Since Thanksgiving is almost upon us, it seemed fitting to not only send this week’s newsletter a couple days early, but to have it focused on the Big Turkey Day (if that’s your thing).
Since this series is all about Tips to Making Healthy Living a Lifestyle – and for setting you up for a Successful New Year, I am focusing TIP #3 around How to Build a Healthier Thanksgiving – although this can truly be applied to any big gathering or celebration that you may attend.
Did you know that the average American consumes an upward of 4,500 calories at a typical Thanksgiving day gathering – including drinks, snacks, appetizers and of course, the big Turkey Day feast itself! That’s more than you should eat in 2 days! No wonder Stove Top has come out with a line of “Thanksgiving Dinner Pants” – seriously! (Check out the link, here; I still can’t believe they’re a real thing!)
I’m all about allowing yourself a day to indulge, and truly do believe that no one should completely restrict themselves – because that’s no way to live – but there has to be a line… And I’m not saying that Thanksgiving dinner needs to be “healthy” either, but there are definitely certain tricks to help make it “healthier”. I mean, no one needs to be lying on the couch in a food coma after the fact, feeling stuffed, guilty and beyond uncomfortable. Do you agree?
So without further ado, here is my list of 10 tricks to let you have your Turkey, and eat your Pumpkin Pie too:
1. START WITH SOUP
There’s a comforting nostalgia to soup that you can’t find anywhere else, and as long as it’s veggie-filled, and not cream-based, it’s a great way to kick off your holiday meal. Butternut squash is always my go-to, but there are other seasonal favorites that are just as good. Starting off with soup will not only help you get a good portion of veggies in, it will keep you from having eyes that are bigger than your stomach. In fact, research has shown it may even reduce the number of calories you consume at your main meal, so slurp away!
2. DRINK LOTS OF WATER
Remember Tip #1 from our Newsletter series 8 Tips to Making Healthy Living a Lifestyle – and for setting you up for a Successful New Year? Well, it’s back! Water truly is such an important component of our every day lives that I wanted to re-remind you of its benefits again – and not let it get put on the back burner (or back of the counter), so to speak. Especially on a day like Thanksgiving where people are only thinking about food, and not so much about hydration (unless alcohol is involved!), water really needs to be at the forefront of our meals. Literally.
Most people think they are hungry when their bodies are really just begging them for water. So by starting your meal off with a glass of water you are not only helping to fill some of that “extra” space you have for food, you are also enabling your body to digest the food more readily and ensuring your whole system will run more smoothly.
3. STOCK UP ON VEGGIES
Yes, the average person probably does eat more veggies on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year, but just because they started out as a veggie, doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Cue the super cheesy Potato Gratin, the Marshmallow-topped and Butter-filled Sweet Potato Casserole, the Green Bean Casserole that is filled with cream and topped with canned, fried onions, and the Cranberries that have a ½ cup of sugar per serving. (Yes, I know cranberries are actually a fruit, but most people think that this dish is one of the healthier ones on Thanksgiving – hahaha).
Not only can all of these recipes be made much healthier [I promise they will still taste good!], there are also tons of non-casserole type veggies and side dishes that you can enjoy. In fact, I suggest filling your plate with 50% of these non-starchy vegetables, including such things as Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Coconut Oil Sautéed Carrots or a Green Winter Salad. Starchy veggies, on the other hand, include things such as corn, potatoes and winter squashes and should be kept to a minimum (see #4 below).
Another way to make eating veggies more fun is by putting an array of colorful veggies together and topping then with tasty and aromatic herbs and seasonings – because no one is going to be enticed by a plate of steamed broccoli or plain carrots when there are loads of rich and decadent sides covering the Thanksgiving Day table.
4. CONSIDER CASSEROLES AS YOUR STARCH
Yes, you can still enjoy your casseroles, but it’s best to consider them a starch and only fill up ¼ of your plate with these types of dishes. So whether you love the traditional Mashed Potatoes or the aforementioned Green Bean Casserole, be conscious of what you’re scooping out here. Casseroles often call for ungodly amounts of butter, cheese and creamy soups, all of which contribute excessive amounts of calories and high levels of sodium. And we all know that sodium leads to water retention and belly bloat (which is why you’ll be needing those Stove Top Thanksgiving Dinner Pants if you’re not careful)!
5. SCOOP ON SIDES SPARINGLY
Yes, Thanksgiving is all about the sides, but do you really need 2 large scoops of EVERY one?! Save room for your favorite “special” sides. You know, the ones that are only around during the holidays and that you truly look forward to eating. And then, try to keep it under a ½ cup serving each so that all of your sides still fit on that ¼ of your plate as mentioned above. A dinner roll? Garlic toast? You can have those any time of year so probably not worth it.
6. DON’T FORGET THE TURKEY (IF THAT’S YOUR THING)
I mean, Thanksgiving is called Turkey Day for a reason… and while I personally don’t eat turkey, I know this is often the only time of year people have the opportunity to eat it, so why not enjoy it?! I suggest sticking to the skinless pieces of white meat, since they are the lowest in calories. However, if you do love the dark meat, go for a little bit less, or at least trim down your non-veggie portions of the meal.
I would actually go for more meat and no casseroles if I was serving the food (because I try to take more of the “#keto and/or #paleo approach to my eating). Protein is a much healthier choice than carbs and sugars, so just keep that in mind while you divvy up your sides.
7. DRINKS COUNT, TOO
Thanksgiving is a time of fun and celebration, but it can also be a time of family drama. Drinks can abound in both these situations, so just remember that they have calories too. I suggest to stick with wine (or champagne – my favorite!), to keep the calories and sugars low. Beer can be okay too, but it does have lots of carbs, so definitely choose a low-carb option if you are taking that route. If mixed drinks are more your thing, stick with a clear alcohol and mix it with Club Soda (which has 0 calories) and some lime or lemon juice to keep it on the healthier side. Just remember that the American Heart Association recommends limiting daily intake to one drink for women and two for men, so take it easy as the night wears on.
And again, don’t forget that water! Drink a full glass between each beverage if you are going for more than one, and take sips of water in between your sips of alcohol too – so that you will constantly remain hydrated and not end up feeling like sh*% the next day.
8. DON'T DENY DESSERT
Just because you’re trying to keep it healthier, doesn’t mean you should deny yourself dessert. It is a Holiday after all. However, this doesn’t mean dessert should be considered anything other than a treat (ie, your second helping of “dinner”). Having a small piece of pie is fine, but then don’t go having a full bowls-worth of ice cream, as well. Instead, have a small piece of pie with a golf ball-sized serving of ice cream, or better yet share it with your significant other so you only end up eating around ½ of the serving given. This way you will still enjoy what you’re eating, but won’t feel obligated to finish it all – because that’s what our partners are for J.
Cookies, chocolate and after dinner liquor all count as “dessert” here too, so again, remember that it all adds up and eat/drink accordingly.
9. BEWARE OF SNEAKY CALORIES
I think the biggest misconception with Thanksgiving feasts are that they are generally pretty “healthy” because of the fact that a lean protein is served (turkey), and there are lots of vegetables. Well as previously mentioned, many of these foods are filled with excessive amounts of “unhealthy” additions including butters, creams, cheeses, etc.
Now, take into account all of your pre-dinner snacks, and the calories can really add up! My advice would be to avoid eating little bits and pieces of the meal while cooking (because that’s where most people get LOTS of extra calories), and instead snack on some raw veggies and hummus, or even an apple dipped in almond butter while preparing for the festivities ahead. This way, you will be getting some protein, healthy fats and fiber in, ensuring that you won’t be wanting to eat everything in sight once it’s time to actually start the real meal.
10. CHEW SLOWLY
Did you know that fast eaters may consume a full ounce more of food per minute than slow eaters do? It also takes around 20 minutes for your belly to tell your mind it’s full, so you will actually consume more food waiting for you body to “know” it’s had enough to eat if you down your meal so quickly.
On this same note, the first couple of bites are often the most enjoyable, so if you combine this knowledge with a more conscientious way of eating than you are sure to eat less and enjoy your food more!
** BONUS TIP**
11. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Not getting enough sleep could amp up appetite levels the following day, so be sure to get in at least 7 hours the night before Thanksgiving to keep your eating in check. Waking up and eating a healthy and satisfying breakfast is also a great way to start your day off on the right foot, as is going for a nice morning stroll to get the blood flowing, heart pumping, and hopefully relieving some pre-meal prep stress while your at it!
Now remember, Thanksgiving is a day of indulgence – and I’m totally fine with that – just go into it knowing that this isn’t the last time that you will be able to enjoy these foods. Also keep in mind that you’ll feel a lot better the next day if you take it slowly through your meal and actually relish the food, and the company your with, instead of just trying to stuff your face!
I hope you truly have a healthy and Happy Thanksgiving – and Holiday season – and am always here if you need some more advice to help you live the healthiest, fittest and most fabulous life you were meant to live!
And stay tuned for next week’s Newsletter with Tip #4 from HFFM’s series: 8 Tips to Making Healthy Living a Lifestyle – and for setting you up for a Successful New Year.