Did you know that a typical Thanksgiving feast might contain 6,000 calories or more? It makes sense then that such feasts can lead the average American to gain one pound each holiday season, which can add up over time.
Thanksgiving is often a joyous day spent with family and friends, but it can also be an occasion where indulgence and gorging are permitted — even celebrated — as tasty treats abound. To avoid this seasonal trap, commit to making healthier food choices by following these tips from Stephanie Metzner, registered dietitian and program manager at Sharp Rees-Stealy’s Center for Health Management.
- Treat Thanksgiving like a regular day. If you already practice good nutrition and weight management, apply the same skills to your Thanksgiving dinner. Eat breakfast — skipping the morning meal will leave you famished and more likely to devour anything in sight come dinnertime. At dinner, fill up half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with lean protein and a quarter with fiber-rich carbohydrates like sweet potatoes.
- Bring a healthy side. Prepare green beans instead of the traditional casserole, bake or roast sweet potatoes instead of candied yams and prepare lighter versions of stuffing and other high-calorie sides. With small adjustments, you can dramatically lower the calorie content and bring a food that appeals to the whole family.
- Create a new tradition. Find ways to enjoy time with family and friends after the meal is over. Instead of going for seconds or thirds, picking at leftovers in front of the football game or sacking out in a food-induced coma, play your own game of flag football, volunteer at a local shelter or run a turkey trot. Engaging your body will reinforce that Thanksgiving dinner can be just another meal that's part of a healthy and active life.
- Lose the ladle. Serve gravy and sauces with a tablespoon instead of a ladle. At 800 calories per cup, downsizing the serving utensil can make a huge difference.
- Skip large servings. Eat white instead of dark turkey meat, ditch the skin to save calories and watch your portion size. Overindulging in even the leaner, white meat — having 8 ounces instead of a 3-ounce serving — will set you back 300 calories.
- Pay attention to what you drink. Two mixed drinks can add up to as many as 500 calories — 1 cup of eggnog equals 380 calories — but two glasses of cider or white wine have only 300 calories.
“Enjoy the holidays in a festive and healthy way this year,” says Metzner. “Rather than the day-of holiday goodies, it’s often the lingering leftovers of decadent foods that create the most trouble. Have giveaway containers ready to send home with loved ones or donate leftovers to someone in need to stay in the spirit while meeting your health goals.”