How to Enjoy a Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner

Thursday will be THE DAY again – a day that many people both love and dread at the same time.  You love Thanksgiving because it’s a chance to celebrate all that you’re thankful for in your life with your family.  Yet, you can also dread it because you know you may not end Thanksgiving Weekend without at least a 5 lb weight gain! To avoid this slippery slope, all you need to do is prepare your favorites in a healthier way.  And if you’re going out for dinner, we also have some tips for you to bypass diet disaster there too. Here’s how.

Tips To Avoid Turkey Day Weight Gain Disaster

Did you know that the typical Thanksgiving Day dinner can contain as much as 4,000 calories? Yikes!  It takes about 4 hours of running, or 5 hours of walking to burn that off! But, you reason, it’s a holiday, and you want to just enjoy the day, right? Of course! Yet, there are some ways you can have your Turkey, taters, stuffing, pie (and cake too) and not hate yourself that night.  Here are a few simple tips from us and the Mayo Clinic.

If You’re Making Dinner: 

1.  Turkey.  Actually, turkey is very good for you and is naturally lower in calories because it contains almost no saturated fat.  It’s full of protein and a wonderful amino acid called tryptophan that mellows everyone out.  Buy a plain turkey that hasn’t been injected with butter or oil and baste it frequently with herb flavored vegetable or chicken broth that you use for soup.

2. Stuffing.  Instead of white bread, switch to whole grain to up the fiber content and bulk. Adding high fiber vegetables like celery, carrots, and even a little wild rice, a little olive oil or coconut oil, helps bind the ingredients together without greasy, saturated fat butter calories.

3.  Potatoes.  Who said you have to peel potatoes to mash them? Leaving the skin on increases the fiber content and a little portion fills you up a lot faster.  Plus you’ll get the benefit of all those vitamins and minerals right under the skin. Whip them with unsweetened almond milk, a little coconut oil or olive oil instead of butter, garlic powder, and no one will miss all the fat.

4.  Veggie Load. At this time of year, all the high fiber, high vitamin A and potassium-content veggies are plentiful like squash and sweet potatoes. And you don’t have to load them with butter to make them taste great. Bake sweet potatoes until a little soft then cut them in slices. Cut squash up into cubes as well and roast them all together on a sheet with a little olive oil, and spices.  Eating them like this discourages people from wanting to drown them in butter.  And don’t forget to add more fiber, vitamins and minerals (and color!) to the table with all the green, purple vegetables available this time of year too.  Ever had baked eggplant for Thanksgiving? What about kale with some low-fat turkey bacon crumbles, onion, and garlic?

5.  Cranberries.  Skip the canned, high fructose corn syrup sweetened stuff and buy whole cranberries in the bag. They’re rich in fiber, potassium and Vitamin C.  Boil them until soft and then add granulated Stevia to sweeten.  You can even add chopped orange rind to it for added flavor.  Use the rest of the orange in slices as a garnish around the cranberries.

6.  Gravy. Everyone wants gravy on their turkey and potatoes.  But, you can make your own from the turkey drippings without all the saturated fat of the store brands.

7.  Desserts.  Pumpkin, apple, mincemeat pies are a Thanksgiving Day staple.  Yet you can make these favorites just as yummy without all the high calorie, health-damaging sugar and saturated fat.  Simply substitute the sugar requirements for granulated Stevia. Use nonfat condensed milk instead of high fat cream for pumpkin filling.  Make lattice top pies with thinner top strips.

If You’re Going Out For Dinner

1.  Less is More.  It’s hard to refuse certain foods as a guest and not insult your host.  But you can fill your plate up with everything you like and a little of what you don’t if you use small portions.  Eat all of what you like and just take a bite or 2 of the other stuff.  Then go back for small portion seconds on the stuff you really like.

2.  Don’t Go Hungry.  People make a mistake in ‘saving their calories’ for one huge amount of food intake on Thanksgiving.  This is the formula Sumo wrestlers use to gain weight.  Eat a very light, high protein, low carb breakfast and lunch, go for a walk, bike ride (weather permitting) or even 20 minutes of aerobics if you have time before going out for dinner. This sets up your metabolism to burn more calories.  You’ll actually be less hungry and those smaller portions won’t seem so small.

3.  Don’t Drink Calories.  Don’t fill up on high-calorie sodas or alcoholic drinks before dinner.  You can easily consume 200-300 calories this way.  Have 1 drink before dinner then switch to a club soda, or plain water, with some lime or lemon.  If tea is available ask for that. Save your calories for an after-dinner aperitif or mixed drink.

4.  After Dinner Walk.  When everyone just wants to sit on the couch and watch the football game, try to get everyone together to take a walk around your neighborhood to look at holiday lights, get some air, stretch your legs after sitting for hours, etc. Then watch the game!

Thanksgiving Dinner doesn’t have to be a diet landmine lying in wait for you.  And it really doesn’t take anymore time to make your dishes healthier.  In fact, it may take less time and less money – all that butter can be expensive!  Plus, paying attention to portion sizes and foregoing “liquid calories” can really keep your weight out of the red on the Thanksgiving meter. Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!


About Dr. Mark Rosenberg

Dr. Mark A. Rosenberg, MD Dr. Mark Rosenberg received his doctorate from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1988 and has been involved with drug research since 1991. With numerous certifications in several different fields of medicine, psychology, healthy aging and fitness, Dr. Rosenberg has a wide breadth of experience in both the public and private sector with particular expertise in both the mechanism of cancer treatment failure and in treating obesity. He currently is researching new compounds to treat cancer and obesity, including receiving approval status for an investigational new drug that works with chemotherapy and a patent pending for an oral appetite suppressant. He is currently President of the Institute for Healthy Aging, Program Director of the Integrative Cancer Fellowship, and Chief Medical Officer of Rose Pharmaceuticals. His work has been published in various trade and academic journals. In addition to his many medical certifications, he also personally committed to physical fitness and is a certified physical fitness trainer.
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