Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for family, great friends and good food. But we should not forget one other major item we are thankful for at this time of year…HEALTH…and overdoing it during the upcoming holiday season can impede those feelings of gratefulness because we feel sluggish and achy from eating too much junk, or just eating TOO MUCH…PERIOD.
According to the Caloric Council Control, the typical holiday meal can contain more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat. That is MORE THAN THREE DAYS WORTH OF FOOD for most of us!! White flours, refined sugars and heavy creams seem to be lurking in every dish and some of these meals seem to NEVER END.
For those of us who are trying to lead healthier lifestyles, mindful, healthy eating is just as important on Thanksgiving as it is any other day of the year. Fortunately, it is possible to eat healthier and enjoy yourself on Thanksgiving. Here are a few tips I have created. Some are only really helpful if you are the person cooking Thanksgiving dinner, but you can use many of these tips as the person eating this meal as well. Or perhaps if you are concerned about packing on pounds during Thanksgiving, you might take the initiative and make or bring some dishes if you are attending another’s feast?? Just a thought…
1. Start with a soup. A homemade one would be best. I just created a fantastic vegan acorn squash soup that is on my website. There are also a few recipes for pumpkin or a carrot ginger soup all found on google. Most use little if any oils and fill your stomach up with fiber and other vitamins and minerals to keep your digestive system up and running during the holidays. This way you can still eat your favorite goods, but you will probably have room for less!
2. Eat the light meat instead of the dark meat. We all know the light meat is healthier, has less fat and calories, etc. If you absolutely MUST have the dark, just try to watch your portions. I guarantee there will be more tomorrow, and if not, another time. This is not the last time you are eating in life!
3. Watch the gravy. Depending on who is making it (at least in my house), the gravy is typically the leftover oil from the turkey, giblets, etc…and if you use a ton of it, it can add a lot of unnecessary calories. Use this sparingly or look up recipes for gravies that cut the fat, like this apple cider gravy. Or use cranberry sauce, which tends to be lighter in calories and again like the vegetable soups, high in vitamins and minerals.
4. Cut the green bean casserole. Ok, so I don’t have any statistical facts on this, but I can guarantee from my own experiences that if you don’t have this casserole at your Thanksgiving table, no one will be sad. Who wants to get a bunch of excess calories from a fatty cream sauce infused vegetable dish anyhow? I would rather get mine from pumpkin pie, thanks!! Try a dish like sautéed green beans with roasted onions and garlic. You can just chop up a load of green beans, onions and garlic, sauté them in a pan with grapeseed oil, a little salt and pepper and maybe some lemon juice or balsamic and have a cleaner vegetable at your Thanksgiving table. Another recipe I adore and make for my family at Thanksgiving is Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Keep the veggies clean!
5. Do mashed sweet potatoes instead of regular mashed potatoes. They are sweeter, have more fiber, a lower glycemic index and make a great holiday recipe with a little cinnamon, nutmeg and roasted pecans or walnuts mixed in.
6. Make your own stuffing. I don’t have a special recipe, but I have seen some great ones that use quinoa and/or root vegetables. Take the initiative and look one up on google to make. Your digestive system will thank you
7. Don’t skip dessert. But don’t gorge either. Dessert is one of my Thanksgiving favorites. I always have a sliver of pecan and pumpkin pie, but I don’t go crazy. Be mindful, eat it slowly and savor every bite. If you are afraid of what all the sugar at dessert will do to you, your mind and body, again, there are a million and one raw vegan pie recipes or other healthier desserts. Take the initiative and make a fruit bowl or bring one to a dinner if you are a guest at someone’s house.
8. As I said in tip 7, be mindful, eat slowly and savor every bite of your food. Talk to friends and relatives as you eat, let yourself digest. If it is an all day affair, you can go back for seconds later. Remember, you will get to eat again. Be grateful that you have so much food you don’t know what to do with it, or you will have leftovers for days! Be grateful for the friends and family you get to share this food and this holiday season with.