If your traditional Thanksgiving table includes creamy dips, doughy breads, toasted marshmallows and buttery mashed potatoes, it can feel challenging to eat healthy. Remember: You don’t have to eat everything in one sitting. You can continue to give thanks for days by portioning and safely storing leftovers.
With these simple health hacks from Sharp dietitians, you can be good and eat well this holiday.
Lindsay Yau, registered dietitian and wellness education specialist at Sharp Rees-Stealy
Balance your plate
When I counsel my patients about eating healthy during the holidays, I remind them of a balanced plate — the idea that all foods fit, but the focus is filling half your plate with colorful vegetables and fruits. The other half of your meal should be evenly divided with protein and grains.
Fill up with color
Some great ways to fill your turkey meal with color is to try roasted sweet potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts. I like to serve a seasonal fruit salad filled with sliced apples and sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg and a handful of toasted walnuts and raisins — no need to bake or warm.
Shake up staples
Instead of mashed potatoes, try baked or roasted potatoes. This will decrease the amount of time you’ll spend prepping, plus you’ll save on the saturated fat and extra calories that adding butter and milk can contribute to its mashed counterpart.
Another fun and delicious alternative to traditional stuffing is to substitute with wild rice and throw in your favorite vegetables. The wild rice provides whole grains, and the vegetables up the fiber and nutrients.
Alex Zawilski, registered dietitian with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center
Eat a balanced breakfast
Skipping breakfast can actually lead to overeating later in the day. Instead of saving all your calories for Thanksgiving dinner, keep your hunger in control by starting your morning with a fiber-filled breakfast such as oatmeal with peanut butter, berries and yogurt, or a veggie scramble.
Practice portion control
You do not have to completely avoid the creamy casseroles or decadent desserts, but limit yourself to smaller portions. On that same note, remember to practice moderation when consuming sugar-sweetened drinks and alcoholic beverages. Decide ahead of time if you want to waste your calories on beverages or save them for dessert.
Tricks for healthier holiday meals
Easy substitutions can include replacing half of the butter in your mashed potatoes with plain Greek yogurt. You will still get the delicious creamy texture, but will cut down on the saturated fat and add a bit of protein.
Limit your sodium intake by replacing salt with herbs and spices, such as rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, cumin, ginger, bay leaves and garlic.
Make your gravy the night before and chill overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, skim the layer of fat off the top and throw it away. Reheat on the stovetop prior to serving to family and friends.
Avoid spending all day on the couch watching football and instead try to do something active with your family and friends either before or after your meal. Try going for a walk around the neighborhood, taking your kids to the park or maybe even running a turkey trot.