10 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

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Ah, Thanksgiving — a time for family, friends, tradition, and most importantly, deliciously indulgent comfort food. From dinner rolls to stuffing to mashed potatoes and gravy, Americans look forward to this holiday as the quintessential day to feast with no remorse and certainly no counting calories!

But did you know that the average Thanksgiving meal will set you back anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 calories and about 250 grams of fat? Considering the daily recommended total intake is 2,000 calories and 65 grams of fat, this one meal can considerably hurt your chances of looking great at the holiday party.

“A 160 lb. person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal,” said Dr. Cedric Bryant, the American Council on Exercise’s chief exercise physiologist. “Many people start by snacking throughout the day and that combined with the meal can lead to a total caloric intake of 4,500.”

Instead of committing yourself to an impossible post-Thanksgiving workout, follow our expert tips to make your holiday dinner enjoyable, delicious, and healthy. Your waistline will be happy you did it!

Portion Sizes

We’ve all been guilty of our eyes being bigger than our stomachs, so stay cognizant of your portion sizes this Thanksgiving. For any side dish, the general rule of thumb is to have your serving size not exceed the size of your fist (equivalent to ½ cup). For turkey, it’s recommended that you have no more than 3 oz. as a serving, or approximately the size of a deck of cards.

The majority of people will have more than one serving of Thanksgiving items at the table, but always keep a mental tab that a fistful is equivalent to one serving. This mindful eating will save you a lot of “I can’t fit into my jeans” heartache later.

Eat your meal slowly, and really take the time to savor each bite, rather than inhaling everything on your plate. Remember that it takes 15-20 minutes for your brain to process you are full, so take your time! Portion control is also much easier if you use a smaller plate.

Dinner Rolls

Try making whole wheat dinner rolls instead of using a white bread recipe, and by all means, stay away from that butter! There are tons of other healthier butter substitutes that taste exactly the same, like I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter or just plain old margarine.

Appetizers

Skip the fatty chips and cheesy dips. Instead, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables. You can pair the vegetables with reduced-fat or fat-free vegetable dips, and fruits don’t need any accompaniment at all!

Cranberry Sauce

Canned ingredients contain tons of sodium and high-fructose corn syrup, so opt for fresh ingredients when it comes to the cranberry sauce. You can make an easy and delicious cranberry sauce by pureeing frozen, dried, or fresh cranberries in orange juice and water.

Potatoes

Mashed and baked potatoes can be laden with butter, gravy, sour cream and cheese. Try making scalloped potatoes with a bit of olive oil and nonfat milk for a healthier alternative. Sprinkle a little low-fat cheese on top if you’re feeling adventurous!

Vegetable Casserole

Vegetable casseroles are always a main staple of Thanksgiving dinner, but they don’t have to be topped with bacon or smothered in full-fat butter and cheese. Instead, use low-fat ingredients like 2% milk cheese and nonfat milk.

For a healthier option, skip the casserole part and just prepare the vegetables in a tasty and healthier sauce, like pesto. You can also roast your vegetables in a little bit of parmesan cheese for a delicious, low-cal treat.

Stuffing

Stuffing is usually jam-packed with carbs, fat, and calories, but it doesn’t have to be. Try using whole grain wheat bread instead of white bread, and substitute fruit, nuts, vegetables, and a leaner meat for red meat.

Turkey

You can have a juicy turkey without all the oil and gravy by reducing the cooking time. You can do this by butterflying the turkey, or removing the backbone and flattening the bird before cooking.

To avoid exorbitant calories and fat grams, opt for the lighter meat and avoid the fat-laden skin.

Desserts

If you must have a taste of all those wonderful autumnal pies, think slivers rather than slices. And those pies should be made with nonfat milk, egg substitutes and sugar substitutes, like Splenda or Equal.

Because sugar substitutes are chemically structured differently than sugar, your dessert might come out different than anticipated (depending on what you’re making). To avoid this, you can use ¾ real sugar and a ¼ sugar substitute, or just use less sugar, and further sweeten your desserts with cinnamon and vanilla instead.

General Advice

Nonfat and reduced fat ingredients generally taste very similar to the original ingredients, so try to buying the healthier version when choosing cheese, milk, sour cream, and cream.

Egg substitute also works very well for any recipes that require eggs, and the oil can oftentimes be replaced with yogurt, apple sauce, or low-fat sour cream. For sweeteners, try vanilla, cinnamon, or sugar substitutes, like Splenda or Equal.

Written by Nina Kim

Originally published on MonsterCollege.com

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