Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving
Who says Thanksgiving dinner isn't healthy? The staple ingredients of this holiday's comfort food have redeeming, healthful properties that make this meal extra scrumptious. Adding just the right amount of culinary know-how to traditional recipes and knowing a few healthy dining secrets can transform this annual food feast into a guilt-free meal that won't expand your waistline.
Holiday Dining Tips:
1. The first rule of thumb for holiday gatherings, especially if it's not at your house, is to never go to the party hungry. Maintain your normal daily routine starting with breakfast and a workout. Have a snack before you go - a half of a sandwich, yogurt and fruit, or a glass of milk. Be sure you aren't starving when you arrive.
2. If there is a buffet, plan your strategy before stepping up to the table. Figure out how you want to approach the buffet table.
3. Try to remember that most of your choices should be whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The remaining third can be lean meats. Fill up on veggies that aren't drenched in butter or sauce.
4. If it's impossible to resist trying everything on the table, at least make sure you take very small "tastes," or small spoonfuls of high-calorie dishes.
If you're trying to watch your weight, remember that this is just one day, so it's okay to indulge yourself a little. Many people begin a downward spiral over the holidays every year, beginning with Thanksgiving. One day of temptation leads to another, and before you know it, they've spiraled out of control by Christmas. Don't let that happen to you! If Thanksgiving finds you being a little too indulgent, begin Friday by eating a little less, exercising more, or both.
Mouth-watering sweet potatoes - why disguise this veggie's naturally delicate flavor with gooey marshmallows or a brown sugar glaze? Not to be confused with the yam, sweet potatoes possess a higher degree of moistness and sweetness. They're also higher in nutritional oomph with a slew of antioxidant vitamins like C, E and especially A. Tip: sweet potatoes should not be refrigerated. Store in a cool dry place between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Low in fat and high in protein, turkey is an inexpensive source of B vitamins, iron, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.
- Use a rack to roast the turkey so the fat drips away from the bird
- Baste your bird with flavorful fat-free broth (instead of butter). You'll have lots of delicious juices to serve without breaking your calorie bank.
- If you're trying to shave off calories, choose a turkey breast roast this year instead of the whole bird. The fat (and cholesterol) and calorie count is lower because white meat has less fat and fewer calories than dark.
- Be sure you have a gravy separator on hand. This indispensable tool quickly skims excess fat from your pan drippings.
Whole grains deserve a place on your holiday table, too. The fact that they're not refined means they're in their natural form, with texture, fiber and lots more flavor.
- Skip the tired white bread stuffing this year and whip up a savory batch of cornbread croutons for a memorable holiday dressing peppered with chunks of spicy low-fat turkey sausage and dried fruit. Treat your family and friends to a holiday feast that is as rich in health benefits as it is in flavor.
- If you're using broth for stuffing or gravy, be sure to choose fat free.
- If the stuffing calls for sauteed veggies such as celery, onions or mushrooms, use a nonstick pan to minimize the amount of oil required to cook them.
- If you bake your stuffing outside the bird, it's called dressing. This also means that no juice (or fat) from the baking turkey is absorbed, resulting in a drastic calorie reduction. The right combination of ingredients can result in a dressing that's just as delicious and moist when baked outside the bird.
Pumpkin Pie or Sweet Potato Pie
- Use cooked, mashed sweet potato to substitute for pumpkin in your favorite pumpkin pie recipe if you favor sweet potato over pumpkin.
- Make pies with canned, evaporated, skimmed milk. Much of the water has been "evaporated," which means the milk is more concentrated - rich and creamy, and lower in calories and fat than regular evaporated milk.
- Try to decrease the amount of sweetener requested in your favorite recipe by about 25 percent. You may find you prefer it this way. And this year, try using agave nectar as your sweetener. Unlike sugar, it's loaded with antioxidants. Yes, it has calories similar to those of honey, but it's natural and not artificial or chemically processed. Taste your modified pie filling before baking to be sure it's sweet enough. Sometimes kicking up the sweet spices just a notch (e.g. cinnamon, cloves, ginger) helps to stretch the flavor so the lesser amount of sweetener isn't noticeable.
- Substitute most or all of the whole eggs with egg whites.
- Eat just the filling of the finished pie and skip the high-fat crust. Or, bake the filling in a springform pan without any crust at all!
- Season vegetables with fresh herbs and low-sodium seasonings. Skip the butter.
- There's plenty of starch at this meal, so why not skip the dinner rolls altogether? If that's not an option for your family, be sure to choose whole grain rolls.
With a little culinary know-how, your Thanksgiving can be a guilt-free, healthful-but-still-scrumptious feast. For more recipes, nutrition tips and weight loss secrets, please visit Cheryl's Blog.
Recipes with permission from "The Biggest Loser Simple Swaps" by Cheryl Forberg RD and Melissa Roberson (Rodale) 2009 and "The Biggest Loser 3-Day Jumpstart" by Cheryl Forberg RD and Melissa Roberson (Rodale) 2009.