|The amount that an average person consumed on Thanksgiving Day, according to reports from the American Council on Exercise and the Calorie Control Council, is 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat! That’s 2-3 days worth of calories all packed into a single meal!! And that doesn’t even count the leftovers, Friday clean-up dinners, weekend with out-of-town relatives eating activities…That can all easily add up to an extra few pounds on the scale and a less than comfortable feeling throughout the weekend and beyond. I understand it’s the holiday season kickoff and you want to have fun, eat with reckless abandon and enjoy this festive time of year. This is not where I say what NOT to do or eat. I’ll simply offer up some tips to help you make healthier choices.
Thanksgiving Day Health Tips
- Consider starting the day with something fun and fit, like a turkey trot! There’s lots of benefits – you get to support a good cause, you burn calories, and it propels motivation to make healthy choices throughout the rest of the day.
- If you like to snack while you cook (or while you wait for someone else to cook!), chop up some fresh veggies or fruit to munch on ahead of time.
- Only choose what you love. It sounds like simple advice, but many people pile their plates with every single food even though they may not even really like certain items. No matter what’s on the table, only take the foods you like and leave some white space on your plate!
- Use small portions, and remember that if you’re truly hungry after finishing your plate, you can always go back for seconds. Piling on too much on the first go causes us to eat more, regardless of whether we’re hungry for it or not.
- Eat slowly and savor the food. You’ll enjoy your meal more and likely eat less overall because you’ll recognize that you feel full.
- Consider wearing fitted clothes. It sounds silly, but it can be a subtle reminder not to eat so much that you feel bloated.
And a few tips specific to your favorite turkey-day dishes…
- White meat is better for you than dark meat, although contrary to popular belief the difference isn’t monumental – but whether you like light or dark meet, skip the skin. It’ll help cut the calories and saturated fat. And as always, remember portion control – a 3-4 ounce serving of turkey should be about the size of the palm of your hand.
- Topping the turkey with some gravy or cranberry sauce? Skim the fat off the gravy before serving it, and make your own homemade cranberry sauce so that you can cut back on the sugar.
- Cook stuffing separately. Not only is it better for food safety (cooking it inside the bird is risky because the turkey may reach proper temperature before the stuffing does), but it also cuts down on calories since the fat drippings don’t enter the stuffing.
- If your mashed potato recipe calls for cream, whole milk, or sour cream, consider using skim milk or greek yogurt as a substitute to cut calories and fat.
- Try mixing half your mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower.
- Leave the marshmallows off of the sweet potatoes. Instead, try mashed sweet potatoes with a little milk and cinnamon. Or try roasted sweet potatoes: simply peel, chop, toss in olive oil and herbs, and roast in the oven.
- Pies are by no means a ‘health food’ – but some are certainly better for you than others! Pumpkin pie is a winner because it’s much lower in calories and fat than other varieties, plus supplies a hefty dose of Vitamin A for healthy eyesight. One piece of homemade pumpkin pie generally has about 310 calories, compared to over 500 in the same size serving of pecan pie.
- For desserts, choose one favorite or seasonal item. If your brother brings over a frozen store-bought apple pie that’s always available, you can probably live without a slice. But if there’s a special family dessert recipe that’s only made once or twice a year – go ahead and dig in with a portion-controlled slice. Enjoy every bite, but skip keeping the leftovers or bringing them home with you.
- Think before you drink! When the soda and alcohol are being passed around freely, it can be easy to rack up over 500 calories over the course of a few drinks. Skip the soda – if you like bubbles, go for seltzer instead. For alcohol, light beer or wine spritzers (half wine/half seltzer) are good options.