Putting the Thin in Thanksgiving

— Written By Barbara Linder and last updated by Dawn Stone

familythanksgivingThe annual holiday where we celebrate all that we have to be thankful for is centered on the meal. However, the idea of over indulging in foods that you only enjoy once a year can be stressful. According to a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, on average, American’s gain approximately one pound during the holidays. That is equivalent to the average yearly gain during adulthood, which suggests that the weight gain associated with getting older is holiday meal induced. Adults who are already overweight tend to gain more – 5 pounds – on average according to a Tufts University study.
So how does one stay on course during a time when pies and casseroles are bountiful? Follow these simple steps to make your Thanksgiving both delicious and healthy. After all, good health is something we should all be thankful for.

1. Re-think your Thanksgiving focus. Most people are concerned about having the perfect turkey and all the sides that accompany the big bird. Re-center your focus towards friends, family and loved ones. It is a time a year you should be thankful for having them in your life.
2. Make traditional recipes still decant and delicious, minus the calories, by substituting Greek and non-fat plain yogurt for sour cream and heavy cream in potatoes and casseroles. Opt for fat-free, low sodium broth for making gravy, and use sugar substitutes and fruit purees as substitutions in desserts.
3. Opt for more vegetables. Autumn is a wonderful time of year for vegetables rich in iron and beta-carotene. Incorporate healthy and flavorful recipes including dark greens (such as kale), carrots, and sweet potatoes.
4. Be mindful of portions. Make sure you can still see the china pattern on your plate. Choose small tastes of each item that you enjoy, focusing on those that you may not get all year long.
5. Slow down! Savor each bite and put your fork down between bites. Sip on water during these breaks. You’d be surprised how quickly you will get full by truly enjoying the food and fellowship at a slower pace.
6. Keep moving! Don’t let the tryptophan in the turkey slow you down! Plan a pre or post walk and romp through the leaves with family and friends.
7. Do not skip breakfast just because the holiday meal is being served during the day or in the evening. If your family enjoys the Thanksgiving meal at lunch, be sure to eat a fiber rich healthy breakfast. If your family celebrates in the evening, remember to eat a healthy lunch. Skipping meals will cause your body not to metabolize the food you indulge in at the Thanksgiving table, and you will be more likely to make unhealthy choices.
8. Go easy on the alcohol. Having too many calorie-laden drinks during the holidays can pack on pounds quickly. For a festive approach to water, try sparkling water with a slice of fruit. Not only will you stay hydrated, you aren’t consuming unwanted calories.

For more Thanksgiving nutrition information, contact Randolph County Cooperative Extension at 336-318-6000.