Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Make Your Thanksgiving a Healthy One: 5 Tips to Keep from Overindulging

The holidays are often a time filled with overconsumption.  The temptations of succulent turkey, tasty tarts and pies and savory side dishes can often times be lure that you just can’t resist.  But if you’re looking to eat healthy on Thanksgiving, it doesn’t mean you have to give up all your favorite foods, says Jennifer K. Nelson, a registered dietician and director of clinical dietetics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. 

"If you've got your eating under control for the majority of the time, go ahead and have a piece of pie — just don't lose control entirely," Nelson told MyHealthNewsDaily. "Keep your willpower and your wits about you."

Here are 5 tips and tricks to help you eat avoid overindulgence this holiday.

1.       Stick to healthy portions.

Only one plate of food is all you get, says Nelson.  She advises to fill up half the plate with fruit, vegetables, and a whole wheat roll.  A quarter can be filled with either mashed or sweet potatoes and the other quarter with turkey or ham.  She also advises that the more colorful the arrangement on your plate, the better.  This means adding leafy greens, carrots, bell peppers, beets, cranberries and other vegetables as much as you can.

"If you fill up on those lower caloric density and higher nutrition things, you're going to feel full, but not bloated and tired, because it's a lighter fare," she said.

It is a holiday so if your diet allows, indulge a little bit.  Caution: if you’re going to eat desert, make sure you allow for the calories by decreasing them somewhere else. Don’t go back for a second helping of potatoes if you want to have a little dessert. Dee Sandquist, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, advises to choose the cranberry salad if you are still hungry.

Sandquist also advises that if you are choosing pie, go for a fruit or pumpkin pie because they tend to have fewer calories rather than the chocolate or pecan pies.  She also says to try and stick to a single serving of your more unhealthy choices.  Aim for a half-cup of mashed potatoes and a 3 ounce serving of turkey.

2.       Eat before you indulge.

Don’t try and starve yourself throughout the early part of the Thanksgiving Day.  This is a recipe for overeating.  If you are going to a Thanksgiving lunch, make sure to eat breakfast before you go.  If you are going to a dinner, be sure to eat lunch or have a small snack.

"You definitely want to have your normal meals because otherwise, whenever we get over-hungry, we overeat," she said.

3.       Try to substitute healthy ingredients for the more unhealthy ones.

There are endless ways to make your Thanksgiving food healthier.  For your mashed potatoes, Nelson advises that mixing in chicken broth or herbs and garlic can add flavor without adding calories.  For your green bean casserole, substitute the friend onions for toasted almonds, adding protein and decreasing fat.  Sandquist also suggests that instead of a sugary cranberry sauce; instead opt to serve a cranberry salad.  For dips, substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream; the consistency will be similar but less fat and more protein.  

Another easy way to cut fat and calories is to skip eating the skin on your turkey.  The dark meat has slightly more fat than the white meat, but limiting your unhealthy side choices will be more beneficial in the long run than choosing one meat over the other.

If you are making your pies from scratch, choose a whole wheat pie crust and substitute low-fat or skim milk instead of the evaporated milk. 

4.       Drink lots of water and go for a walk after your meal.

Sanquist says that many times people will mistake thirst for hunger.  By drinking water throughout the day you will decrease your odds of overeating.  It is also a good idea to take a walk after the big meal to help increase metabolism.

5.       Avoid snacking.

Sandquist says to abide by the “out of sight, out of mind” mantra.  She advises once you fill your plate with food, cover it up and put it away.

"It'll help you avoid mindless munching," she said.  When you snack throughout the day, you can lose track of how much you have eaten.
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