Take Guilt Off the Table This Thanksgiving

 

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By Nicole Hahn

Healthy alternatives to Thanksgiving? These are words most people never want to hear. Thanksgiving is one of the few days of the year that entitles us to wear stretchy pants and enjoy an extra helping or two of mashed potatoes and gravy.

A plate of Grandma’s stuffing, Uncle Steve’s famous green bean casserole or Dad’s mouth-watering pecan pie are all nothing short of family tradition and, unfortunately, saturated fat. The average Thanksgiving meal is 3,000 calories – but then, who really eats an average amount of food on Thanksgiving?

This holiday season, let’s keep in mind a few tricks that will preserve the flavor in our dishes and the button on our pants.

Offer mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes.
Offer mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes.

If you are striving to keep your calories and fat intake in check because of health or dietary reasons, here are a few ingredient substitutes subtle enough that your guests aren’t likely to notice:

  • Cut carbohydrates and calories by offering mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. Most people are surprised by this delicious swap!
  • A vegan alternative to sweetened condensed milk, found in pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole recipes, is pureed silken tofu with honey. That’s right, tofu.
  • Swap eggs with applesauce or black beans in baked goods.
  • Plain Greek yogurt replaces mayonnaise in recipes like Deviled eggs and can also replace sour cream in chip and vegetable dips. Greek yogurt is lower in saturated fat, yet keeps the consistency light and the taste great.
Swap mayonnaise for plain Greek yogurt for a healthier Thanksgiving dinner.
Swap mayonnaise for plain Greek
yogurt for a healthier Thanksgiving dinner.

The average American gains one to two pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Before we know it five years have passed, the New Year’s resolution to join the gym didn’t quite happen, and we’ve gained 10 pounds. Here are some tips to managing portion control while still enjoying the holiday dishes you love:

  • Ditch the dinner plate and use a smaller salad plate for your first helping of food. After you have finished eating, wait 10 minutes to relax and let your body digest the meal. Want more? Use your salad plate again for your second helping. Listening to your hunger cues is key.
  • Use your fist to measure out a serving of meat and the vertical view of your fist to size casseroles and mashed potatoes.

  • As much as we wish it to be the case, there is no such thing as a calorie-free dessert. Cut the pie or cake into eight equal slices to measure approximately one serving.

Cut your holiday pie into slices that equal one serving.
Cut your holiday pie into slices that equal one serving.

Though it seems counterintuitive, do not skip breakfast in preparation for the big meal. Stick to your normal eating habits and exercise routine. Otherwise, you are more likely to binge on empty calories throughout the day and feel worse because you failed to supply your body with nutrients. Lastly, weight gain is controlled by calories coming in and calories going out. Take a step outside the kitchen and enjoy a stroll with your family before or after the big meal.

Take a stroll with the family before or after your big meal to keep calories in check.
Take a stroll with the family before or after your big meal to keep calories in check.

Clinical Nutrition Senior Manager Nicole Hahn, MS, RD, CNSC, takes delight in teaching people of all ages how to create delicious meals that maintain a balanced diet. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Arizona and a Master’s in Human Nutrition from Arizona State University. After schooling, Hahn joined Banner Health at Banner Boswell Medical Center as a dietetic technician and dietitian and served for six years before taking on the role of clinical nutrition senior manager in 2013.

For more articles about nutrition, visit greenlivingaz.com/nutrition.

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