5 Tips to Have A Healthier Thanksgiving
By Jackie Cartier
November 20, 2018
As you’re organizing your Thanksgiving menu, making your grocery lists and checking them twice we wanted to offer some advice on how to “survive” the holiday that revolves entirely around food. And really when you think about it, this one day somehow turns into the start of a five-week free-for-all until it’s time for the New Year resolutions.
All that said, Thanksgiving doesn’t mean your good nutrition habits have to suffer or go completely off track. The traditional elements of a Thanksgiving dinner, when paired together, can be a balanced—turkey, buttery green beans and sweet potatoes—but add the crusty bread, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, marshmallow salad and candied cranberries and things have quickly gotten out of control. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you head out to, or host your own, feast.
1. No such thing as “saving room”
Please don’t skip eating all day before the big meal; that plan to “save room” always backfires. Imagine how hungry you’ll be once the appetizers come out. You’ll be tempted to eat everything in sight! Not just that, but not eating all day will cause your blood sugar to dip and make you cranky, which doesn’t make for a fun Thanksgiving. The best advice is to start your Thanksgiving Day with a balanced breakfast. Later, right before guests arrive or before you head out to the Thanksgiving meal, eat a balanced snack—such as a meatball for protein, ½ cup of carrots for the carbohydrate and olives for a fat—to ensure your blood sugar is stable and you’ll be less likely to have cravings and overeat.
2. Off limits
We suggest avoiding anything laden with sugar, refined flours and trans fats. All these artificial foods are very addicting and can be hard to resist once you’ve started. It’s not a lack of willpower that makes you reach for roll after roll; it’s your brain chemistry thrown off from all those artificial ingredients. Give your brain a break and know that certain things just have to be off limits.
3. Look for homemade
There are just so many hidden ingredients in store-bought foods. Try to avoid those processed goods (loaded with the hazardous trans fats, sugars and refined flours we mentioned above) and stick with the homemade items. At least you know homemade was crafted with real ingredients.
4. Bring your own
If you’re invited to a gathering, offer to bring a dish, the perfect opportunity to add some real food to the day’s events. Here’s some of our favorite holiday recipes. You’ll know that if all else fails you’ll have your dish to snack on. For instance, swap out a Chex™ Mix appetizer for a variety of olives and nuts. Green, black, Kalamata and garlic-stuffed olives not only look festive, but they taste delicious. Bonus, the fats in the olives and nuts are healthy and sure to keep your blood sugar stable. Balanced blood sugar means clear thinking, vibrant moods and good energy. As opposed to that Chex Mix aftermath of a blood sugar spike and crash, leaving you feeling anxious, headachy and cranky.
Bringing your own beverage to share also helps you avoid high-sugar drinks. Many of us at Nutritional Weight & Wellness enjoy La Croix sparkling waters. Plus, staying hydrated helps curb cravings.
5. Balance your plate
At Nutritional Weight & Wellness this is our number one piece of advice, on Thanksgiving and every day of the year. We alluded to it earlier, but by balanced we mean consuming a quality animal protein, good fat (butter, avocado, nuts and olives for example) and healthy carbohydrates (mostly non-starchy vegetables) at every meal and snack. This trifecta is the optimal mix to help balance your blood sugar, keep your metabolism moving, your mood stable and give your body the nutrients it needs to function. We’ve all experienced the “hangry” (hungry and angry) feeling after going without food, just as we’ve all experienced wanting to take a nap after a huge plate of Thanksgiving fare. Both those scenarios are your low blood sugar talking!
Fortunately when it comes to a Thanksgiving buffet there are a lot of real food options to make balancing your plate easy. For instance, turkey is a great protein. (A rule of thumb for protein serving size is to look for cuts of meat roughly the size of your palm.) With the protein covered, look for quality fats and carbs for the rest of your plate. Thanksgiving staples like green beans, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts are perfect options. Better yet, they’ve likely been cooked in butter giving you a quality fat as well. If they haven’t, grab a pat of butter and put it on top of any veggies you add to your plate.
One last piece of advice, don’t get mad at yourself! Mistakes happen. If you goofed on Thanksgiving, don’t give up on all healthy eating until 2019. The morning after Thanksgiving, get right back to your healthy habits with a balanced breakfast.
A healthy Thanksgiving is possible! By following the tips we’ve listed above, or any you’ve perfected over the years, you can start the holiday season off on the right foot.