Count blessings, not calories, on Thanksgiving Day
With the holiday season upon us, it’s not unusual if you already feel your waistband tightening. Just thinking about all the turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie you'll consume next Thursday can make you sing for joy but also cause your diet to run scared.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Americans can consume more than 4,500 calories throughout the Thanksgiving Day celebration. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans on average gain 6 pounds, according to U.S. Health News. No wonder the top New Year’s resolution is losing weight and working out more.
Don’t go running scared! There are simple swaps and switches you can make that will help you stay trim without feeling stuffed like a turkey. Your holiday season should be focused on family, friends, memories and traditions.
Following the tips below can help alleviate the stress from facing a heavy Thanksgiving meal.
Talkin’ turkey: When the turkey platter comes around, opt for white meat instead of dark. White meat typically contains less fat and fewer calories than dark. Also, leave the skin behind. A 3-ounce portion of skinless turkey breast has only 160 calories.
So yes, the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal is good for you. Turkey is packed with a variety of B vitamins along with selenium and potassium. It also is very rich in protein, which allows it to stabilize insulin levels after a meal.
We like it mashed: This year, jump on the cauliflower bandwagon and try mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.
When blending the cooked cauliflower, add nonfat Greek yogurt, chicken stock, grated Parmesan cheese and garlic, so it will seem similar to your favorite comfort food but healthier. One cup of mashed cauliflower has just 60 calories.
If this idea is simply too weird for you, try reducing the amount of butter and salt added to your mashed potatoes. Also, switch to skim milk to make the potatoes creamy with less fat.
Can the calories: Canned cranberry sauce is often found on the Thanksgiving table. It's tart and fruity — but sugar-packed. A 1⁄4-cup serving contains 120 calories and 29 grams of sugar. That’s equivalent to 7 teaspoons of sugar.
A better option is to make your own cranberry sauce. Using less sugar, or even a non-nutritive sweetener such as stevia, can help cut sugar and calories by more than 50%.
Get stuffed: Reinvent your stuffing recipe. Cut out the bread (or cut down on it) and bring in colorful vegetables such as cauliflower, sweet potatoes, corn, onion and celery instead. To add more flavor, incorporate fresh herbs; if meat is desired, use turkey sausage, which is lower in fat. This version of stuffing can contain less than half the calories. By adding herbs and spices, the stuffing will still be delicious and savory but without the extra salt.
Stay hydrated: With food and alcoholic beverages
holiday staples, water is essential for making sure you feel your best throughout the day. Alternating a glass of water with each alcoholic beverage will help you stay hydrated while aiding in digestion and helping keep you from overeating. Drinking water also will alleviate the dreaded morning-after hangover.
Get trotting: Whether it’s before the big meal or after, being active can make anyone feel better and promote family bonding as well. Many cities sponsor 5K runs on Thanksgiving morning, such as the Milwaukee Turkey Trot 8K and 5K runs. Or just go on a long walk.
Being active also will aid digestion and help fight that typical post-meal sleepiness.
Kelsey Kempen is a dietetics student in her senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Mashed cauliflower, enhanced with a bit of cream cheese, Parmesan and herbs, deliciously replaces carb-heavy potatoes for Thanksgiving.