6 survival skills for a healthy—happy Thanksgiving dinner

November 20, 2009, 5:00 pm

Healthy thanksgiving dinner
For my family, Thanksgiving dinner starts early in the day and ends hours later after we’re all stuffed and exhausted. I call it the "food coma." While there’s lots of talk of elastic-waist pants, loosening of belts, and "never eating again after today," rarely is there discussion of scaling back on portions or eating in moderation—and why not? Because, by tradition, the holidays are a time for celebrating people, blessings, and second or third helpings of your mom’s famous stuffing. But for if you’re minding your waistline, or simply concerned with keeping up healthy habits you’ve worked hard to maintain throughout the year, Thanksgiving can feel like a huge setback. It doesn’t have to be, though. Here are six healthy survival skills to help you make it through the upcoming holidays without calorie overload:

Cut out the things you don’t love. Holidays provide the perfect landscape for overeating because there’s so much food. But, it’s likely there are several high-calorie, high-fat dishes you can do without. Decide what you really want to indulge in and go for smaller portions rather than heaping ones. And avoid nibbling on tons of fatty appetizers because they can add extra calories without making you feel full.

Don’t gobble, gobble. Slow down and enjoy your meal. Studies show that eating a meal quickly may inhibit the release of gut hormones that help you feel full.

Have your pie, and eat it too. No need to deprive yourself, and hurt grandma’s feelings in the process. Again, choose the dessert that you’ve been craving all day, rather than filling up on portions of all the cakes, pies, and puddings being served. If you’re a guest at someone’s celebration, bring a healthier dessert—such as a low-fat pumpkin pie, sorbet, or a fruit plate—even if you’re not asked.

Get creative with healthier options. Try using reduced-fat cheese, mayonnaise, milk, and sour cream; these can go in all the casseroles you make during the holidays. If you like sausage stuffing, turkey or chicken sausage would be an excellent compromise. Reduced-sodium fat-free broths are also a good bet, and are excellent in gravy.

Take a walk. After your meal, go for an egg-nog run, or take a brisk walk around your neighborhood for 30 minutes or so. This helps digestion and will keep you more alert through the evening so that you have more quality time with your friends and family.

Give your guests "doggie bags." Tis the season for giving, so send your guests home with dinner and dessert leftovers. That way you’re free from the onus of having to eat mac-n-cheese and chocolate mousse everyday for the next several days.

Ginger Skinner

Read more on holiday eating without the guilt. And for help with your Thanksgiving meal, take a look at our 4 healthful stuffings to try and find out which of the 10 gravies we tested was rated best in terms of taste and nutrition.

Photo courtesy of carbonnyc


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