The holiday season is right around the corner and your family and friends are looking forward to spending time with you and, most importantly, expecting good-tasting food. The expectations are high, so you need to deliver, especially on Thanksgiving Day. But along with great-tasting traditional dishes and desserts come extra calories, sugar and unhealthy fats. While this can make it challenging to maintain a healthy diet and stay on track with your health and fitness goals during Thanksgiving (and throughout the overall holiday season, for that matter), some extra planning can go a long way. Check out these three tips for making this Thanksgiving a healthier one without forgoing fun times with family and friends and maintaining flavor in all your favorite dishes.
1. Incorporate Activity Throughout the Day
Thanksgiving Day often consists of sedentary activities, as we spend the day talking with family and friends, preparing food, snacking here and there, and watching movies, sports or family videos. Although these can be great ways to enjoy the day, try to incorporate some movement-based activities as well. Here are some ideas:
- Take time to exercise in the morning before your guests arrive or before you leave for your destination. Go for a run, organize a family walk, do a workout video or plan your own cardio or strength workout. Some fitness facilities may be open on Thanksgiving, so be sure to check their holiday hours.
- If available, attend a community event such as a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot (usually a 5K race) or a Thanksgiving yoga class. Many gyms and community organizations host various fitness events, classes and online activities, so check out your local community schedules.
- If weather permits, organize events to do with your family and friends. Set up some yard games, organize a family football game or create your own field day with different themed events and prizes.
- Take a walk after dinner.
- Assign everyone a clean-up job after dinner to keep you and your guests moving between dinner and dessert.
2. Use Ingredient Alternatives
Although traditional dishes taste great, many are high in fats, carbohydrates and simple sugars that can quickly add to your total calorie intake. Here are several alternatives to commonly used ingredients that are lower in total calories but create the same great tastes and textures at a lower caloric cost.
- Use applesauce or cooking spray instead of oil and/or butter. Unsweetened applesauce or vanilla can serve as good alternatives for sugar.
- Swap out whole eggs for egg whites (2 egg whites = 1 whole egg).
- Use multigrain or whole-wheat bread and flour instead of white or enriched bread and all-purpose flour.
- Use oats in place of breadcrumbs.
- Incorporate low-fat dairy products instead of full-fat products.
- Use evaporated skim milk or low-fat half-and-half in place of heavy cream
- Top your desserts with marshmallow fluff or whip cream instead of frosting.
- Incorporate fresh fruit instead of added sugars to sweeten desserts.
3. Manage Your Portions
Managing overall portion sizes is a great strategy for managing overall caloric intake. Here are some strategies for portion control:
- Pre-section your plate for your favorite foods.
- Avoid stacking different foods on top of each other.
- Use a smaller plate.
- Drink a glass of water before eating.
- Since many juices and sodas are high in added sugars, alternate between drinking your beverage of choice with water.
- Take your time when eating, and only eat until you feel full.
- Fill your plate with vegetable and/or fruit dishes and lean proteins, and then add the starches and sweets.
- Minimize snacking on chips and dips and appetizers.
- Save the desserts for after the main dinner.
Sticking with your health and wellness goals for Thanksgiving does not mean you have to give up on good times and good foods with friends and family. Managing portions, swapping ingredients, and adding physical activity to this holiday are simple steps to take for maintaining a balance between fun, food, flavor, family, friends, and fitness while also staying focused on your personally meaningful health related goals.