It’s been reported that the average American consumes 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day according to the Calorie Control Council. And it’s way over the recommended daily caloric intake values for both men and women. The day only happens once a year, but mindfulness about how much we scoop onto our plate helps.
Thanksgiving is meant to be a day of giving thanks and spending time with loved ones — you’ll gain peace of mind not thinking about holiday weight gain. It all starts with how we mentally approach the meal.
Preparing a healthy and delicious Thanksgiving meal can be stress-free with a few steps to make your life easier later. The first step is making a menu plan:
- Schedule your meal time thoughtfully — Eating at a time not normally during the dinner hours can make grazing before and after mealtime more tempting.
- Choose the main dish — Consider white turkey meat rather than dark turkey. If turkey isn’t on the menu, consider that other white meats are leaner than red meats.
- Eliminate unnecessary dishes — and sugars — Foods like cranberry sauce have lots of sugars; make a homemade cranberry relish instead. Sweet potato sides are typically topped with butters and sugars — instead of adding extras enjoy their natural flavor, or sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Give appetizers a makeover — Instead of chips and dips or fried foods, offer a light pre-cursor to the meal such as vegetables with hummus or a homemade trail mix, so guests can graze without getting full beforehand.
- Set out pre-made portions — Serve bite-sized desserts such as individual glasses of pumpkin mousse. This display will wow guests and also cuts out pie crust for a gluten-free alternative. All the delicious desert pumpkin flavor will still be there, but piling more onto a full stomach won’t.
After a menu has been set, think about the following switches that can be used as healthy alternatives. For example:
- Applesauce for oil, butter or sugar — The consistency of your dish will stay the same without all the fat. Applesauce adds fiber for better digestion and turns the dish dairy-free. Swap one cup butter for one cup applesauce.
- Agave for sugar — Agave is sweeter than white sugar so the amount used can be reduced. Swap one cup of white sugar for two-thirds of a cup agave. This is a great vegan option and can be found at your local grocery store in the baking aisle.
- Nonfat Greek yogurt for mayonnaise or sour cream – Nonfat Greek yogurt has fewer calories, and surprisingly, it won’t taste much different!
- Black beans for flour — This is a great way to cut out gluten and add protein. Swap out one cup flour for one cup black bean puree.
- Nuts for croutons in salads — Unsalted nuts still give a crunch but instead of salty croutons this option is heart-healthy and gluten-free. If you don’t want to fully commit, cut half your croutons with nuts.
- Zucchini ribbons or spaghetti squash for pasta — Use these veggies to replace high-carb pasta dishes. This is a great way to cut calories and sneak in vegetables. Zucchini noodles can woo your guests and introduce a new guest into regular holiday flavors!
- Steam instead of boil — Opt for the steamer, important nutrients can boil out into the water but steaming keeps nutrients in your vegetables.
Finally, build in some fun fall activity into the day like a post-meal walk, a hike at a nearby park or a yard game to aid digestion and stave off some lethargy after a big holiday meal.
Just remember, healthy and delicious are not mutually exclusive.
This year, make great Thanksgiving memories and leave behind the stress of gaining weight or breaking healthy eating goals.