By Dietetic Intern Sophie Blumenthal
Months before Thanksgiving, you know ALL the details. You know who will be going to your Aunt Susan’s house, what everyone is bringing, and even what color the place settings will be. You know there wil be food as far as the eye can see and that your family will be there asking you the same questions as last year.
But this year you’re finally on track! You’re eating well and exercising and you’re worried about how to not overeat while still relaxing and getting your annual dose of favorite dishes (yes, even dessert) in. Thanksgiving should be a day to relax and eat with family. So, with temptation abound, how do we enjoy ourselves without going overboard?
The answer? We plan a bit and we realize we’re allowed to loosen up a belt notch and enjoy ourselves sometimes, too! To find that happy balance, here are some of my favorite strategies for Thanksgiving:
Tip #1: Eat breakfast
If you’re going all day without eating, you’ll be starving by the time the meal starts. This could lead to overeating and poor choices. Starting the day with a sensible breakfast (think protein and whole grains) will help you feel more satisfied and start you on a good note for the day.
Tip #2: Fill up on healthy stuff
If you’re hosting the meal, you’re lucky to have more control over what is served. Make veggie and grain salads and broth based soup to help fill you up, provide nutrient-dense dishes, and spare some of the calories. Opting for these dishes first will leave you more full by the time you get to the meat, gravy, stuffing and dessert.
This sweet potato, carrot, and ginger soup is light, nutritious, gluten-free, vegan, and will be a gorgeous addition to your spread. You’ll also be getting a dose of Vitamins A, C, K, B6, fiber, and potassium.
Sweet Potato Carrot Ginger Soup
1 large sweet potato
2 cups chopped carrots
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon grated ginger
4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
a pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400F and line a pan with parchment paper.
Chop sweet potatoes and carrots into medium-sized cubes and place spread out on your pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tender. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Chop onion and garlic and add to pot, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add ginger, sweet potato, carrots, and cayenne, then stir together.
Add broth and bring to boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer soup to blender (or use hand blender) and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
*Recipe borrowed from www.choosingchia.com
Tip #3: Make healthier versions of your favorite dishes
Use olive oil instead of saturated fats like butter or lard.
Use low fat milk and fat free Greek yogurt to make dishes creamier instead of heavy cream.
Use applesauce instead of oil in baked goods such as breads.
Use whole wheat flour instead of refined white flour.
This recipe for whole wheat stuffing is a favorite swap of mine. It’s simple to make, high in fiber, and lower in sodium than many of the bagged stuffing mixes. It can easily accommodate any additions such as veggies, lean meat or mock meat, nuts, dried fruit, you name it!
Whole Wheat Stuffing Recipe
1 loaf whole wheat bread, cubed (9-10 cups)
1 large onion
3 stalks celery
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
Preheat oven to 375F. Cut bread into cubes. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15-25 minutes until browned. Meanwhile, dice onion and celery. Chop off the dark green stems and the root of 2 leeks, then slice them in half length-wise. Cut into thin slices (half-moon shapes). Rinse thoroughly to remove any dirt. Chop 2 tablespoons each of sage and parsley.
In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add celery, onion, and leeks with a few pinches of salt; cook 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Remove from heat and stir in the herbs.
Place the bread cubes and vegetables in a bowl, add 1 teaspoon salt and some black pepper, mix to combine. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish and add 3 cups vegetable broth.
Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover, and bake for about 25 minutes more, until browned.
*Recipe adapted from www.acouplecooks.com
Here are some additional swaps for a healthier spread. Instead of…
…sweet potato casserole, try mashed sweet potatoes with pecans
…green bean casserole, try steamed green beans with sauteed onions
…pecan pie, try pumpkin pie
…apple pie, try baked apples or an apple crumble
…canned cranberry sauce, try cooking fresh cranberries with a splash of orange juice
…dark turkey meat with skin, try white meat without skin (save on calories and saturated fat)
Tip #4: Don’t forget the drinks
The sugar and calories in beverages can quickly add up. Flavored selzters or selzter with a splash of juice can help reduce the calorie load and keep you hydrated. Choosing liquor instead of beer or wine can also save calories. Abstaining from alcohol entirely saves the most calories!
Tip #5: Add in movement
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to involve sitting around all day! Suggest a family walk to add in some extra steps. Bonus: a post-meal walk can help lower blood sugar.
Tip #6: Give thanks to yourself
Don’t forget this one! If you do end up overindulging, its not the end of the world. Think of how hard you work every other day and how capable you are of getting back on track. Forgive yourself and move on…there’s no good to come from wallowing!