A Healthy Thanksgiving is on the Menu
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and if you are a planner like me, you have probably already pulled out the traditional family favorite recipes. It might be good to take a look at the ingredients to see if you can lighten up the sugar, fat or sodium content, especially if you have family members or friends with health issues who will be joining you for Thanksgiving Day dinner! With a little change here and there though, that holiday dinner, and those classic recipes, can be updated to reflect a healthier nutritional profile.
And it is true, this is only one meal, however, there will probably be days of eating the leftovers, so any nutritional improvement on the recipes will be beneficial.
Healthful holiday tips:
- Keep a meal routine on the holiday; eat breakfast and lunch at usual time.
- Drink calorie-free beverages, like water with a splash of cranberry juice, all day.
- Ramp up the walking/exercise, maybe extending the time by 15 to 30 minutes.
Lower fat suggestions for heart health:
- Add nonfat buttermilk or evaporated milk in creamed dishes and mashed potatoes.
- Baste the turkey with cider or no-salt broth.
- Season liberally with dried or fresh herbs and spices vs butter.
Lower carbohydrate suggestions for pre-diabetes and diabetes:
- Highlight vegetable dishes such as roasted squash, carrots, Brussels sprouts, red onions and peppers.
- Replace bread or rice stuffing with lower-carb vegetable stuffing, such as cauliflower.
- Serve riced or mashed cauliflower vs potatoes.
- Bake a 1-crust pie or fruit crisp with oat topping.
Chicken and turkey offer a lean protein option at Thanksgiving, of course, but you could also consider fish like the Pilgrims served.
Other holiday food prep tips:
- Cooking most dishes from scratch will help keep the sodium content reasonable.
- Many recipes are fine with a good reduction in the sugar and salt ingredients.
- When you are ready to fill up your plate, remember the plate division for good health: one-half of plate is filled with lower-carb vegetables or fruit, one-quarter filled with starch and one-quarter filled with protein.
And finally, enjoy an eating break after Thanksgiving dinner for a generous 30+ minute walk, and then everyone can return to the house to do the dishes together. The after-dinner exercise can help with digestion (avoiding acid reflux), prevent blood sugar spikes, and provide distance from the end of dinner and having a light dessert several hours later.
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.
By: Rita P. Smith, MS, RD, CDE, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital