A Healthier Thanksgiving–November 2014

Thanksgiving meals usually include an abundance of unhealthy food options, making it easy to stray from proper nutrition until the start of the new year. But if you opt for a healthy Thanksgiving meal instead, it doesn’t mean it can’t also be enjoyable. With a few changes, you can make your “Turkey Day” an extension of your year-round commitment to good health.

Begin with the elephant in the room: food. You can probably stand to forgo a luxury or two come turkey time. But don’t worry; you can still enjoy a delicious meal with the added bonus of feeling much better afterward. Plus, Thanksgiving is just the start of the holiday season, so there will be a lot of large meals to come.

Start by having breakfast. While many Americans make it a habit to wait to eat until the holiday meal is set out, eating a small meal in the morning can give you more control over your appetite, allowing you to be more selective in your food and beverage choices later on. Keep in mind that you can always have leftovers the next day.

When moving on to Thanksgiving’s centerpiece—the turkey—be sure to go skinless. Just 1 ounce of turkey skin contains 80 calories and 2 grams of fat. Also, be sure to use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and to make the gravy.

Next, turn your attention to the side dishes. Substituting skim milk or half-and-half for whole milk and cream in recipes is an obvious choice, as is omitting bacon and cheese from any casseroles, but how about complementing these sides or ignoring them altogether in favor of steamed or roasted vegetables and cornbread?

If you must have a holiday favorite, make sure it is just that, and not something you consume regularly during the year. And be sure to police your portions, since there are definite consequences to having too much of a good thing.

Once you’ve made smarter choices regarding your turkey and your side dishes, you may be wondering if there is anything else you can do. There is!

Take a walk early in the day and then again after dinner. It is a wonderful way for families to get some physical activity and to enjoy the holiday together. For those who have the day off after Thanksgiving, plan an additional workout. You will feel like your old self in no time, ready to manage your diet and exercise regimen right away, instead of waiting until Jan. 1.