While turkey is relatively healthy, the appetizers, side dishes and desserts typically associated with the Thanksgiving holiday aren’t always the best for your health and waistline.
Contrary to popular belief, however, it is possible to get through Thanksgiving dinner without stuffing yourself. If you plan ahead, find healthy alternatives for your favorite treats and use a few smart eating strategies, Thanksgiving dinner can be a healthy – and enjoyable – meal.
Keep Portion Control in Mind
Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you should eat seconds and thirds of your favorite foods. Your stomach hasn’t grown any larger – so your plate size shouldn’t either. Select a normal amount of turkey, side dishes and dessert and then you won’t have to worry about eating too much. Or, consider using a child’s plate so you can instantly see if you’re going overboard.
Don’t Starve the Morning of the Feast
Many people mistakenly believe that skipping breakfast will help them eat less at Thanksgiving. However, skipping meals can actually increase your tendency to overeat. Without a sensible breakfast, you’re going to experience hunger pains right about the time you’re sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. This makes it easier than ever to indulge in your favorite sweet, fatty or savory foods – and indulge a lot. Have a light breakfast and watch the snacks if you’re concerned about calories, but never skip meals.
Fill Up on Veggies and Salad
An easy way to keep your portions is in check is to fill half of your plate with salad or veggies. That will leave you plenty of room for the decadent stuff that you love without making you overstuffed. Pick your favorite vegetable (or two) and make sure that 50% of your plate is covered with them.
Choose Your Appetizers Wisely
A lot of calories that you consume on Thanksgiving come from those bite-sized morsels that are served before the meal. The crackers, trail mix, meatballs or dips on the table can be real temptations. Either remove them entirely or supplement them with fresh vegetable slices, hummus and low-fat pretzels. You can also try roasted vegetables like red bell peppers, mushrooms and onions brushed with olive oil as healthier appetizer options.
Select the Right Side Dishes
Mashed potatoes, stuffing and candied yams are common side dishes on Thanksgiving, but they carry a lot of calories and fat as well. Consider making this the year to try out alternatives. Rather than using traditional out-of-the-box stuffing, try making your own fruit stuffing. There are many recipes available that incorporate high-fiber whole wheat bread, raisins, cranberries, chicken broth and a few other ingredients to create a tasty, lower-fat side dish.
You can use that same chicken broth to dress up mashed potatoes and eliminate butter. Whipping baked potatoes together with chicken broth and a little salt creates a satisfying mashed potato dish without all of the added fat. Or for something really different (and healthy) try mashed cauliflower. Steam cauliflower bunches until they are tender and then use a blender or food processor to blend the veggies until they are smooth. Add chicken broth and lite salt to round out the dish.
Candied yams are a popular Thanksgiving side dish, but their fat and sugar content are quite high. Instead of this traditional recipe, try out baked sweet potatoes sprinkled with cinnamon and butter.
Make Desserts Work for You
There’s nothing more quintessentially Thanksgiving than pumpkin pie, but that slice of holiday decadence can carry a lot of fat with it. The pastry crust is what gives pie its high fat count, so you can eliminate many of the calories by serving pumpkin pudding or pumpkin mousse instead. Add a dollop of low-fat whipped topping with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.
If you’re not a fan of pumpkin flavoring, there are other healthy dessert alternatives. You can serve fruit salad with whipped topping or ginger snap cookies.
Thanksgiving dinner is to be enjoyed – but that doesn’t mean you have to go overboard! With these strategies and recipe ideas, you can cut the sugar, calories and fat without sacrificing the flavor.