A Healthy Twist on Thanksgiving

Posted Nov 22, 2011 | Posted in Fitness & Nutrition

Thanksgiving is best celebrated with family, great food and a grateful heart. As soon as the prayer is over, the overeating of the traditional holiday meal — renowned for its combination of high calories and fat content — commences. But with improvisation and a few substitutions, Thanksgiving and all the trimmings can be a healthy, nutritious way to enjoy time with the people you love.


With a buffet of options (not to mention large plates), Thanksgiving can be a time when it’s all too easy to eat to excess. Even if you’re full, it’s tempting to indulge in extra helpings. But instead of filling your plate with every available edible delight, choose only what you want, and limit portion sizes. Fill your plate with the most health-conscious options, such as (skinless) white-meat turkey, green beans, sweet potatoes, low-sugar cranberry sauce and wild rice. Limit the amount of high-calorie options such as gravy, stuffing, whole-milk mashed potatoes and buttered rolls. The same goes for dessert. Do your best to avoid sugar-laden pies and cookies. Opt instead for fresh fruit and a scoop of Cool Whip. If you must have even a sliver of pie, consider eating the filling and leaving the crust, often the highest source of calories.

Bring Your Own 

If you’re not hosting Thanksgiving, take the opportunity to bring a healthful dish to the gathering you will attend. A vegetable platter with a low-fat homemade dip would make a great appetizer for snacking before the meal is served. Or consider a low-calorie side dish, such as sweet potato and carrot puree. The natural sweetness of each vegetable means there’s little need to add sugar. Rather than using heavy cream or butter, opt for a dollop of Greek yogurt and skim milk. The combination will allow you to indulge without adding to your waistline.

Liquid Calories 

Like most holidays, Thanksgiving is associated with alcohol, which can be a large source of empty calories. Skip the mixed drinks that include fruit juices, such as cranberry or pineapple, and the holiday favorite, eggnog, which has incredibly high content of both sugar and fat. If you are in the mood for a mixed drink, opt for a seltzer or soda water mixer with a slice of lime. Otherwise, opt for low-calorie light beers and wine spritzers (white wine mixed with mineral water.) Not only will you avoid taking in additional calories, you’ll also avoid an unpleasant headache the following morning.

Make a Plan 

Set yourself up for success by planning ahead. Sticking to a diet is a balance between willpower and prevention. Before going out to a holiday party, eat a healthful snack such as fruit, a reduced fat slice of cheese or a handful of whole grain crackers. You’ll feel more satisfied and less tempted to overeat at the party. It’s also wise to avoid lingering around the kitchen table where it’s easy to grab handfuls of high-calorie foods.

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