Thanksgiving meals are traditionally family events where certain kinds of food are served. First and foremost, turkey is the featured item in most Thanksgiving feasts (so much so that Thanksgiving is sometimes facetiously referred to as “Turkey Day”). Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, turnips, rolls, pecan pie and pumpkin pie are commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner. While it’s a wonderful time with family and friends, many leave feeling stuffed and the holiday season isn’t always an easy time to eat healthy. It can be done though! The key to avoid feeling like a stuffed turkey is moderation! Here are some tips for eating healthy on Thanksgiving Day!
▪ Eat Before the Party Starts: Don’t go to lunch or dinner starving. Eat a healthy breakfast and a low calorie snack before hitting the Thanksgiving buffet. Eating a nutritious breakfast withprotein and fiber before you arrive takes the edge off your appetite. This will allow you to be more choosy in your food and beverage choices. You’re less likely to over-indulge if you’ve got your appetite under control!
- Drink water: Water is a dieter’s best friend. Water helps control your appetite by making you feel fuller faster.
- Avoid Finger Foods: Hors d’oeurves can be high in calories and fat. With the exception of crudité, don’t eat anything that doesn’t require a knife and fork unless it’s a healthy fruit or vegetable.
- Survey the Buffet: Before diving head first into the buffet, give it an overlook. What items will make a satisfying and healthy dinner? What indulgences will you allow yourself (in moderation)? Limit a variety of foods as it stimulates the appetite. Only take a few items at a time. Don’t put 20 different items on your plate at once.
- Choose Healthy and Wisely: Fortunately, many Thanksgiving mainstays fit into a healthy. Turkey is a great source of protein, and sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A. Just choose wisely. Eat white turkey meat rather than the dark stuff, which contains twice as much fat. If you’re preparing the meal, cut back on salt and butter in the side dishes. Go for small amounts of cooked squash, sweet potato, white potato, beans and carrots. Try to use whole-grain breads and cereals whenever possible; they are rich in fiber and the B vitamins that are not so abundant in simple carbohydrates (white and refined grains, cereals, flours and starches). Brown and wild rice and millet are a source of some protein, magnesium, fiber and iron. Quinoa is particularly packed with protein and fiber and other nutrients. Seeds and nuts are good sources of protein and the good type of fats. Some are very rich in antioxidants too. Some good combinations are apples with walnuts, mushrooms and ginger with brown or wild rice and lentils with barley or rice. And, of course, your favorite herbs and spices go with any combination.
- Eat Slowly: It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full. Savor your food, drink lots of water and slow down. Give your mind a chance to catch up with your body. Eat slowly, put your fork down between bites, and taste each mouthful to enjoy your meal and feel satisfied with one plate full of food. And remember to drink water in between bites!
- Eat the Special Stuff: Don’t blow your calories on large portions of food you can eat everyday. Fill your plate with small portions of holiday favorites that only come around once a year so you can enjoy desirable, traditional foods. While each of us has our own favorites, keep in mind that some holiday foods are better choices than others. White turkey meat, plain vegetables, roasted sweet potatoes, defatted gravy, and pumpkin pie tend to be the best bets because they are lower in fat and calories.
- No Seconds: If you eat slowly and drink plenty of water with your meal, you shouldn’t feel the need to go for seconds. If you’re being pressured by your host to take seconds, politely say, “No.” Others may feel threatened by your diet and pile food onto your plate because it makes them feel better about themselves. What you put in your body is up to you and you’ll feel better all day! Rehearse politely saying “no” in your head. If it helps, let your hosts know that you’re on a diet or just trying to eat in a healthy way; they shouldn’t take offense at your abstaining from another round of gravy-soaked mashed potatoes.
- Stop When You’re Full: It sounds obvious, but stopping when you’re full is probably one of the harder things to do at the Thanksgiving table when everyone else is helping themselves to seconds. It will be easier to stop if you slow down, drink water, wear snug pants and push away from the table when you’re done.
- Be Active: Above all, create a calorie deficit by exercising to burn off extra calories before you ever indulge in your favorite foods. Take a walk early in the day and then again after dinner. It is a wonderful way for families to get some activity and enjoy the holiday together.
- Drink Alcohol in Moderation: Alcohol adds extra calories and also lowers your inhibitions, which makes it that much easier to justify a third helping of marshmallow-encrusted yams.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday with your family and friends!