How to Make Thanksgiving Dinner Healthier

Thanksgiving is not often associated with healthy eating.

From candied sweet potatoes to sausage-filled stuffing, Thanksgiving dinner is full of flavor, but also full of calories and fat. The Calorie Control Council claims the average American will consume more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. 

Even if you won’t come close to consuming 4,500 calories this Thanksgiving, you may want to take the following steps to make your Thanksgiving feast healthier. Shop early for supplies so that you have healthier alternatives on hand when the preparation and cooking begins.

1. Create a calorie deficit.

A key to maintaining a healthy weight or losing a few pounds is to exercise more and eat less, a strategy that can be employed during the holiday season. Such a regimen will improve your metabolism, and your body will be better at handling the extra caloric load of Thanksgiving without packing on the pounds. Once Thanksgiving dinner is over, go for a walk around the neighborhood. This can facilitate digestion and burn even more calories.

2. Practice portion control. It’s not necessarily what you eat on Thanksgiving, but how much you eat that makes the meal so unhealthy. The American Heart Association advises holiday celebrants to practice portion control. In addition, eat fewer high-calorie foods and fill up on lighter fare, such as vegetables and lean turkey. This way you get to enjoy a taste of everything without overdoing it.

3. Cut down on bread.

Bread can be both delicious and filling. But bread is often full of empty calories, particularly if you’re eating refined, white breads. Opt for less bread in stuffing recipes and incorporate more celery, raisins, cranberries, and apples to give bulk to the stuffing. Choose whole-grain rolls and crackers to complement the main course.

4. Choose healthier ingredients. Substitute low-fat milk or stocks for cream and whole milk in recipes. Include steamed cauliflower in mashed potatoes recipes to make them more filling and healthier. Sweet potatoes tend to be sweet enough without the need for butter, sugar and marshmallows. Skim the fat and oils out of gravies and sauces before serving. Olive oil is a healthier fat that can be used in place of butter or margarine.

5. Focus on fruit for dessert.

Thanksgiving dinner is usually followed with a decadent spread of desserts. These pies and cakes can be delicious but laden with calories. In lieu of traditional fare, serve poached fruits sprinkled with a little brown sugar and oatmeal for a tasty and healthy dessert. Low-fat sherbet, fresh fruit salad and rice pudding also make for healthier desserts.

6. Choose healthy beverages. It’s easy to overlook the calorie content of beverages. Whenever possible, choose water or a low-calorie drink. Children can sip on diluted apple juice. Be mindful of how many alcoholic beverages you consume. Spirits can be 100 calories per serving and are high in sugar. 

Thanksgiving dinner tends to be high in calories. But there are ways to cut calories from your holiday meal without sacrificing flavor.

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Originally published on the Island News