Nancy Kuppersmith, a registered dietician with UofL Physicians, says you don’t have to cut out the holiday foods you enjoy so much, just limit yourself.
UofL Physicians offers some tips for enjoying the foods you love without packing on the pounds:
Eat regular meals. Treat Thanksgiving like it’s a normal day. Don’t skip breakfast and hold out for the big meal. Instead, eat regular meals and don’t stuff yourself.
Enjoy the true holiday foods you can’t get all year long. Whatever your favorite holiday food is, and no matter how many calories it has, enjoy it. Kuppersmith says this is the time to enjoy foods you can’t get all year long – enjoy it and savor it. Don’t “gobble up” extra calories on food you can get any other time of the year.
Watch portion sizes. Sample a little bit of everything you love. It’s OK to give in to your temptations, if they come in small portions. Don’t stuff yourself. You can always eat leftovers later.
Start a new tradition. Take a family walk or play a game of basketball after the big meal to start burning off some calories. Washing the dishes and Black Friday shopping can also burn calories!
“I’m not going to tell you ‘eat this, not that,’ but encourage you to eat what you want, just less of it if it’s not the healthiest option on the table,” Kuppersmith said. For example, turkey is a healthier option than ham because ham has more salt. “I wouldn’t encourage you to switch to turkey, but eat more turkey than ham.”
Kuppersmith said an average, everyday meal ranges between 400 and 800 calories per meal and estimates a typical Thanksgiving meal could be 2,500 calories. Others like the Calorie Control Council say the average holiday dinner carries a load of 3,000 calories, not including an additional 1,500 calories in drinks and appetizers before and after the meal.
“When you eat what you like, pay attention and really savor the food, one usually eats a lot less,” Kuppersmith said. “Therefore, taking in fewer calories overall.”
Kuppersmith suggests making healthier choices when preparing your holiday dishes to lessen the calories.
When it comes to appetizers, try something low in calories such as veggies and low-fat dip opposed to cheese balls and crackers.
When making potatoes, it’s all about the preparation. Use less gravy (in a less greasy option) and less butter. If you like marshmallows and brown sugar on your sweet potatoes, don’t load it on.
For green beans, if you like the bacon grease flavor, it’s OK, just limit the amount.
Try a cranberry relish instead of cranberry sauce. It has more fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Choose whole grain rolls to get more fiber.
Pumpkin pie has more nutritional value over pecan pie because it’s made with milk, eggs and less sugar. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat pecan pie – instead take a smaller piece and “really enjoy it,” Kuppersmith said. “Don’t gobble it down, savor it.”
When it comes to drinks – red is best. If you don’t drink red wine, sparking grape juice is a healthy substitute. Choose one made from concord grapes (dark purple) – they’re high in phytochemicals, antioxidants which are good for your heart. Red wine contains the same heart-healthy antioxidants.
And if you need help visualizing what this looks like, take a look at this Thanksgiving infographic: