The average Thanksgiving meal can add up to thousands of calories. It can also include an abundance of fat, sodium and sugar. There are many foods we look forward to eating at this time of year but there’s no reason to completely give up your commitment to healthy eating just because a holiday rolls around. You can still enjoy the tradition, camaraderie and warmth of the season without spending the night in a food coma.
Here are 7 ways to make your Thanksgiving meal healthier:
Divide your plate. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, then fill a quarter with protein and a quarter with starchy sides. By doing this, you’re less likely to overindulge.
Eat the turkey. Skinless white meat turkey is a lean source of protein and is relatively low in calories and saturated fat. Even though a typical portion of protein is about 3 – 4 ounces, feel free to eat some more. The protein will fill you up and keep you fuller longer.
Make healthier substitutions. There are many holiday foods that can be made in a healthier way. Instead of sugar-filled sweet potato pie, roast sweet potatoes and season with fresh herbs. Skip the vegetable casseroles smothered in creamy sauces and roast, grill or steam vegetables. Start the meal with a pureed butternut squash or pumpkin soup. Load your stuffing with savory vegetables rather than sausage. Moisten mashed potatoes with chicken stock instead of milk and butter.
Bring a dish. If you aren’t the host, offer to bring something. Then make a dish you love. You’ll have control over what goes in it and can ensure there will be something healthy but enticing to eat.
Survey everything first. Eating from a buffet or know there are going to be lots of enticing choices showing up at the table? Look over everything before you fill your plate and then decide what you just have to have and what you can pass over. Skip the things you can eat anytime, like rolls and mashed potatoes, and just choose holiday favorites or dishes you absolutely love.
Fill up once. You shouldn’t have to pass up on foods you look forward to eating all year long. Just choose wisely and have what you want as long as it all fits on one plate (without falling over the sides or being piled a foot high). If you don’t go back for seconds, or thirds, you’ll have allowed yourself to eat what you want without overdoing it.
Enjoy the holiday. There’s no doubt that Thanksgiving is centered around food, but it’s really the friends and family gathered around the table that make the holiday so special. So have some of your favorite foods – in moderation – but focus mostly on the time you get to spend with those you love. Eat slowly, laugh a lot and savor the memories. Then go take a walk or play a game of touch football after dinner.