The Thanksgiving 101 Guide
Turkey and gravy, sweet potato soufflé, cornbread stuffing, and pumpkin pie! The tasty temptations of a Thanksgiving meal are enough to make even sensible diners overindulge. The average American consumes between 4,000 and 7,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day.
With Thanksgiving upon us, many of us will be indulging in all-you-can-eat buffets, hosting meals for friends and relatives, or visiting other’s homes to eat with them. I even know a few people who are attending more than one gathering for a celebration meal that day (one at her family’s at 2pm and then to his family’s home at 6pm). I get stuffed just thinking about it! Planning ahead is your best weapon to doing the right thing this Thursday. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Remember the reason for the holiday. Thanksgiving is a day to be shared with loved ones. It’s a day to be thankful and celebrate with food. Just enjoy the tasting, the sharing, the company, and don’t get carried away with overdoing it on the calories!
Foods to Avoid this Holiday
- Pastry Appetizers
- Spinach Dip and Bread Chunks
- Anything Bacon-Wrapped
- Buffalo Wings, especially with sauce
- Creamy or Thick Dips
- Caramelized Nuts, Apples or Other Fruits
- Sugary Cocktail
- Cotton Candy
- Frosted Holiday Cookies
- Queso Dip and Chips
- Sugary Sodas
- Swedish Meatballs (because of the cream)
- Creamed Vegetables
- Pecan Pie
- Roast Beef Cold Cuts
- Creamy Pasta Dishes
Foods to Look for on the Table
- Plain Meatballs or Chicken and Shrimp on Skewers
- Nuts in Shell
- Green Salads without Heavy Dressing
- Raw Vegetables
- Low-Fat Chicken or Shrimp Salads or Dips
- Carpaccio (Beef or Tuna)
- Hummus and Pita Chips
- Seafood such as Smoked Salmon that is served alone without lots of sauce
- Fruit Salad
- Lean Meats like Turkey or Ham Cold Cuts
- Air-Popped Popcorn
- Pumpkin Pie or Other Foods with Pumpkin
- Sushi, no Tempura or Rich Sauces
Turkey. You can’t beat lean turkey breast. With nine grams of proteins and only 50 calories and one gram of fat per ounce, this is one of the healthiest things you can load up on. Even the dark meat only adds an extra gram of fat and nine more calories per ounce. But skip the skin, which adds extra calories and fat, and go light on the gravy. Try the salad-dressing technique—dip the tips of the fork in the gravy before you spear your meat to get more flavor with less fat. Also, if you’re cooking the turkey, baste the bird with broth, not butter, to keep the fat and calories low.
Sweet Potatoes have lots of nutrients that regular potatoes don’t have, including beta-carotene and vitamin C. The high levels of carotenoids in sweet potatoes also help regulate blood sugar, which will help you avoid the post-Thanksgiving “coma” that affects so many overindulgers after the big holiday meal. Although, once again, you can easily counteract the nutritional benefits by melting marshmallows on top, but at least marshmallows can be easily scrapped off.
Salad. Load up on salad! And by salad, I mean lettuce and vegetables, not a cream-based Waldorf style salad or mayonnaise potato or macaroni salad. This is a good contribution you can make if you’re a guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner. Offer to bring a salad, with dressing on the side, and you’ll at least be guaranteed that there will be one healthy dish on the table.
Pie. Enjoy Thanksgiving pie plain, without whipped cream or ice cream. If you have a choice, go for pumpkin pie over pecan pie or apple pie. You can save more than 200 calories, and keep in mind that a slice of pumpkin pie has as much beta-carotene as an entire carrot. It’s also high in vitamin C. Unfortunately, it can often times also be high in fat and sugar. But if you’re making the pie, you can substitute skim milk for cream and even add silken tofu to thicken the pie filling and provide the extra health benefits of soy.
Beverages. Drink water or low calorie beverages instead of sugary sodas and juices. A recent study found that teens who consume sugar-sweetened drinks, like soda and fruit punch, drink an average of 500 calories per day. High soft drink consumption has been linked with health problems like obesity and diabetes in kids and teens.
Exercise A Little More…
Increase the usual exercise routine in order to burn off extra calories from the excess of holiday eating and treats. Do this by waking up a little earlier, or increasing the exercise routine by one or two more sessions per week. The holidays should be a fun time filled with family, friends, good food and great times. Don’t stress out about limiting food options, just be as smart about it as possible in order to keep off those extra five Thanksgiving or Christmas pounds.
Don’t Save Up Your Calories!
Don’t save calories from earlier meals for “the big one.” You’ll inevitably get too hungry and overeat to compensate for missing those meals. Thanksgiving day should include a healthy breakfast, lunch and a small snack in the afternoon. Then, you won’t be too famished to practice portion control when dinnertime arrives.
Don’t Sleep It Off
Tryptophan is a worthy adversary, but fight the urge to nap the evening away. Moving more than usual—a game of football or baseball in the back garden and go shopping on Black Friday—even if you don’t end up buying anything, at least it will help compensate for any little indulgences.
Make Maintaining Your Mission This Holiday Season
Losing weight during the holidays is a tough proposition. Resolve instead to maintain what you’ve already accomplished. Trying to follow a strict diet may lead to you eventually overeat or even binge. Don’t stress out over no net loss—celebrate a lack of gain!
That all being said have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and know that I am grateful for each and every one of you.