Thanksgiving Strategies? Most Unique Food and Traditions? U.S. Paralympic Athletes Tell All

By Kendra Hansey | Nov. 22, 2017, 3:29 p.m. (ET)

A turducken, coloring contest and halibut casserole? Learn how some Paralympic athletes celebrate Thanksgiving.

Strategy for maximizing your food consumption?

Brenna Huckaby
| Snowboarding
“I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal. I usually fill my plate up past capacity then eat really fast until I'm full. Once I am full, I do short breaths to make sure I can shovel more food in. I can usually finish my plate, but I require a nap before dessert...where I then repeat the process all over again!”
 
Billy Lister III
| Cycling
“I’m an endurance athlete, so my eternal strategy is to outlast the next guy. In this case, it pertains to a beautifully enjoyed and glutinous meal.”

Melanie Schwartz 
| Alpine Skiing
“I don't need any strategies for maximizing food consumption because I naturally eat a lot daily. My teammate said that I'm ‘the world's skinniest fat person.’”

Keith Gabel |
Snowboarding
“You can find me in sweat pants. Between the extreme comfort and stretchiness for when your body is expanding while grubbing down on some amazing food, it only makes sense as the strategic pants choice. In all reality, I don't have any real strategy to put down a ton of food. I naturally have a huge appetite and love food, so it's not extremely difficult for me to chow down. The most important thing to me is making sure all of our friends have full bellies and giant smiles on their faces.”

Melissa Stockwell 
| Paratriathlon
“A turkey trot and elastic pants the rest of the day – it's the perfect combo!”

Josh Pauls
| Sled Hockey
“You gotta hit the food line early and often. Make sure you're checking your shoulder to see who's behind you, and seeing if you need to grab a small or large scoop of food if you think it'll be gone by your next trip up. I always make sure I wear a belt that I can take down a few notches once the food coma hits.”

Penny Greely
| Wheelchair Curling
“I like to try everything, but only a spoonful of each. I also try to stay away from “grazing” at the kitchen counter. Typically, everyone socializes around the kitchen counter and it is so easy to pick and grab food without realizing it. I try to remove myself from the kitchen until meal time, so that I am not tempted to snack before dinner.”

Hunter Woodhall
| Track and Field
“Best way to maximize for Thanksgiving dinner is by eating a small breakfast after a big morning workout – but just enough to hold you over until dinner.”

Most unique food you’ve eaten at a Thanksgiving meal?

Brenna Huckaby
| Snowboarding
“Rabbit tartare. My older brother, Jeremy, is a chef and we went rabbit hunting on our farm the day before Thanksgiving. He cooked up a rabbit tartare and served it as an appetizer. I can honestly say it was the most interesting thing I've ever eaten. My family loved it – I ran from it!”

Billy Lister III
| Cycling
“I still believe to this day the weirdest Thanksgiving food is canned cranberry – you know the cranberry that comes out of a can in one gelatin-like piece? It’s stupendously delicious, but the canned grooves give me the creeps!”

Andrew Kurka
| Alpine Skiing
“One Thanksgiving, we went to San Diego and caught fish, then ate it fresh and raw that night as ceviche and fish tacos. ‘Twas pretty unique. None of it was cooked at all, and it was awesome because we caught the fish fresh.”

Melanie Schwartz 
| Alpine Skiing
“My family is not known for having a typical Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, I doubt my mother has ever made a turkey. I think the most unique Thanksgiving dinner was the year that we had beef burritos.”

Keith Gabel |
Snowboarding
“Because I have celiac and a few of our friends are also lactose intolerant, our entire dinner is gluten free and dairy free. Everything from the turkey, to the pies and desserts are gluten and dairy free. Even the stuffing! It took a lot of trial and error, but we have mastered a bunch of recipes for all kinds of dishes, and we now take a lot of pride in making a meal that everyone can enjoy from start to finish.”

Melissa Stockwell 
| Paratriathlon
“A deep fried Turducken: a chicken, which is stuffed into a duck, which is stuffed into a turkey...and fried in a deep fryer. It's tasty.”

Kendall Gretsch 
| Nordic Skiing
“One year my family had a stuffing taste test, and one stuffing option was made with hamburgers from White Castle.”

Kirk Black
| Wheelchair Curling
“Since my wife is from Mexico, we will eat a lot of tamales, carnitas and mole.”

Nikko Landeros
| Sled Hockey
“Definitely has to be tofu – really didn’t see that one coming!

Thanksgiving tradition for you?

Colleen Young
| Swimming
“My family has a coloring contest every year where we all color in a picture and my parents usually pick the winner. I don't think I've ever won, so I'm a little bitter about that.” 

Billy Lister III | Cycling
“A staple of my family’s Thanksgiving tradition is my grandmother’s homemade stuffing – no matter where we have Thanksgiving, or how big or small, Grandma’s stuffing is always on the table. It’s a secret family recipe, still followed on the hand-written piece of paper Grandma jotted down decades ago. Put some gravy on it – forget about it!”

Andrew Kurka | Alpine Skiing
“Halibut casserole! Very Alaskan, very bombtastic. It’s like halibut lasagna baked with cream cheese. But also, my grandma (she’s Norwegian) makes very authentic desserts, which are super bad for you but it’s amazing. Lots of stuff with Anise seeds.”

Melissa Stockwell | Paratriathlon
“Turkey, football, a walk and dessert – in no particular order.”

Kendall Gretsch | Nordic Skiing
“The Saturday after Thanksgiving, my family always goes up to Michigan to cut down our Christmas tree. After we cut down our tree, we eat lunch and then go to a movie.”

Josh Pauls | Sled Hockey
“Just spending time with family. And throwing gravy on anything and everything (besides dessert).”

Kirk Black | Wheelchair Curling
“I make pumpkin and pecan pies. I also make homemade candies and we share them with all our family as we all get together. Before we eat dinner, we each say what we are thankful for. Then it is on to watching my Dallas Cowboys go to work.”

Nikko Landeros | Sled Hockey
“Football, turkey, ham, pie, and more football – in that order!”