According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American will consume more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving. It takes 3500 calories more than your body needs each day to gain one pound of fat, and the average Thanksgiving dinner is an easy way to put on unwanted pounds. Here are 10 tips for a healthy Thanksgiving that will keep your family happy, and your body healthy!
- 1) Don’t skip breakfast. Many people feel that they can skip breakfast and “save” extra calories for later. However, skipping breakfast can leave you feeling hungrier and more likely to indulge in sweeter, higher fat foods later. Enjoy a healthy breakfast as a family by cooking dishes such as eggs and whole-wheat toast, or oatmeal with peanut butter and fruit.
- 2) Snack smart. Many families put out snacks before dinner is served. Eating a high volume, a low-calorie snack such as vegetables and hummus or a small handful of nuts can help tame your sweet tooth later. Skip the crackers and cheese or chips and dip to save yourself unnecessary calories and fat.
- 3) Lighten up your ingredients. If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, you are in complete control of what goes into the food, so lighten it up by making some swaps! If you are not hosting, ask if you can bring a dish so you know there will be at least one healthy item at dinner. Use low sodium broth instead of regular, plain non-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, whole grains instead of white, applesauce instead of butter, and herbs and spices instead of salt.
- 4) Skip the self-basting turkey. Self-basting turkeys are higher in sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease. To make a plain turkey moist, bake it with the skin on, then remove the skin once the inside of the turkey has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 5) Sneak in veggies. Because of the large variety of dishes served at Thanksgiving, there are numerous opportunities to sneak veggies into dinner. Add kale to the stuffing, serve roasted vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts, carrots, and onions), use mashed sweet potatoes instead of sweet potato casserole, add whole corn kernels to cornbread, or serve squash casserole instead of green bean casserole!
- 6) Try a new, healthier recipe. Rather than regular mashed potatoes, try mashed cauliflower. Add plain Greek yogurt for creaminess, and give it flavor with spices such as garlic, basil, and oregano. Rather than candied yams with marshmallows, roast sweet potatoes with olive oil and cinnamon. Have the kids get involved by mashing the cauliflower!
- 7) Use whole grain. There are a variety of bread dishes served during Thanksgiving, so if you’re in charge of preparing one, use whole grains instead of white. Make or buy whole-grain rolls, use whole grains in stuffing, and whole-wheat croutons. Whole grains have more fiber than white flour, which can help keep your weight down and your heart healthy.
- 8) Be mindful with dessert. There will likely be a large assortment of desserts, so rather than stuffing yourself or depriving yourself, choose one or two desserts that you would really like, and enjoy them. Allow the kids to do the same, and encourage everyone to have some fruit with their dessert!
- 9) Get some exercise before or after dinner. Get the family together and go for a walk or play a game of touch football. It will help you to feel less tired from the big meal, and also help your body absorb some of the extra sugar in your blood from all that eating.
- 10) Pay attention to when you’re full. This may seem like a simple concept, but it’s actually a lot easier said than done! Many people overstuff themselves during Thanksgiving, but your body knows when it needs more food and when it doesn’t. If you are full, don’t eat anymore, and encourage your children to listen to their bodies as well. Remember, there is a good chance that there will be leftovers and you can enjoy the food another day!
Thanksgiving is an important family holiday, so don’t forget about what it really means. Focus more on spending time with family than food and you will have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!