A Healthy Thanksgiving Meal to be Thankful For

It’s Thanksgiving week and that means the biggest food holiday of the year is upon us. For many, it’s a time when healthy eating falls by the way side and cravings for comfort food and eating in excess take over. In fact, an average plate of Thanksgiving favorites contains an estimated 1,600-3,000 calories – over most people’s recommended daily needs/requirement.

This year, don’t fall into that unhealthy holiday rut. Below are guidelines on how to eat, drink and be merry and healthy this Thanksgiving holiday.

Break for Breakfast. Fasting all day is a recipe for disaster. Just like any other day of the year, it’s important you don’t skip breakfast. Forgoing that first meal of the day may slow down your metabolism and will have you arriving to the Thanksgiving dinner table famished. This often leads to overeating and gorging on unhealthy foods. Fill up early in the day on a hearty breakfast and be comfortably hungry – not starving- for your afternoon Thanksgiving meal.

Get Active. Don’t skip out on your typical exercise routine. If you can, consider taking it up a notch to account for extra calories you may consume that day. If your town or city offers one, sign up for an annual Turkey Trot. A run or brisk walk is a great way to spend quality time with family, so encourage other family members to join in. To keep the momentum alive all day long, head out on a post-Thanksgiving meal walk to keep your body movin’  and burning those extra Turkey Day calories.

Mind Portions. Your Thanksgiving plate certainly doesn’t need to resemble a mountain of food. Opting for a smaller plate will help you keep portions in check. If your host is serving on large plates, don’t feel the need to fill it up entirely and eat everything on it. And when it comes to desserts or calorie-laden eats, try a small taste of those foods and enjoy a fuller portion of one favorite dish.

Plan Ahead. Though mashed potatoes and creamy green bean casserole tend to take center stage at Thanksgiving meal time, be sure your menu includes healthy options, too. Brussels sprouts, collard or turnip or beet greens and sweet potatoes can be nutritious additions to your Thanksgiving buffet and help balance out less healthy options. Also, consider giving classic dishes a healthy twist. Swap out butter for olive oil and roasted garlic in mashed potatoes. Use wholewheat bread when making stuffing and add healthy flavors with toasted nuts, dried fruit and herbs. Try sourcing fresh pasture-raised turkey (no butter nor brine-injected) from a local (preferably organic) farm, if possible, and opt for whole, fresh cranberries or cranberry sauce made from scratch to avoid sugar-laden canned food.

Strategize. Center your meal around nutrient-rich foods and then treat yourself to select holiday favorites. Load half of your plate with vegetables and one fourth of your plate can be filled with white meat turkey. For the last fourth of the plate, add a colorful, healthy starch, like sweet potatoes. Limit Items like stuffing and bread. At the table, eat slowly to allow yourself to fully enjoy the meal and gauge when you are in fact full.

Drink Up. Make sure a glass of water accompanies your holiday meal. Drinking water while you eat will prevent you from overeating. Many times when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty. Satisfying thirst first will ensure you make better eating decisions.

Finally, the Thanksgiving holiday is not just about eating. Focus on giving thanks for our blessings of food, freedoms, family, and friends and spending quality time with loved ones…this will help make this year’s holiday a healthy “ heart-y”one!

For more ideas on heart-healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating fun and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

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