The season of loosening belts and falling into a food coma is fast approaching, and with it the worry that you won’t be able to stick to a healthy diet. The average American will put away a hefty 3,000 calories from one Thanksgiving dinner, according to the Calorie Control Council. That’s a whole lot of turkey.
So, what can you do to make your Thanksgiving a tad healthier this year, so you can still fit into your jeans by Christmas? It can be hard to stick to a diet during the holidays without feeling like you’re missing out, so here’s some tips to get you through Thanksgiving without busting your belt.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
It’s still the most important meal of the day, even on Thanksgiving! Starving yourself all day to make the most of your Thanksgiving dinner is a sure-fire way to get greedy and over-eat. You’re better off having a balanced breakfast of some healthy oatmeal, which will mean you’re less likely to go food-crazy when it gets to your dinner.
Eat That Meat
Avoid piling your plate high with potatoes and go for the meat instead.Turkey meat is very lean and a fantastic source of protein, which will keep you fuller for longer than carbs. To cut down on calories and fat, skip on the skin and stick to the meat. Flavor your turkey with pepper, thyme and roasted garlic and you won’t need high sodium gravy for flavoring.
Switch Up the Sides
Brussels sprouts are a traditional side dish, and they are very nutritious. They are high in fiber, vitamin C and K. Chop them and pan fry with crushed garlic with a few tablespoons of water. For added fibre and natural fats, sprinkle pine nuts across when serving. Filling up on vegetables instead of heavy carbohydrates and dessert is definitely a good way to keep it lean too.
Mashed potatoes are a delicious accompaniment to turkey. However, preparing them with cream, butter and salt can really send it into the unhealthy zone. Mix in boiled parsnips to add extra creaminess and flavor. Garlic, nutmeg, thyme and black pepper also help to create a great taste without adding extra calories.
There’s nothing like yellow corn to brighten up your plate. Creamed corn skyrockets the calorie content, as does covering it with butter. Grill your corn cobs to sweeten them even more, and add a delicious texture. For an extra low-calorie kick, add a dressing of lemon, chilli flakes and coconut oil.
Cranberries are packed with vitamin C and other antioxidants. They are especially good in the colder months as they help to ward off illness and colds. Stew them with fresh orange and stevia rather than sugar for a lower calorie option that will still reduce the bitter taste.
Green bean casserole is filled with cream and saturated fat. However, steamed green beans can be just as tasty. Plus, they’re a source of protein as well as vitamins A and K. They also contain calcium, so you won’t miss as much nutrients from the cream. Drizzle lemon juice, garlic and black pepper over for a zingy flavor.
Extra tip: This also works with steamed carrots. Steam the two together to add plenty of colour to your dishes. You’ll also be getting a dose of beta carotene and extra fibre. Boost your antioxidant intake as well as adding a dose of magnesium and potassium.
Don’t Ditch Dessert
Apple pie is a staple on Thanksgiving tables. Pie filling or crumble mix is high in sugar and fat, so not great for keeping it lean. To make a tasty but healthy alternative, bake sliced apples in a dish with cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger for that classic holiday smell. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the top for extra protein and a crunchy topping. Serve with fromage frais and a drizzle of honey – delicious.
Use a Smaller Plate
The logic’s pretty simple here. The smaller the plate, the less you can fit on it. It’s easy to pile your plate high with all the Thanksgiving goodies on offer, but a smaller plate is an easy way to decrease the amount you eat.
Go Easy on the Appetizers
Like to mindlessly stand by the chips and dip while you wait for your dinner to be cooked? Switch out those chips for carrot sticks and a low-calorie dip, like hummus. This way, you can still crunch away without the calories and fat.
Watch Out for Empty Calories
This means watch the alcohol. Swap out that before-dinner drink for a fruit juice or low-calorie soda for an easy way to avoid empty calories. Don’t feel like you can’t have a couple through the day, but constantly topping yourself up can lead to drunken munchies too, which is most definitely a diet disaster.
Get Out and About
Taking a Thanksgiving walk is a great way to spend time together as a family, as well as burn off those chocolates you chowed down on earlier. Plan a nice walk while your turkey’s in the oven and make the most of the crisp wintery weather and beautiful golden trees.
Walking for an hour or so can burn a couple hundred calories as well as help you work up an appetite for your dinner later in the day.
Most importantly, don’t feel like you can’t let loose for one day of the year. Having a treat every so often won’t derail your diet, and it might even motivate you to keep going. If you’re keeping it healthy 80% of the time, then you’re doing an epic job. Healthy swaps are perfect for keeping off the pounds this Thanksgiving, but above all you need to remember that it’s not all about the food.
Take Home Message
Making a few healthy switches means that you can enjoy your Thanksgiving without the weight gain worries. Enjoy yourself, have fun with your family and eat delicious food, you can get right back to your goals the day after.
Check out these pumpkin recipes for a healthy dessert alternative…