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Healthy Thanksgiving Tips & Foods to Avoid

Posted on 11/16/2017

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and the word itself conjures up overeating! But, it doesn’t have to. With a little know how, the infamous Thanksgiving “food coma” doesn’t have to be induced after your holiday dinner this year. With these healthy eating tips and a few swaps here and there, you can save hundreds, if not thousands of calories.

Healthy Eating Tips For Thanksgiving 

Eat Breakfast

As anyone who's tried to eat sensibly knows, starving yourself now will just have you eating much more, later. To combat the urge to fill your Thanksgiving plate over and over again, make sure to eat a nutritious breakfast that morning. In addition to keeping your Thanksgiving feast binge-free, eating breakfast will keep your energy level high if you're responsible for getting dinner to the table. Choose a sensible breakfast with protein and fiber so you're not too ravenous by the time the turkey hits the table.

Follow the “Plate Method”

Fill up half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, fruit and a whole wheat roll, a quarter of it with roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes, and a quarter of it with turkey. And, the more colorful your plate, the better – so add lots of leafy greens, carrots, and bell peppers to the vegetable mix. Filling up on the lower, calorie-dense foods ensures a sense of fullness, but doesn’t add to the feeling of being bloated or tired after your meal.

Drink Lots of Water

Many times when people think they are hungry, they are actually just thirsty. By drinking lots of water throughout the day, you'll lower the risk of overeating. Be sure to fill up with water at your meal as well.

Take a Walk or Hike After Eating

It's also a good idea to take a walk or hike after eating to get your metabolism going instead of lying on the couch. But if you couldn’t stop yourself it’s okay. Try not to let the guilt fester and add some exercise to your Thanksgiving holiday by playing football, taking a walk with the family or hike with the family dog. And always remember that the next day is a new day- don’t let it be a downward spiral.

Eat Turkey Breast Instead of Dark Meat

Salty, fatty gravy and dark turkey meat can add up to be a large portion of your holiday meal calorie and fat consumption, not to mention the after dinner bloat caused by too much sodium! Ditching dark meat for light meat is an effortless way to cut calories from your plate because dark meat is about twice as fatty as white meat.

Ditch Canned “Cranberry” Sauce

Ditch the canned sauce! Canned cranberry sauce is loaded with added sugar, high fructose corn syrup and preservatives, so make your own and load it with chopped berries, citrus and nuts. This is far tastier and much lower in sugar!  And if you don’t like cranberry sauce, try other turkey breast topping such as homemade pesto, herbs de Provence or orange zest. 

Eat Roasted Potatoes not Stuffing

Stuffing is nothing more than a pile of croutons moistened with fat and loaded with sodium. Double this number if it was cooked inside the bird. Stuffing acts as sponge, soaking up all the butter or turkey fat it encounters. This is why the nutrition fact panels on the stuffing package are deceiving; they don’t reflect the finished product with the soaked up fat. Stick with oven-roasted potatoes instead and save yourself the calorie equivalent of a third-pound of lean turkey! Add sage to your roasted potatoes to develop the same delicious flavor as the stuffing.

Eat Baked Sweet Potato Wedges not Mashed Potatoes

Swap your buttery mashed potatoes for sweet-potato wedges loaded with Vitamins A and C. The finger food is lighter (and naturally sweeter) than the usual mashed potato dish and it doesn’t have as much sugar or fat. Bake wedges of sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and season with chili powder, sea salt and pepper. You can also use the fixings around the Thanksgiving table, like cranberry sauce, as dipping options.

Eat Pumpkin Pie not Pecan Pie

Treats are a must on Thanksgiving, but if you’re not careful, dessert calories will add up in a hurry. Pecans are the nut highest in fat, and when made into a pie with LOTS of sugar and corn syrup, one slice can add to up to almost 1,000 calories. Some of these calories are indeed from the nut’s healthy fats, but this doesn’t justify the extra load of calories from all the added sugar. Make the shift to pumpkin pie and you cut your calorie load significantly while earning the nutrition boost of potassium, iron, and vitamin A found in pumpkin. In the pantheon of pies, pumpkin ranks among one of the lower-calorie slices. And, if you want to further cut calories, opt for no whipping cream on your pumpkin pie and cut the crust off and enjoy the delicious filling instead.

According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American will consume 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day, so this information is applicable to everyone. Hopefully, these tips will help you swap for some healthier options this year and avoid the dreaded weight gain that can happen during the holidays.

The Seattle Sutton blog and healthy beat videos are great for finding healthy eating tips and ideas for this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Looking for healthy eating help year round? Let Seattle Sutton worry about about meal planning and portion control so you can focus on a healthier you!

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post-author

Rene Ficek, RDN, CDE

Grew up in the food industry and took that love of healthy eating to earn her degree in nutrition. She has worked as a registered dietitian for 6 years and has been with SSHE since 2013, providing nutrition analysis and meal planning. Her special interests in weight management and diabetes, helps patients manage their weight and health conditions. She enjoys an active lifestyle, as well as time in the kitchen. Rene’s favorite SSHE meal is the Thai Noodle Salad.

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