the skins with a fork, wrap them loosely in foil to prevent leaking, and pop them in the oven with the turkey for an hour and a half or so. Serve them split and sprinkled with cinnamon for a deliciously healthy Thanksgiving dish.

2. Go nutty with your stuffing
Adding pecans, walnuts or almonds to a stuffing mix that’s mostly carbohydrates improves its nutritional profile. Nuts are high in calories, but they pack plenty of healthy fats and protein into a small package. By replacing some of the empty calories in stuffing with nuts, you add nutrition and flavor. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your stuffing lowers calories and adds nutritional value too, so consider cranberries, raisins, celery and diced apples your allies when making a stuffing.

3. Make the most of stock
Chicken stock has rich flavor and few calories, so it’s an excellent choice for lightening a dish without taking away its taste. Use stock instead of milk or cream to moisten your mashed potatoes. Cook brown rice in stock with shallots, mushrooms and herbs for a flavorful side that’s full of nutritional benefits. Choose unsalted stock for cooking and salt the dish to taste as it cooks to avoid too much sodium in the food.

4. Skip the canned cranberry sauce for a homemade cranberry relish
Cranberries are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, but when they’re turned into jelly and canned, they lose some of those micro-nutrients. It takes a little longer to start with fresh cranberries than it does to open a can, but it’s well worth the extra time. Most recipes call for sugar because cranberries are quite tart on their own, but even a sweet recipe will have less sugar than the jellied version you get from the can. Add a bit of lemon or orange zest to make the dish your own.

5. Switch green bean casseroles made with processed foods for a fresh green bean almondine
You’ll still get the flavor and crunch that make green beans a classic Thanksgiving side dish without the heavy doses of sodium and fat that come with the traditional casserole. Toast slivered almonds in a little butter until they’re golden, then remove them from the pan and add the beans with some olive oil. Add a clove of finely minced garlic and cook the beans to the desired tenderness. Stir the almonds back into the pan and serve a dish that has just enough butter to taste luxurious without the fat of the regular side.

6. Go with whole-grain breads instead of white rolls
Making this switch gives you more fiber and flavor, but getting everyone to accept the more pronounced texture of whole-grain baked goods could take some persuasion. Instead of trying to conceal the texture, highlight it and make it a feature with nuts and seeds that add crunch. Serve rolls with whipped honey butter or herb butter instead of margarine to eliminate trans-fats and add great taste.

7. Give desserts a makeover
Pie is a staple for Thanksgiving desserts, but you can get much of the flavor without the fat and carbs in the crust when you make a fruit crumble instead. Slice your apples, pears or other fruits as usual; then, top it with a combination of oats, cinnamon, brown sugar and flour before baking. If pumpkin pie is your favorite, make a pumpkin mousse and serve it in individual cups topped with chopped pecans for crunch.

Image Credit: luckyboy.co

Lakeside Selection: Our Weekly Favorites

Now that November is here, it’s sweater weather for everyone, including your beloved pets. When you’re chilly, you can pull on a pair of favorite socks or adjust the thermostat, but your pets have to rely on their own fur and feathers to stay warm. This week, we’re taking a look at ways you can pamper your pooch and coddle your kitty with a holiday-friendly twist.


As anyone who has ever enjoyed sharing a blanket with a pet can tell you, cats and dogs gravitate to enclosed areas. They like to feel protected on all sides, a habit left over from the wild when they looked for hollow logs or small caves to use as dens. Dragging a hollow log into your home isn’t really practical, but this adorable Santa’s Hat Pet Cave gives dogs or cats the protected nest they crave with a little holiday whimsy for you. For cats, the Santa’s hat bed is even more fun; the pom-pom attachment makes an irresistible toy for playful kittens. The red velveteen fabric readily sheds pet hair while the fleecy base has extra cushioning to keep your pet cozy on chilly winter nights. This Santa-themed pet bed is cute enough to be a decoration all by itself, but with your pet’s sweet, furry face at the opening, it’s too adorable to miss.


Even with a fur coat, pets sometimes need an extra layer or two to stay warm. When it’s snowy outside, keep your pet cozy on walks with this merry striped hat and sweater set. Ideal for short-haired and medium-haired dogs, the machine-washable set has a soft fleece lining and stripes of red, green and white. The matching hat has a sweet pom-pom top and a comfortable elastic strap to hold it secure and protect delicate ears from chilly weather. Long-wearing acrylic is dye-fast and water resistant to help keep your pup comfortable even when sleet or snow is falling. Make walks more fun for you and your pet with extra protection from the cold. Available in small, medium and large, it also fits cats, although not all of them will be as fond of hats as the Dr. Seuss character.


Pets don’t always pay much attention to the holidays unless they’re smelling a turkey in the oven or attempting to sneak treats during parties, but they always appreciate new toys. This Christmas, give your pet this set of Stuffing-Free Dog Toys and enjoy playtime without the worry of sending stuffing bits flying. In Santa, reindeer and snowman themes, the toys have squeaky inserts in the tops and feet, giving your dog another reason to love these colorful characters. Each polyester fabric toy has a fleecy exterior that’s easy for you to clean and is appealing for dogs to chew. The only stuffing you want your guests to see is the kind that goes with the turkey, so choose these un-stuffed fabric toys for your pet’s Christmas celebration.

Even if you don’t have pets, you’ll warm the hearts of people who do when you think of their furry friends this holiday season. Everything in this week’s collection also makes a fantastic gift, so surprise someone with a little something for the family pet.