1. Eat Breakfast: While you might think it makes sense to save up calories for the big meal, experts say eating a small meal in the morning can give you more control over your appetite. Start your day with a small but satisfying breakfast– such as an egg with a slice of whole-wheat toast, or a bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk — so you won’t be starving when you arrive at the gathering.
“Eating a nutritious meal with protein and fiber before you arrive takes the edge off your appetite and allows you to be more discriminating in your food and beverage choices,” says Diekman.
2. Lighten Up: Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner or bringing a few dishes to share, make your recipes healthier with less fat, sugar, and calories.
“There is more sugar and fat in most recipes than is needed, and no one will notice the difference if you skim calories by using lower calorie ingredients,” says Diekman.
- Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make gravy.
- Use sugar substitutes in place of sugar and/or fruit purees instead of oil in baked goods.
- Reduce oil and butter wherever you can.
- Try plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes, and casseroles.
3. Police Your Portions: Thanksgiving tables are bountiful and beautiful displays of traditional family favorites. Before you fill your plate, survey the buffet table and decide what you’re going to choose. Then select reasonable-sized portions of foods you cannot live without.
“Don’t waste your calories on foods that you can have all year long,” suggests Diekman. “Fill your plate with small portions of holiday favorites that only come around once a year so you can enjoy desirable, traditional foods.”
- Skip the Seconds.
Try to resist the temptation to go back for second helpings.
“Leftovers are much better the next day, and if you limit yourself to one plate, you are less likely to overeat and have more room for a delectable dessert,” Diekman says.
- Choose the Best Bets on the Buffet.
While each of us has our own favorites, keep in mind that some holiday foods are better choices than others.
“White turkey meat, plain vegetables, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, defatted gravy, and pumpkin pie tend to be the best bets because they are lower in fat and calories,” says Diekman. But she adds that, “if you keep your portions small, you can enjoy whatever you like.”
4. Slowly Savor: Eating slowly, putting your fork down between bites, and tasting each mouthful is one of the easiest ways to enjoy your meal and feel satisfied with one plate full of food, experts say. Choosing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, salads, and other foods with lots of water and fiber add to the feeling of fullness.
Spread out the food and fun all day long. At the Finn family Thanksgiving gathering, they schedule dessert after a walk, while watching a movie together.
“We eat midday, and instead of another meal at dinnertime, we continue the feast with dessert a few hours after the main meal,” Finn explains.
5. Go Easy on Alcohol: Don’t forget those alcohol calories that can add up quickly.
“Have a glass of wine or a wine spritzer and between alcoholic drinks, (or) enjoy sparkling water,” says Diekman. “this way you stay hydrated, limit alcohol calories, and stay sober.”
6. Be Realistic: The holiday season is a time for celebration. With busy schedules and so many extra temptations, this is a good time to strive for weight maintenance instead of weight loss.
“Shift from a mindset of weight loss to weight maintenance,” says Finn. “You will be ahead of the game if you can avoid gaining any weight over the holidays.”
7. Focus on Family and Friends: Thanksgiving is not just about the delicious bounty of food. It’s a time to celebrate relationships with family and friends.
“The main event should be family and friends socializing, spending quality time together, not just what is on the buffet,” says Finn.
8. Talk with a Personal Trainer: talk with a personal trainer or talk with a weight loss coach if you need help with figuring out more of what to do. A good personal trainer or weight loss coach will be able to help you enjoy Thanksgiving and not feel deprived through the holiday. Think about it, this is only 1 day out of 365 days, so lets see if we can enjoy it and not let it take control of us.
Healthy Quinoa and Pomegranate Thanksgiving Salad
Healthy Quinoa and Pomegranate Thanksgiving Salad
- 1 cup quinoa
- ⅓ cup slivered almonds
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- ⅓ cup fresh pomegranate arils
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries or raisins
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced Kalamata olives (and/or ⅓ cup crumbled goat cheese or feta)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about two medium lemons, juiced)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Several twists of freshly ground black pepper
- To cook the quinoa: First, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh colander under running water for a minute or two. In a medium-sized pot, combine the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the quinoa from heat and let it rest, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, drain off any excess water and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool.
- To toast the almonds: In a small skillet, heat the almonds over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until they are fragrant and turning golden on the edges. Don’t let them burn! Transfer toasted almonds to your serving bowl to cool.
- To prepare the dressing: Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
- Final assembly: In your serving bowl, in addition to the almonds, combine the quinoa, chopped mint and parsley, pomegranate, cranberries and olives or cheese. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Taste and mix in additional salt, pepper and/or olive oil if necessary. Serve right away or refrigerate for later.