Thanksgiving has a bad reputation for being a heavy meal, but most of the food isn’t so bad if you make the right choices and eat in moderation. The holiday is full of ways to continue a plan of healthy eating, and we have no reason to shun or fear enjoying ourselves over the holiday.
Any dish that has a combination of adequate protein, healthy fats, and high fiber from nutrient-rich vegetables is a recipe for keeping you satisfied and less likely to grab unhealthy alternatives, says Colette Heimowitz M.Sc., VP of Nutrition at Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. Feeling full longer is a recipe for success, says Heimowitz. For protein, try options like turkey, ham, chicken, fish, or deviled eggs as an appetizer. For healthy fats: go with some kind of avocado dip and dip vegetables like peppers, cucumbers, celery, broccoli, or use an olive oil salad dressing on your salad. And fiber? Choose the most colorful veggies, like leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and squash.
Eat Throughout The Day:
Many people fast until the BIG Turkey dinner. This is a bad idea! Starving your body can send your blood sugar levels to an ultimate low. This will have you craving everything! It is important to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. Eating frequently should help you with this. Try snacking on a few healthy meals/snacks throughout the day. For example, have a nonfat greek yogurt with fruit and nuts in the morning; a bowl of bean soup for lunch; and some hummus and sliced veggies or a handful of nuts for a mid-afternoon snack, says Christy Maskeroni, the on-staff Nutritionist at CLAY Health Club + Spa in Union Square, New York City.
Think About It:
Understanding what full and stuffed feel like is important, says Maskeroni. Eat until you are 80% full. Then STOP. Pull away from the table and allow your food to digest. If you are hungry later, then eat again. If you are not, then you are saving yourself some extra calories.
Fill Your Plate:
Yes, fill it but fill it well. Make half the plate full of all the vegetable dishes and leave the other half for your protein and starch. The vegetables will fill you up, are more nutrient rich, and typically are lower in calories (although not always). The more you eat of these, the less you will fill up on the denser, starchier sides, says Maskeroni.
Make A Commitment:
Would you rather have another serving of stuffing or a small slice of pumpkin pie at the end of the evening? Chose one, not both. This can save you from going overboard and over-budget, says Maskeroni.
Limit Soda and Alcohol:
These are empty calories and can quickly add up. Instead aim for water, tea, or sparkling water. If you can wait until the meal, have it then.
Mashed Cauliflower Vs. Potatoes:
Ordinary mashed potatoes can be a land mine of butter and sour cream. As tasty as they are, if 245 calories of high glycemic carbs isn’t splurge-worthy in your book, consider making mashed cauliflower instead, says Samantha B. Cassetty, M.S., R.D., vice president of nutrition at Luvo. Frozen cauliflower—with the same nutrients as fresh, preserved by nature in your freezer—works well in this dish. The per cup savings: 135 calories and 4.5 g of unhealthy saturated fat. The score: 7 times the amount of vitamin C and g of fiber by making the switch. You’ll also get more than a day’s worth of vitamin C and 5 times the amount of folate. And it’s dairy free, gluten free, and suitable for people following a paleo diet.
Pumpkin Pie Vs. Apple:
It’s kind of a no-brainer that a one crust pie beats a two-crust one. “When I scanned the web, I found you’d save about 335 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat, by going the pumpkin route,” says Cassetty. But that’s not all. Pumpkin is an amazing source of beta carotene, an antioxidant that when consumed as food, may reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s also been found to reduce wrinkles and give skin an enviable glow. Make mine pumpkin pie, please!
Most Thanksgiving dinners feature turkey as the main course. Turkey is naturally high in protein which increases satiety, helping you feel fuller, longer. Opt for white cuts of turkey meat over dark cuts and save about 50 calories and 4 grams of fat per 3 oz. serving, says Lauren Elkins, R.D. from Marina Del Rey Hospital.
Load Up On Veggies:
Make at least half your plate green by filling up on fiber-filled vegetables. This can include a green salad or roasted vegetables. If those options are not available, green bean casserole is comparatively low in calories and sugar compared to sweet potato casserole, which is loaded with added sugar, says Elkins.
If possible, opt for homemade dishes over store bought or prepackaged food items. Homemade foods are typically lower in salt, added fat, sugar and have fewer preservatives added, says Elkins. For example, traditional homemade cranberry sauce is simply cranberries, sugar, salt and spices, while store bought options are made with cranberries, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup.
Grab A Snack:
If you are going to an event and there will be cocktails the last thing you want to be before partaking is hungry, says Keri Gans, Nutritionist/RD on behalf of ConAgra. The hungrier you are, the more the alcohol will go to your head and you will find yourself eating everything in sight. “One of my favorite snacks is popcorn, such as Orville Redenbacher Natural Variety. A recent study found that woman who ate 100 calories of popcorn where more satiated than those who chose 100 calories of a granola type bar. Pair your popcorn with 100 calories of almonds and you have the perfect combination of fiber, fat and protein,” says Gans.
Wear Bold Red Lipstick:
Wait, what? For real: What you wear to an event can make a difference on how much you eat at a party, says Gans. Choose a form fitting outfit and bright red lipstick. You will be surprised at how few appetizers you reach for.
It is definitely hard to get a good night sleep during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. But, if you don’t get enough hours during the night it can affect your food choices during the day. The more tired you are the more likely you are to make poor food choices. So this holiday season, make sleep a priority, even if it is simply one hour more than usual.
Never Skip Meals:
Don’t forget to eat lunch, or breakfast. Lots of people when they know a big holiday dinner is ahead skip a meal, in the hopes of saving calories. However, this approach always backfires and they eat more than they hoped, says Gans.