Tags Posts tagged with "Thanksgiving"

Thanksgiving

A sign in front of The Gift Corner on North Country Road at Mount Sinai invites those passing by to shop Nov. 24. Photo by Kyle Barr

A sign on North Country Road in front of The Gift Corner in Mount Sinai during the Black Friday weekend could be easy to miss. Cars passing by had only seconds to read the words “Small Store Saturday — If you haven’t been here, today is the day!” as they drove on the winding road.

Marion Bernholz, the owner of The Gift Corner, was busy on Small Business Saturday and the entire Black Friday weekend, marked on the calendar by shop owners and customers alike as the unofficial kickoff to the holiday shopping season. The small space, packed with small decorations and knickknacks, had customers squeezing past each other as they picked out their holiday gifts. Despite the bump in business Bernholz saw over the weekend, she wondered why relatively few people have even heard of Small Business Saturday.

“How long has this been going on, eight to 10 years?” the gift shop owner said. “It still cracks me up we have people coming in on Saturday and, holy Christmas, they say, ‘What is small store Saturday?’”

Small Business Saturday originally started in 2010, sponsored by American Express, as a way to incentivize people to shop local during the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

American Express reported the weekend after Thanksgiving was quite a busy time for small businesses across the nation. Consumers spent approximately $17.8 billion nationally while shopping local, according to data released Nov. 26 from the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey from American Express and the nonprofit National Federation of Independent Business. The survey noted 42 percent of those surveyed reported shopping at local retailers and restaurants, just 1 percent down from last year. Still, 41 percent reported also shopping online that same day.

Those small business owners surveyed in the report said they expect an average of 29 percent of their total yearly sales to come through the holiday season, yet the owners of local small stores on the North Shore know they have a disadvantage compared to big box stores and the online retail giant Amazon and the like.

“People should understand how hard it is to run a small business,” Maria Williams, the owner of Sweets N Scoops in Shoreham said. “A small business’ costs are necessarily greater because we can’t buy in bulk like [large businesses] can.”

Business owners across the North Shore reported a range of outcomes from the busy shopping weekend.

Port Jefferson

Outside Ecolin Jewlers in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Ecolin Jewelers, 14 E. Broadway, Port Jefferson

Linda Baker, co-owner of Ecolin Jewelers, said while most of her sales come in the last two weeks before Christmas, and not the Black Friday weekend, the year overall has been very good for her business.

“This whole year has been better,” Baker said. “This is probably the best in maybe eight years.”

She said she she’s experienced more people coming in toward the end of the year, with the phones constantly ringing off the hook with people’s orders, adding she’s feeling good about her numbers for the season.

“I’m glad to see that people are happy, walking around and coming into stores,” she said.

Outside East End Shirt Co. in Port Jefferson. Photo Courtesy of Google Maps

The East End Shirt Company, 3 Mill Creek Road, Port Jefferson

Owner of The East End Shirt Company, Mary Joy Pipe, said her business participated in the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce annual Holiday Shopping Crawl, offering a free hoodie valued at $20 for those spending $50 in store. She added turnout on Small Business Saturday was comparable to last year, and that has always had to do with the foot traffic and the weather.

“Our Santa Parade brings a lot of people down into the village, and more folks are around for the extended holiday after Thanksgiving,” she said. “We need feet on the ground and nice weather, and we got that on Saturday.”

Pipe’s business has changed with the times. East End Shirt has both a website and brick-and-mortar storefront, but her online component is a comparatively small percentage of her sales compared to her shop, which has existed in Port Jeff for close to four decades, she said.

“Is Cyber Monday or Cyber Week having an effect? — yeah it is,” she said. “People are not coming out, but anything that has a shipping component I know the potential for retail is still there if they can’t get it shipped in time.”

Outside Red Shirt Comics in Port Jefferson. Photo by Kyle Barr

Red Shirt Comics, 322 Main St., Port Jefferson

Joshua Darbee, the owner of Red Shirt Comics, said he had multiple sales going on, including buy-one-get-one-free on new comics, 25 percent off back issue comics, and 20 percent off on most of the toys and graphic novels in the shop. As a store that only opened in 2017, Darbee has been working to build a loyal customer base.

“If people are going to buy on Amazon, they’re going to buy on Amazon,” he said. “There’s really no competing with them.”

The comic industry relies on periodicals, driving customers back monthly for the next issue in an ongoing series, and Darbee said without return customers there is no way his business can thrive. He saw a steady stream of traffic come into his shop during Black Friday weekend — a better turnout than last year — and he hopes those sales, along with his card game and tabletop role-playing events hosted at the shop, will bring in return customers.

“The hope is that people will see the long-term damage [Amazon and other online retailers] can do to the local economy,” he said. “You just have to try to engage with people, be friendly and be part of that community. It’s been awesome to see people go out on weekends like this and support small businesses.”

Shoreham to Mount Sinai

Game On, 465 Route 25A, Miller Place

Tristan Whitworth, the owner of video game shop Game On in Miller Place said his business did well the days after Thanksgiving, this year seeing a 30 percent increase in customers compared to last year. He attracted customers with select sales of up to 60 percent off specific products, which incentivized people to come in and spend time on the few video game consoles he set up around the shop.

“It’s making sure the customer knows that we’re there to give them a good shopping experience,” Whitworth said. “I always try to keep it so that it’s not about customers rushing in to make a sale. People were there for an hour or two even though it was Black Friday.”

Whitworth said he knows there is a huge market for used video games online, but he always tries to make his business about the customer service.

“You can get every single thing we sell online, so it’s really about having the experience of going to the shop and buying stuff, talk to the guy who owns it about what game you should buy or try out,” he said. “That’s what you need.”

Sweets & Scoops in Shoreham. Photo courtesy of Sweets & Scoops Facebook page

Sweets & Scoops, 99 Route 25A, Shoreham

While Maria Williams, owner of dessert haven Sweets & Scoops, said most of her business occurs just before holidays, rather than afterward, but she was pleased with the sales she had for people ordering custom chocolate arrangements and other party favors.

She said she sees the importance of local business as a means of giving vitality to an area.

“People need to stop shopping on Amazon,” Williams said. “If they stay local and shop local in small business we do well, and we can hire more people.”

The sweets shop owner said the best product she and other small businesses can offer people is something unique. She said she tries her best to make items customized for the individual, products that one cannot get anywhere else.

“It’s eight years now that I’ve been in business and thank god it became a success because of its uniqueness,” Williams said. “[Large corporations] don’t have that extra touch, and everything is so commercial with them. Here no two things are ever alike.”

Outside The Gift Corner in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Gift Corner, 157 N. Country Road, Mount Sinai

Bernholz said last year’s Black Friday weekend was one of the busiest in years, with lines going out the door of her small North Country Road gift shop. This year was also good for her business.

“We did well on Friday, but Saturday was awesome,” Bernholz said. “It was very packed all day, and so many people came in that are my regulars — really showing their loyalty.”

Bernholz business has been around for close to 30 years, but she said she is not very active on the internet, nor is she proficient with technology in general. She still relies on her dedicated customers, some of whom bought holiday gifts from her as kids and continue to buy them as adults.

Her dedicated customers even advertise for her. The Gift Corner has signs along Route 25A promoting her shop, but it was one put up for free, without even originally letting Bernholz know they were there.

“I don’t advertise, I have never advertised,” she said. “A customer does that on their own … It’s unbelievable.”

by -
0 582

I may be conflating two holidays, but this year, I’m thankful for love. Yes, I recognize that Valentine’s Day is a few months away.

I’m not just talking about romantic love between two people who laugh, plan and enjoy building a life together while dealing with the inevitable chaos and curveballs.

No, I’m talking about the kind of love that makes a cold, wet day manageable. We recently added a puppy to our home. We brought this new furry creature into our lives because we were moving and it seemed liked a way to add something to our house that would be ours in a new setting.

It also seemed to be a way to enhance our ability to socialize with our neighbors. Who, after all, can resist a cute puppy bounding down the street? Well, as it turns out, almost everyone, particularly on unexpectedly cooler days in a city that was supposed to be much warmer. Sure, people wave through their gloves and smile behind the wheel, but no one has stopped to ask if he or she can pet the little fella. No one has asked his age, his name or where we got him.

But, hey, this isn’t about love for our neighbors, although I suspect over time we may come to love the distance we have from everyone or, on the bright side, a friendship that may seem inevitable after we meet other people eager to connect with those living nearby.

No, this is about that moment when I open the door to the puppy’s room and he greets me with a tail moving so quickly that it could generate enough electricity to power the house for the day.

As we and our kids get older, the excitement at greeting each other after absences, even for a few hours or a day, left the arena of unbridled joy. Sure, we’re delighted to see each other, but the squeal with delight moments have morphed into understated greetings and subtle head nods that don’t displace carefully coiffed hair.

We can also love the moments our senses pick up a familiar signal. That could be the scent of a pumpkin pie wafting across the living room, sending us back to our childhood when we visited with extended family that has long ago moved away. It could be the sound of our children practicing an instrument with such dexterity that the end of the composition brings both pride and sadness as the intricate sound has given way to silence.

It could also be an appreciation for a warm, crackling fire late on a cold day as the winter sunset turns the light outside a deep orange, contrasting with the yellow hue near the sizzling logs.

This is also the incredible season of anticipation, as we love the prospect of seeing people we haven’t seen in person in weeks, months or years. We can love the expectation of seeing their faces, sharing stories, taking long walks on quiet roads or windy beaches, as we tell tales about everything from the miraculous to the mundane in intersecting lives interrupted by time and distance.

As well, we can love the gift of time with each other, on our own or without particular commitment.

Then again, we can love a positive result at work, if we’ve sold the unsellable property, finally checked something off a to-do list that seemed to be festering forever, or found some unexpected result in a lab that may one day lead to a treatment for an insidious or life-depriving disease.

We are a thinking species, which ruminates over the past, contemplates the present and ponders the future. We are also blessed with the power of love, as Huey Lewis and the News sang in 1985. It’s still a powerful thing, even 33 years later.

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Midterm elections are complete. We need to continue to stand up and give voice to social justice and human rights for all. Those we have elected and re-elected are there to serve us, “We the People,” not special interests, not a particular party but all of us. We have a responsibility to hold those who hold public office to serious accountability. They need to support the issues that are most important to the constituents they represent.

As the holiday season approaches, we need to put the divisive, disrespectful rhetoric of this past election season behind us. Let us look for new ways to build bridges with our differences instead of building walls. Let us engage in conversations that are inclusive and life-giving. Even if after the conversation is complete we agree to disagree, let us still embrace a spirit of respect for one another and keep the door open to new conversations that can make our communities better and stronger.

For Thanksgiving, I am forever grateful to our community. In our diversity is also the foundation of our greatness. I have seen firsthand this community build strong bridges that transcend racial, religious, social, political and economic issues; we are better for these bridges.

We’re not perfect, but in our imperfection we continue to feed the poor, to provide shelter and support for the homeless and to afford mental health services for those who are overwhelmed with life and so much more.

Our local hospitals, our fire departments, our ambulance services are on call 24/7 to respond to any kind of human trauma and/or tragedy. They are among the most compassionate and giving people I have ever been privileged to know; their self-sacrifice and service to others is an inspiration.

Our local schools are among the best in the state and probably the nation. Maryhaven Center of Hope is a historical landmark within our community. For more than 100 years, its compassionate and comprehensive services have provided invaluable support for the most vulnerable among us.

We are blessed to have a wide range of religious traditions actively engaged in our larger community, reminding us regularly of the importance to love, to forgive and to be generous to those in need without judgment or exclusion. Our religious leaders have consistently been an invaluable source of wisdom and support for our diverse community.

As I get ready to celebrate my 39th Thanksgiving in Port Jefferson, I will especially give God thanks for our community that reminds me every day that hope lives and must be the anthem of our souls! I am forever grateful for our community’s warmth, generosity and service. A blessed Thanksgiving to all and thank you!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

The spirit of Thanksgiving was alive and well in Huntington Station Monday night.

Andre Sorrentino, owner of PAS Professional Automotive Services on New York Avenue, hosted his 9th annual Sorrentino Turkey Drive Nov. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. More than 2,000 frozen turkeys were given out to area residents in need in an effort to ensure all  have the opportunity to sit down to a traditional holiday meal with their families.

“This year, we’ve doubled the amount of people who wanted to be involved to help,” Sorrentino said. “People came out in droves.”

The lifelong Huntington resident said his family’s tradition started one year when he purchased 30
frozen turkeys and handed them out of the back of a pickup truc
k. This year, he purchased 2,000 and had
accepted another 70 from community donations by Nov. 16. People were still walking in with donated birds in hand the night of the gi
veaway.

While waiting on line for their turkeys, residents were offered hot dogs, hot cocoa, cotton candy and more as a DJ spun the latest hits lending to a carnival-like atmosphere.

“It’s a good thing to help people and I’m trying to teach my kids that,” Sorrentino said. “If we had a little more of that in the world today, we’d all be better off.”

by -
0 938
L.I. Pour House on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station will host a free Thanksgiving dinner for those in need Nov. 22, and is prepared to feed up to 500 people, according to owner Anthony Pallino. Photo from L.I. Pour House Facebook

A restaurant and bar on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station will be open Thanksgiving Day, but those seeking a burger or beer will have to wait until they reopen Friday.

L.I. Pour House, located at 650 Route 112, will for the second consecutive year hold a free Thanksgiving Day meal for those without a place to go for the holidays, from noon to 3 p.m. Last year the event fed about 100 people, according to owner Anthony Pallino, though he said he expects at least double the crowd this year, and he’s prepared to feed as many as 500.

“We have the platform to do it so it’s kind of selfish not to,” Pallino said. “It’s a time for people not only that are homeless, but also that just don’t have families and stuff like that to have a place to go. I’ve never felt that before — I‘ve always had a place to go on the holidays. I’m very lucky.”

Pallino said all of the food — turkey, stuffing, pasta, desserts and more — will be made in-house by the restaurant’s chefs. Many of those who take up the L.I. Pour House offer will likely be regular patrons of Welcome Friends Soup Kitchen based in Port Jefferson Village, which for nearly 30 years has served a hot, fresh meal homemade by volunteers at several area churches free of charge for those in need Sunday through Wednesday, as well as Friday, including at First Presbyterian Church on Main Street. The soup kitchen does not have Thursday offerings and while it offers turkey dinners repeatedly around Thanksgiving, it is closed on the actual day. The organization’s president, Marge Tumilowicz, said she’s been directing her regular guests to go to L.I. Pour House for a hot, home-cooked turkey dinner Nov. 22. She said Welcome Friends made up invitations for the event and distributed them to their guests prior to Thanksgiving.

“It’s wonderful,” she said of the event. “It should be a time of warmth and community, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about. Everybody says it’s for the family. Well, guess what, it was for more than family at the beginning. The whole community came together to celebrate.”

The statement on L.I. Pour House’s Facebook page summed up the thinking behind hosting the event.

“This Thanksgiving we at L.I. Pour House will be giving back to the community that has supported us for four years,” the post said. “So if you know of any family down on their luck or have no place to be this Thanksgiving tell them to come to L.I. Pour House. … We wish everyone a great holiday season.”

by -
0 373

Thanksgiving Day has passed but the thankfulness lingers on. It’s a wonderful feeling, to be appreciative and to give thanks for the richness of life. I understand that there are even clinical studies showing that such feelings promote health. So on such a crusade, here’s what I suggest we can all be thankful for at this time.

For starters, let’s consider the weather. Amid the chaotic political climate, our weather has been serene right up to the end of November. When my family visited, we could walk the beach, stroll on the roads, play touch football — they did, not me — and just bask on the front porch in the sun. It was so warm, we could have been in Florida. And there was nary a raindrop in sight.

The warm temperatures have delayed the falling leaves, and many trees and bushes still offer bursts of glorious color. Even a drive on Northern State Parkway in traffic can actually be a pleasure, at least aesthetically. We know that the trees will soon be bare so this late autumnal show is particularly to be appreciated. The birds are still in fine chorus, the rabbits are bopping around in plain sight and the squirrels are playing between tree limbs even as they are busy gathering their acorns.

The satisfactions that come along with a visit from one’s family are grand. Despite any high-spirited political discussions, the sight and success stories of children and grandchildren fill one’s heart. My four grandchildren are at an age now when mighty accomplishments seem within reach and future possibilities appear limitless. Two are in college, each pursuing their respective dream of filmmaking and music composition; the third is visiting colleges between her volleyball tournaments; and the youngest is a star baseball player in high school, which is exactly where he wants to be on his hoped-for career in the majors. They are not frivolous in going about realizing their goals. They understand that academic excellence is required, and they work tirelessly at that task. During their visit, they could be found doing physics homework, prepping for the SATs and, to my great delight, practicing on their musical instruments. They, and we, have reached the stage where their music soars, even during practice. Gone are the squeaks and sour notes of yesteryear.

My children and their spouses are doing what they want to be doing and finding satisfaction in their particular successes, which gives me untold pleasure. They have also reached the stage in their parenting where they can appreciate their own parents. Three of my grandchildren are still teenagers, and I know of no harder job than the raising of teens. My children can look back now and sometimes marvel at how their parents handled those years. They might even ask for a bit of advice. That, of course, gives us grandparents further pleasure because our children have now become our friends. And for our part, we can ask their advice in turn. It’s a wonderful stage of life for us oldies. We can enjoy the capital gains of our investments in our children and the dividends with our grandchildren.

Ultimately what is it that really makes us thankful? I don’t know anyone who gives thanks for their Mercedes or diamond tiara, much as it may be fun to have those symbols of accomplishment. To be really thankful is to have what will outlive us — those we love.

by -
0 463

Here we are, Thanksgiving Day, and I’d like to share some things I’m not thankful for. I recognize, of course, all that I do have to be thankful for, but in this moment and in this year it seems fitting to make a not-so-thankful list.

Nicknames: They’ve become ubiquitous. I never liked the nicknames Joe Girardi had for all the Yankees, usually adding a “y” at the end of their last names. Why? Is Gardner too hard to say?

I’m also not a huge fan of the nicknames the president of the only country not in the Paris climate accord has given to all his adversaries and nemeses.

I ask, in all sincerity, does the man occupying the White House who gets to fly on Air Force One have a positive nickname for anyone? Does he, for example, call anyone “Superstar” or “Force of Nature,” or simply “Champ”? Does he think anyone is a “dynamo,” “real winner” or “miracle”? No, I suspect he doesn’t because that might mean that their superpowers would be comparable or, gasp, stronger than his.

Pundits: Everyone on TV, in the comment section of news articles and on the internet seem to know better than everyone else. Some of these pundits seem to be playing a game of mad libs where they change the names, dates and details about their punditry, but their perspectives and their “shame, shame, shame, he’s a bad Democrat/ Republican” outrage get old incredibly quickly. If you have no new thoughts, then don’t pretend to offer something new.

I’d enjoy it if a newscaster said, “And now we’re going to turn to someone that hates Republicans who, no doubt, will offer an oversized portion of outrage.”

Fake news: It’s a convenient label for those who don’t like what they hear. It’s a way to undermine the messenger. I know there are news organizations who play fast and loose with the facts. There are also members of the media who have made a point of blending editorial and news, decrying the lack of moral — or even logical — leadership in Washington. Still, many reporters are eager to find facts and to give people a chance to make decisions for themselves. Ultimately, many journalists are serving society by shining lights in dark corners and by sharing information that informs the public. Without the news, people would need to rely on official sources to tell them their version of the truth. That doesn’t sound very democratic.

Deliciously evil desserts: Around this time of year, cooks in places like The Good Steer make incredible pumpkin pie. Why does it have to taste so good and why can’t I stop at just one or six pieces? Can’t they add string beans or cauliflower to the pie to make it slightly less palatable?

Misspellings and myselfisms: I know that seems incredibly elitist and English-language snobby of me, but I bristle at emails urging me to do something before it’s too late. I would like to reply that it’s “to” late to correct their emails. As for the “myself” problem, I have heard someone say several times in the last few weeks, “If you have a problem, you should talk to Ted or myself.” Really? My problem is that if you took Ted out of that sentence, you’d be suggesting people talk to myself.

Teenage odors: Yes, I know the teenagers are growing, their hormones are surging and they are some of the most active people on Earth. Still, get a group of them in a room, in a car or in any confined space and you might long for the innocent days of diapers and spit-up.

Suffolk County 2nd Precinct police officers hand out free food to needy families. Photos by Sara-Megan Walsh

Many said the true spirit of Thanksgiving arrived in Huntington Nov. 20, filling its streets with a sense of community.

Hundreds of residents patiently stood outside PAS Professional Automotive Services at 6 p.m. Monday, after the shop was closed for the night. The line looped around the store’s parking lot, around the corner and trailed down New York Avenue. Each and every resident there in need knew they would be going home with a free Thanksgiving turkey to celebrate the upcoming holiday.

Andre Sorrentino, owner of PAS, was hosting his eighth annual Sorrentino Trucking Turkey Giveaway along with his family. This year, nearly 2,000 turkeys with the full fixings and various households goods were given away to Huntington area families.

The Sorrentino family handed out thousands of free
Thanksgiving turkeys to local families. Photo by
Sara-Megan Walsh

“I saw there was a need in the community,” Sorrentino said as to his inspiration.

The lifelong Huntington resident said that his family’s tradition started one year when he purchased 30 frozen turkeys and handed them out of the back of a pickup truck.

“I couldn’t believe it, they were gone in like five seconds,” Sorrentino said. “I saw it and was like, ‘Wow, nobody else does this. This is a really good idea.’”

Huntington supervisor-elect and state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R) said he was on hand that first year and is amazed by what the event has turned into today.

“This is really what it means to be in the spirit of Huntington and the spirit of Thanksgiving, caring for one another and coming together as a community,” Lupinacci said. “To all the volunteers and the countless people who have donated, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

The supervisor-elect said that the Sorrentino family drive is one of the single largest Thanksgiving turkey giveaways in the region. Sorrentino said he purchased approximately 1,000 of the turkeys himself. His family and friends then hosted a fundraising dinner approximately two months ago and solicited donations from the community to provide the other 800 to 1,000 turkeys handed out last night, as donations were still being accepted up to the last minute.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said there’s a desperate need for this type of charity in the Huntington area.

“There’s a lot of people who are our next door neighbors who are food poor and every day rely on pantries,” Spencer said. “This event for some people may be the difference between having a family Thanksgiving meal or not.”

Suffolk County 2nd Precinct police officers hand out
free food to needy families. Photos by Sara-Megan
Walsh

Those residents who received a turkey did so by redeeming one of the nearly 2,000 vouchers the Sorrentinos distributed to area churches, food pantries, soup kitchens and charitable organizations to hand out to those families in need of financial help or assistance for the holidays.

Suffolk County 2nd Precinct police officers helped hand out supplies to needy families along with help from Huntington, Halesite, Lloyd Harbor and other local fire departments. Jonny D’s Pizza in Huntington brought over free pizza for dinner to residents who were waiting in line, while Blondie’s Bake Shop in Centerport handed out free Rice Krispies Treats. A local 7-Eleven handed out free coffee to help keep everyone warm, and free hot dogs and cotton candy was made available.

In addition to the Sorrentino family giveaway, the not-for-profit organization Toys for Hope, whose mission is to assist needy children and their families, was there handing out donations to help make children’s holidays brighter.

“It gets more exciting each year with more and more of the community coming out to help,” Lupinacci said. “Whether it’s by donating money or organizing, helping hand out vouchers or spreading the word that if people need help during the holiday time that the community is there for them.”

This Thanksgiving, offer healthy dessert options like dairy-free pumpkin pudding, above, or fruit salad.
Eating well can set the table for a year of well-being

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Many of us give thanks for our health on Thanksgiving. Well, let’s follow through with this theme. While eating healthy may be furthest from our minds during the holidays, it is so important.

Instead of making Thanksgiving a holiday of regret, eating foods that cause weight gain, fatigue and that increase your risk for chronic diseases, you can reverse this trend while maintaining the traditional theme of what it means to enjoy a festive meal.

What can we do to turn Thanksgiving into a bonanza of good health? Phytochemicals (plant nutrients) called carotenoids have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and are found mostly in fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids make up a family of more than 600 different substances, such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and beta-cryptoxanthin (1).

Carotenoids help to prevent and potentially reverse diseases, such as breast cancer; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease; age-related macular degeneration; and cardiovascular disease — heart disease and stroke. Foods that contain these substances are orange, yellow and red vegetables and fruits and dark green leafy vegetables. Examples include sweet potato, acorn squash, summer squash, spaghetti squash, green beans, carrots, cooked pumpkin, spinach, kale, papayas, tangerines, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Let’s look at the evidence.

Breast cancer effect

We know that breast cancer risk is high among women, especially on Long Island. An American woman has an average risk of 12.4 percent for getting breast cancer (2). Therefore, we need to do everything within reason to reduce risk.

In a meta-analysis (a group of eight prospective or forward-looking studies), results show that women who were in the second to fifth quintile blood levels of carotenoids, such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein and zeaxanthin, had significantly reduced risk of developing breast cancer (3).

Thus, there was an inverse relationship between carotenoid levels and breast cancer risk. Even modest amounts of carotenoids can have a resounding effect in potentially preventing breast cancer.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: Lou Gehrig’s disease

ALS is a disabling and feared disease. Unfortunately, there are no effective treatments for reversing this disease. Therefore, we need to work double time in trying to prevent its occurrence.

In a meta-analysis of five prestigious observational studies, including The Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, results showed that people with the greatest amount of carotenoids in their blood from foods like spinach, kale and carrots had a decreased risk of developing ALS and/or delaying the onset of the disease (4). This study involved over 1 million people with more than 1,000 who developed ALS.

Those who were in the highest carotenoid level quintile had a 25 percent reduction in risk, compared to those in the lowest quintile. This difference was even greater for those who had high carotenoid levels and did not smoke, a 35 percent reduction. According to the authors, the beneficial effects may be due to antioxidant activity and more efficient function of the power source of the cell: the mitochondria. This is a good way to prevent a horrible disease while improving your overall health.

Positive effects of healthy eating

Despite the knowledge that healthy eating has long-term positive effects, there are several obstacles to healthy eating. Two critical factors are presentation and perception.

Presentation is glorious for traditional dishes, like turkey, gravy and stuffing with lots of butter and creamy sauces. However, vegetables are usually prepared in either an unappetizing way — steamed to the point of no return, so they cannot compete with the main course — or smothered in cheese, negating their benefits, but clearing our consciences.

Many consider Thanksgiving a time to indulge and not think about the repercussions. Plant-based foods like whole grains, leafy greens and fruits are relegated to side dishes or afterthoughts. Why is it so important to change our mindsets? Believe it or not, there are significant short-term consequences of gorging ourselves.

Not surprisingly, people tend to gain weight from Thanksgiving to New Year. This is when most gain the predominant amount of weight for the entire year. However, people do not lose the weight they gain during this time (5). If you can fend off weight gain during the holidays, just think of the possibilities for the rest of the year.

Heart attack risk: Even in the short term

Also, if you are obese and sedentary, you may already have heart disease. Overeating at a single meal increases your risk of heart attack over the near term, according to the American Heart Association (6). However, with a little Thanksgiving planning, you can reap significant benefits. What strategies should you employ for the best outcomes?

• Make healthy, plant-based dishes part of the main course. I am not suggesting that you forgo signature dishes, but add to tradition by making mouthwatering vegetable-based dishes for the holiday.

• Improve the presentation of vegetable dishes. Most people don’t like grilled chicken without any seasoning. Why should vegetables be different? In my family, we make sauces for vegetables, like a peanut sauce using mostly rice vinegar and infusing a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Good resources for appealing dishes can be found at www.PCRM.org, www.DrFuhrman.com, www.EatingWell.com, www.wholefoodsmarket.com and many other resources.

• Replace refined grains. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that replacing wheat or refined grains with whole wheat and whole grains significantly reduced central fat, or fat around the belly (7). Not only did participants lose subcutaneous fat found just below the skin but also visceral adipose tissue, the fat that lines organs and causes chronic diseases such as cancer. For even better results, consider substituting finely chopped cauliflower for rice or other starches.

• Create a healthy environment. Instead of putting out creamy dips, processed crackers and candies as snacks prior to the meal, put out whole grain brown rice crackers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and healthy dips like hummus and salsa. Help people choose wisely.

• Offer healthy dessert options. Options might include dairy-free pumpkin pudding and fruit salad.

The goal should be to increase your nutrient-dense choices and decrease your empty-calorie foods. You don’t have to be perfect, but improvements during this time period have a tremendous impact — they set the tone for the new year and put you on a path to success. Why not turn this holiday into an opportunity to de-stress, rest and reverse or prevent chronic disease by consuming plenty of carotenoid-containing foods.

References: (1) Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2010;50(8):728–760. (2) SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2009, National Cancer Institute. (3) J Natl Cancer Inst 2012;104(24):1905-1916. (4) Ann Neurol 2013;73:236–245. (5) N Engl J Med 2000; 342:861-867. (6) www.heart.org. (7) Am J Clin Nutr 2010 Nov;92(5):1165-71Givi.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

By Barbara Beltrami

This year we’re spending Thanksgiving at the home of friends … friends whom we think of as family, and we’ve been asked to bring a dish we remember from the Thanksgivings of our childhood.

I’ve been delving deep into my memories of those days. I do remember that while the turkey was in the oven we always went to the local high school football game where I spent the time enviously ogling the cheerleaders and their oh-so-grown-up hairdos and outfits. Later, after glasses of claret for the women and Rob Roys for the men, we would cluster around Uncle Bob as he carved the turkey with his new-fangled electric knife, surreptitiously snatch pieces of the skin that fell away and vehemently blame each other when we got caught.

Nothing varied from year to year; the menu was ironclad and to stray from it with any innovation was considered sacrilege. And so, with the “bird” and its giblet gravy, we had yams baked in their skins, mashed potatoes, stuffing laced with crispy onions, cauliflower, string beans, creamed onions and sliced cranberry sauce straight from the can. No pies except apple and pumpkin were dessert worthy, although I do seem to remember somehow pecan pie miraculously crashed the party and joined them at some point.

Years later when I married and had my own family, I began my own set of menu traditions that in some cases were spin-offs of a few of the ones I had grown up with. What follows are ones that have become my own customs and rituals over these many years. That’s one of the great things about Thanksgiving; it is made of traditions and memories and, no matter what they are, they’re yours.

Herbed Cornbread Stuffing

Herbed Cornbread Stuffing

YIELD: Makes stuffing for a 20- to 24-lb turkey

DIRECTIONS:

Two 16-ounce packages prepared herbed cornbread stuffing mix

5 to 6 cups hot broth

½ pound unsalted butter, melted

¹/3 cup olive oil

3 medium onions, diced

3 celery ribs, cut into half-inch slices

Two 14-ounce cans peeled and cooked chestnuts, drained and diced

4 Granny Smith apples, pared, cored and diced

2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

8 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a very large bowl combine the stuffing mix with the broth and butter according to package directions. In a large skillet heat the oil for 30 to 45 seconds. Add the onions all at once and stirring frequently and cook over medium high heat until they are brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from skillet and add to stuffing mix.

Lower the heat to medium low and in same skillet sauté celery and apples until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from skillet and add to stuffing mix, along with diced chestnuts. Add parsley, sage, thyme, salt and pepper (taste first because mixture may already be salty enough).

Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use. Before placing inside turkey, be sure that it is approximately the same temperature as stuffing. Serve with turkey and all the fixings on Thanksgiving Day and the next day with turkey and cranberry sauce in a sandwich.

Really Sweet Sweet Potatoes

Really Sweet Sweet Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 12 to 16 servings

INGREDIENTS:

5 large yams or sweet potatoes, pared and cut into 3- to 4-inch slices

1 cup orange juice

½ cup maple syrup or honey

1 cup brown sugar

1 partially frozen stick butter, diced

Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 F. Place sweet potato slices in a greased large baking pan. Drizzle orange juice and syrup over them, sprinkle brown sugar on top and then dot with pieces of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and tops are crispy. Serve with turkey and all the fixings.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted brussel sprouts

YIELD: Makes 12 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1½ cups golden raisins

2 cups apple juice or cider

3 pounds Brussels sprouts

Salt, to taste

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a baking pan large enough to easily hold the Brussels sprouts. In a medium bowl, combine the raisins and the apple juice and let them soak until plump. Place Brussels sprouts in a steamer and sprinkle with salt, then steam them 5 to 6 minutes, until bright green but not cooked through. Drain the raisins, reserve liquid for another use or discard.

In a large bowl combine the Brussels sprouts, raisins, olive oil, rosemary and black pepper. Toss to coat evenly, then place in baking pan. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until Brussels sprouts are tender in center and turning golden on outside. In a small pan or microwave, heat the balsamic vinegar; place the sprouts in serving bowl and drizzle the vinegar over them. Serve hot or warm with turkey and all the fixings.