healthy holiday meals

Tips for a Healthier Holiday

Each year, the average American consumes 2,000-4,000 calories at Thanksgiving dinner, more than most people should consume in an entire day. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the average person gains 1 to 2 pounds. Although it doesn’t sound like much, the problem is that many people never lose the extra weight and pack it on year after year. Read on for a few tips on how to cut down on calories while still enjoying the holiday season with friends, family, and food.

Rethink Your Table

Hosting this year? Set your table with smaller plates, your guests will thank you! Research has shown that by just switching to a 10-inch plate compared to a 12-inch plate, consumers eat 30% less. Swapping out your plates for a whole year could help you lose up to 18 pounds! (You could also consider using smaller serving utensils!)

No matter who’s hosting, think about your seat at the table. Baskets of rolls, trays of butter, and gravy boats are typically placed in the center of the table for easy access. Consider sitting at one of the far ends of the table, where you’ll be far less likely to grab that extra roll, extra pat of butter, or extra ladle of gravy just by seating yourself a bit out of reach.

Just Another Meal

Often, people will skip breakfast or lunch to prepare for the holiday meal. If you treat the main Thanksgiving Day meal as a typical lunch or dinner you won’t be as likely to overeat. Skipping meals in general may cause us to eat more the next time we eat, often whether we realize it or not. When we skip meals, our bodies enter starvation mode causing us to store more energy as fat the next time we eat. This Thanksgiving, try eating until you’re about 80% full. After about 20 minutes, if you’re still hungry, go back for seconds or dessert will likely be on its way!

What About Dessert?

Dessert can be overwhelming at holiday parties with so many amazing choices that you only see around this time of year. Try to pick just 1 or 2 items that you really want and don’t go crazy with portions. Remember that Thanksgiving is just the beginning of the holiday season and you will likely see many of these same desserts at the next holiday party.

If you’re in charge of dessert this year, consider baked apples with cinnamon and whipped cream or a crust-free apple crumble. Offer your guests whipped cream over ice cream or pumpkin pie over apple. Pumpkin pie is typically lower in calories because it only has crust on the bottom (you could even try a crust-less pumpkin pie).

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Healthier Twists on Our Thanksgiving Faves

Thanksgiving dinner can be a perfectly healthy, well-balanced meal. We're presented with platters of vegetables and lean meat. The reason many of us walk away feeling over stuffed or even gain a few pounds over the holidays is not only the amounts we consume but how we traditionally prepare them. Many of our traditional faves are loaded with empty calories from excess sugar, butter, and cream. (Empty calories meaning ingredients or foods that provide little nutritional value - things like soda, candy, butter, bacon, etc.)

Listed below are a few healthier twists on some of our Thanksgiving favorites...

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberries are naturally a bit tart and require a bit of sweetness to cut some of the bite. However, many recipes call for way more sugar than necessary. You can usually cut the amount of sugar in a recipe (whether it is cranberry sauce or baked goods) in half! You can also sweeten with a splash of apple cider or fresh squeezed oranges for a bit more flavor and sweetness but less added sugar.
Here is a healthier and lower sugar cranberry sauce recipe from Cookie and Kate.

Gravy
Gravy is traditionally made from turkey drippings often containing a large amount of saturated fat. Saturated fat is the type of fat that is solid at room temperature. Eating too much saturated fat is not great for our heart health long term.
If you let your turkey drippings cool, you can scrape the fat off the top and discard. Typically gravy requires a type of roux to thicken the sauce. Instead of mixing flour and butter you can use cornstarch and water for the same effect.
Additionally, you could make this delicious mushroom gravy from Whole Foods. I made this recipe last year and it was a huge crowd pleaser!

Stuffing
Traditional stuffing is drenched in butter and often scattered with bacon or sausage. Although they taste great, they are foods that provide us with little health benefit. It is possible to create an equally delicious yet healthier stuffing. Try using a dash of olive oil just to prevent sticking and soaking in vegetable broth or a little white wine instead of the butter.
Try these healthier recipes: Martha Stewart's Healthy Harvest Stuffing or Gluten-Free Walnut, Kale, Quinoa Stuffing from Healthy Seasonal Recipes.

Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are a staple at any Thanksgiving dinner table. I always recommend leaving the skins on potatoes because they're loaded with fiber. Many of us do not meet our recommended daily amount of fiber.
Fiber helps to fill us up and keep us full longer. It is also important for:
     - Digestion and normalizing bowel movements
     - Helping to lower cholesterol
     - Weight management
     - Blood sugar control
A few tips for healthier mashed potatoes:
     -Cut the amount of butter in half, gradually add it in to taste
     -Use skim or 1% milk over whole milk or cream or even add some low-fat greek yogurt for the same creaminess with added protein

Try these from Food and Wine. You could also try Mashed Sweet Potatoes or Mashed Cauliflower.

What healthy food swaps have you tried and loved for Thanksgiving?