Turkey Day Tips!
For anyone trying to eat healthier or lose weight, the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving, can inspire more fear and anxiety than excitement.
But Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean abandoning your health goals OR depriving yourself. You can enjoy the holiday, including the food, and still stay on track. Here are some tips to help you navigate the notoriously food-focused holiday.
Set yourself up for success! It’s tempting to “save up” calories by skipping breakfast and/or lunch, but going into the Thanksgiving meal starving sets you up for overeating. A combo of protein and fiber-rich carbs a few hours beforehand will stabilize your blood sugar and take the edge off your hunger, allowing you to make better choices when faced with the holiday spread. Try an apple with a string cheese, baby carrots with hummus, plain Greek yogurt with berries, or a banana with a spoonful of peanut butter.
Make a plan: As best you can, try to find out ahead of time what is going to be served. Before you’re surrounded by the tempting aromas and sights of the Thanksgiving meal, decide what you’ll have and about how much. Plan to fill your plate mainly with the healthier, lower calorie fare (see below) but don’t feel like you have to avoid your holiday favorites completely – choose 2 or 3 items that you can’t live without, serve yourself a small portion, and savor every bite!
Lighten-up traditional dishes: With some minor tweaks, heavy high-calorie staples can become nutritious side dishes that won’t wreck your waistline. Here are some ideas:
-Sweet potatoes are packed with fiber and beta-carotene. Instead of the traditional casserole, try roasting them with cinnamon, nutmeg and a sprinkle of chopped pecans (so tasty, you won’t even miss the marshmallow topping!)
-Cut down on the saturated fat and calories in mashed potatoes by subbing low-fat milk and Greek yogurt for some of the cream, butter or sour cream.
-Make mac & cheese healthier by using whole wheat pasta; or sub in butternut squash to cut down on some of the higher-fat ingredients like cheese and cream.
-For a healthy, seasonal dessert, try baked apples with cinnamon, nutmeg and oats, topped with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt.
Make time for fitness: Thanksgiving is all about tradition- so start a healthy one this year! Whether it’s signing up for a local Turkey Trot, gathering your group for a game of flag football, or just taking a walk, doing something physical on Thanksgiving day helps offset the excess calories from the meal. Exercise will boost everyone’s mood and help with digestion post-meal. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to set a healthy example for the younger generation and create new holiday memories.
Fill up on the healthy options: There are usually some healthier items in any traditional Thanksgiving spread, and the eponymous turkey is one of them! It’s an excellent source of protein and B-vitamins and relative to many traditional Thanksgiving dishes, low in calories. The sleepiness attributed to turkey’s tryptophan is mostly a myth, and more likely due to the large quantities of heavy food ingested. Keep turkey waistline-friendly by avoiding the skin and limiting how much gravy you add. Vegetable dishes are usually good options, unless they’re prepared with lots of cream or butter. And just to be safe…
Be Prepared: Whether you’re a guest or a host, make sure there is at least one healthy low-cal dish you can enjoy guilt-free. Roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, and butternut squash are seasonal, healthy and delicious. You can’t go wrong with a big green salad- top with apples, oranges, or cranberries to keep it seasonal and festive, and a light dressing, like an apple cider vinegar based vinaigrette. Or try a lightened-up version of a traditional favorite (see ideas above). No doubt there will be other health-minded people who will appreciate having a healthy option available.
Focus on Friends & Family: Yes, the traditional foods are a big part of the Thanksgiving celebrations, but sometimes the focus on food over-shadows the real meaning of the holiday: gratitude. Take a moment, or several, to think about what you’re thankful for and appreciate the people in your life. Instead of agonizing over the foods that you are or aren’t eating, focus on spending quality time with your friends and family. The food will become less important as the real meaning of the day becomes more apparent.
If all else fails, remember that Thanksgiving is just one meal on one day. If you over-indulge, forgive yourself, and get right back on track the next morning with a nutrient-balanced breakfast from Good Measure Meals. Staying consistent with your meal plan is even more critical during this season of indulgence. Let Good Measure Meals get you through the holidays without backsliding on the health goals you’ve worked so hard to achieve, and set yourself up for success in the New Year by signing up for a Commit To Lean package now!
This post was contributed by GMM Registered Dietitian, Alissa Palladino.