Thanksgiving is a wonderful reminder of how many great things we have, filled with family, fun, and most of all food. With so much of the holiday centered on food— turkey, pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes, just to start—it is easy to get calorically carried away, but a few easy switches to your Thanksgiving meal routine can quickly increase the nutrient content and help to decrease your waistline.
The best tips for a thinner Thanksgiving are not restrictive; try to focus more on smaller portions of unhealthy items than on completely cutting out the things you love. Five easy changes can help you lighten up your plate and day, while still enjoying the meal.
1. When cooking, try replacing sour cream with protein-packed plain Greek yogurt in mashed potatoes, creamy dips, and casseroles. The extra protein will help a smaller portion keep you full, while cutting fat and calories compared to sour cream without sacrificing taste.
2. Try to limit yourself to a single plate, and plan what you will eat before going crazy over the spread. Before you fill your plate, survey the table and decide what you are going to choose, and select reasonable portions of the foods that you cannot live without. It seems a little crazy to skip seconds on a meal-centric holiday, but Thanksgiving leftovers are delicious and you’ll have more energy to enjoy the family time if you aren’t caught up in a food coma from overeating.
3. Stick to white turkey meat, and limit gravy. This will quickly decrease the fat and calorie content of your meal.
4. Eating slowly, putting your fork down between bites and tasting each mouthful is one of the easiest ways to both enjoy your meal and feel more satisfied with smaller portion sizes. It takes your stomach a while to communicate fullness to the brain; eating slowly will allow you time to register fullness before you feel stuffed.
5. Go easy on alcohol—holidays are a time of celebration and fun, which can often lead to drinking in excess. Alcoholic beverages are the quickest way to add empty calories to a meal. Try having a glass of water or sparkling water between drinks to help you stay hydrated and limit calories.
Most important of all, be realistic. The holiday season is a time for celebration—don’t beat yourself up over a slice of pumpkin pie, but do focus on family and friends. Thanksgiving is not just about bountiful food. The main event should be family and friends socializing—maybe even getting active and burning a few calories with a game of pickup football or a turkey trot. If you focus more on spending quality time together than what is on the buffet, it will be much easier to have a healthy Thanksgiving.
I’ll be trying out a healthy new recipe this year for an autumn pumpkin quinoa salad in addition to my traditional favorites. The if you want to, the recipe can be found here to try it too!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!