Monday, November 25, 2013

Gobble, Gobble!: 10 Tips to Eat Healthy this Thanksgiving

Pumpkin pie, turkey & dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, mashed potatoes, pecan pie, and I could go on. If that list of Thanksgiving delectables doesn’t make your mouth water, then I don’t know what will.

The holidays can be a daunting time for eating healthy with so many tantalizing foods around, but it doesn’t have to be. You want to enjoy Thanksgiving, not feel guilty for all the food you've eaten.

So, in David Letterman form, here are my top 10 tips for enjoying Thanksgiving dinner without sabotaging your health:

10. Make traditional Thanksgiving foods, but healthier.

Thanksgiving meal
  • Use less sugar, butter, and oil wherever you can. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, 3/4 cup is usually sufficient.
  • Don't use "cream-of-anything" soups; they're loaded with sodium and preservatives. Instead, make your own, or even better, serve steamed or roasted veggies like broccoli, green beans, and squash. 
  •  Serve salads, fruits, and raw veggies. If you aren't hosting, offer to bring one of these healthier dishes.
  • Sweet potato casserole is a Thanksgiving staple for many, but it's also loaded with butter, cream, and sugar. For a healthier alternative, roast sweet potatoes with a few tablespoons of maple syrup. 

9. Don't starve yourself.  
Often when you know you’ll be having a big meal later in the day, you'll skip breakfast and/or lunch. Then, when it's time to feast, you’re starving. That’s when you overeat. The key to eating in moderation is to eat throughout the day, so you don’t overcompensate later.

8. Make time to exercise.

There are numerous turkey trots on Thanksgiving Day. Take advantage of the family time and participate together. Or just go for a stroll in your neighborhood. You'll feel good, and if you overindulge later, at least you’ve burned some calories to cover them! {Find a turkey trot near you!}

7. Use the smallest plate. 

When it's meal time, leave the platter for the turkey, and pick up a salad plate instead. This strategy will help you keep your portions under control. Just make sure you heed tip #6.

6. Say “no” to seconds. 

Unless you’re going back for fruits & veggies, don’t even entertain the thought of seconds, especially if you intend to have dessert. Eat slowly, enjoy your plate of food, and put your fork down and sip water between bites.

5. But . . . say “yes” to favorite foods -- in moderation. 

You do want to enjoy Thanksgiving, don’t you? You can still eat a small portion of the foods you love. Just skip those dishes that aren't your favorite. By saying "no" to calorie-laden mashed potatoes, you can say "yes" to your mom's delicious oyster dressing.

4. Go for the rainbow!

Garden rainbow
As you survey your food options, try to select at least one food from each color of the rainbow, or at least, make a conscious effort not to wind up with a plate full of yellows and browns. If you see a monochromatic theme, ward it off with roasted sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli, & fruit.

3. Choose turkey over ham.

If you have a choice, go for the turkey. Ham is full of saturated fat. Stick with a 4-ounce portion of turkey (about the size of a deck of cards). Be sure to remove the skin, which is loaded with fat and sodium. 

2. Stay hydrated.  

Sometimes when you think you’re hungry you’re really just thirsty. Forgo the soft drinks and tea, and drink water with a slice of lemon instead. It will fill you up, so you won't keep picking up your fork.

And my #1 tip for eating healthy this Thanksgiving . . .

Enjoy the time with family & loved ones. 

Remember the reason for this holiday season, and celebrate the blessings of family, friends, health, and home. If you overindulge, you can start fresh tomorrow. Today, make Thanksgiving about people, not food. Slow down & count your blessings.

What’s YOUR #1 tip for eating healthy during the holidays?

Do you do a turkey trot on Thanksgiving?
What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
Turkey or ham?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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  1. Love this list. This will be our first gluten free Thanksgiving, so I'll be trying my hand a g-free pie crust on Wednesday. Since Will was diagnosed with celiac a few months ago, we've cut out most gluten for everyone in the house and I feel so much better most days.

    I didn't realize people served anything other than turkey until I got married, and Will's (very Polish) grandfather served kielbasa at our first Thanksgiving with his family. We laugh now, but I was kind of shocked...kielbasa and kraut and red wine. No stuffing, no mashed potatoes...LOL. And Will's other side of the family, in the mountains of Western VA, serve venison if they haven't shot a turkey that particular year! After almost a decade, I'm kind of used to the difference in traditions :D

    My favorite dish is my mom's twist on StoveTop. She sautees onions & celery and garlic and mixes it in with the boxed mix. It's so good. I never, ever can get it to come out the way she does!

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Keri :)

  2. Keri, these are great tips! Having a proactive plan and being deliberate can make all the difference. Hope you and your sweet family have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!