There’s something about Thanksgiving that makes us want to dig in and let go of all our inhibitions.
As far as we can tell, the ambiance of warmth and affection that being in the presence of family inspires us and can have this effect on anyone.
Besides, considering the kind of year we’ve had, even surviving up to this point is a lot to be thankful for.
It’s only natural if we want to do away with lean portions. After all, it’s just for a day.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that reasoning, so we’re not even going to try to argue with it.
Nevertheless, the paradox lies somewhere underneath the surface.
There’s something about this national holiday that makes us want to dig in, let go and overindulge, and that last part is not so good, for reasons that are well documented.
Ignoring the cues your body sends out and gorging rarely ends well.
As a matter of fact, the ramifications of having a little too much Thanksgiving gravy go beyond an uncomfortable night curled up on the couch.
There are statistics that show that people put on more pounds in this period than at any other time of the year.
That’s enough reason to be cautious, especially if you struggle with your weight.
It’s crazy, not to mention a bit unfair, that several months of hard work can be undone in a single night, leaving you trying to play catch up once again.
While it may be a tall task to make Thanksgiving dinners entirely healthy, you certainly can make them that little bit healthier. With these easy tips, you can have yourself a memorable and healthy Thanksgiving and put yourself in great shape for the new year.
Healthy Eating Tips On Thanksgiving
Resisting the urge to splurge on Thanksgiving is hard enough when you’re in control of your own portions, and it’s close to impossible to do this when you’re at the mercy of someone else, especially those relatives that believe that you’re too thin anyway.
Here are a few things you can do before, during, and after the big meal to make sure that you wake up the next day just as happy as you ended the last, and without any feelings of guilt.
Before The Big Meal
1. Plan Your Meals As Usual
Thanksgiving is a special day, so this may seem slightly strange, but planning the day just the way you plan others can keep you from stuffing up at the dinner table.
This means that you should take your breakfast and lunch as usual instead of trying to save up the calories for dinner.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so try not to miss it, even on that day.
Whether you’re having whole-grain cereal or eggs and toast, make it small and satisfying.
Eating breakfast will help you control your appetite better throughout the day, keep you from starving and help you avoid getting too into the Thanksgiving sauce.
Taking a few protein and fiber-filled snacks during the day and shortly before you arrive at the venue will also help dull the edge of your hunger and choose your portions with greater moderation.
If you’re attending a Thanksgiving lunch, go with the mindset that you’ll still be eating dinner.
Exercising offers loads of benefits, that’s why it’s so great.
It doesn’t even have to be anything too strenuous; something as banal as taking out the whole family for a stroll around the neighborhood or engaging in a discussion in the front yard is just perfect.
It’s a great way to burn off some calories and create a calorie deficit in preparation for the big meal.
Beyond that, it’s a fun way for the whole family to bond and enjoy the holidays better.
After the Thanksgiving meal, it’s another good idea to encourage further activity for the entire family.
This may not be enough to burn off every single calorie gained from the meal, but it will help ease that disquieting feeling of being stuffed.
3. Offer To Pitch In
It’s also a good idea to check in with your host and offer to bring something along with you.
Try to find out what’s on the menu and if there’s any dish that you find particularly unwholesome, offer to bring your own, healthier version.
This way, you’ll be saving yourself from unnecessary temptation and gaining marginal control over your portions, not to mention saving your host some effort and time.
4. Don’t Stress It
We understand that family gatherings are stressful for many people, for a lot of reasons.
Our family generally has our best interests at heart and means well for the most part, but there may be overbearing uncles and aunts (or even parents) who feel that we’ve made the wrong choices or that we should have been well past the particular stage we are in.
Getting through an evening in close proximity to these sorts of vibes is not an easy task, and we know this.
Many people tried to steel themselves against the cutting remarks and pointed stares with alcohol. Others take solace in food and stress eat.
Both options are not really options, though, are they?
A positive mindset and attitude are far more effective and will leave you happier both through the gathering and in the long run.
During The Party
5. Use A Smaller Plate
Thanksgiving tables are the most wonderful and enticing displays of culinary delights, and they can be extremely difficult to ignore.
Our recommendation is, don’t even try to.
By all means, dig in, but use a smaller plate.
Recent studies indicate that the brains of hungry people tend to react in favor of full, smaller plates even when that plate is placed next to a bigger one that contains a larger helping but is only a quarter or half full.
It’s a pretty effective way to trick the brain into accepting smaller helpings.
So, fill your plate with those traditional holiday favorites. The best part is, you can even go back for seconds without any guilt!
6. Pile On The Vegetables
The great thing about vegetables apart from their high fiber content is, you can eat as much as you like, without gaining any extra weight.
Vegetables will also leave you pleasantly full much quicker than other options can.
Try to fill at least half of your plate with veggies such as Brussels sprouts, green salads, green beans, and carrots. Then, you can include more glamorous foods such as sweet potatoes and turkey.
7. Practice Mindful Eating
Apart from the fact that eating slowly and savoring every mouthful helps you enjoy your meal better, it can also keep you from overindulging, potentially keeping off a fair few calories.
Studies show that the body initiates the digestion process about thirty minutes after we start eating.
Taking small breaks between bites gives your body enough time to break down the food and give you cues when it’s had enough.
8. Be Mindful Of Your Positioning
If you know that you have a sweet tooth, stationing yourself right in front of the dessert table is a temptation and ordeal you do not need.
By the same token, if alcohol is your weakness, it’s probably not a good idea to stay in close proximity to the drinks stash.
Move elsewhere, explore the house or the dance floor, and chat with friends.
9. Minimize Alcohol Intake
Speaking of which, if you’re planning to maintain your weight through the holidays, you may have to cut down on your alcohol intake or steer clear of it completely.
Alcohol contains lots of calories that can pile on the pounds in no time at all.
Besides, waking up the next morning, bloated and hungover is no fun at all.
Alcohol can beat the stuffing right out of anyone.
After The Party
If you got through Thanksgiving without going overboard with the sauce and gravy, congratulations, and more power to you!
On the other hand, if you ended up falling just short, despite your best intentions and efforts, don’t sweat it.
Get yourself back on track by following these simple steps:
10. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
It can be the easiest thing to fall into despair and disappointment at a perceived lack of will power.
Worse, you may even be tempted to pack it all in, succumb and just binge eat.
That would be the wrong approach.
What you need to do is to restate your commitment to improving the quality of your life and get back to work towards achieving your goals.
Do away with all feelings of guilt and draw up a new plan, with renewed determination to see this one through.
11. Get Back On Track
Pick yourself up and get back to doing those things that worked for you before.
If you’re on a diet, get back to it and do away with those foods that might derail your progress.
You should also continue with your exercise regimen. By all means, stay active.
12. Don’t Make Drastic Changes To Your Routine
It’s natural to want to try and make up lost ground, but this is actually not advisable.
Trying to make your workouts longer and more grueling, for instance, will wear you out and leave you feeling frustrated.
You might even cop an injury in the process.
In the same vein, trying to eat less in order to compensate for Thanksgiving day is not such a good idea.
Starving yourself will just make you cranky and unhappy, and nothing defeats weight loss campaigns quicker than unhappiness.
Try as much as possible to not attempt to jumpstart the process by making drastic changes to the routine that worked for you in the past.
How To Eat Healthy On Thanksgiving
For many people, the words “Healthy Thanksgiving Meal” when used together evoke chilling images of plates piled high with broccoli and cauliflower and zucchini, with none of the traditional elements of Thanksgiving making an appearance.
In other words, those words might inspire visions of drab, unappetizing fares, meals very far removed from the whole essence of Thanksgiving.
But that does not have to be the case.
What we mean is, you can shave off thousands of calories from your Thanksgiving dinner, and it doesn’t have to be at the expense of taste.
All you need to do is swap out a few ingredients, and you can churn out a delicious, sumptuous, and healthy dinner.
Here’s how to achieve a marvelous, healthy Thanksgiving dinner:
- Avoid Processed Foods
You’ve probably heard this before, but refined foods are not really all that.
In terms of nutritional value, they offer precious little, yet it’s very easy to get hooked on them and keep eating and eating.
They contain artificial ingredients that mess up the brain’s chemistry and make them almost irresistible.
That’s why we recommend avoiding foods that contain processed sugar, trans fats, and refined flours.
If bread is on your menu, consider using whole-grain bread.
- Arrange Your Plate
A well-organized plate should be loaded with vegetables first and foremost.
Nutritionists recommend that your plate should be at least half-filled with vegetables (grilled, fresh or roasted) such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, broccoli, and salad.
A quarter of your plate should contain starches and carbohydrates such as potatoes and stuffing.
You may add more vegetables to stuffing and reduce the number of marshmallows on your sweet potatoes. The remaining quarter should contain protein.
For protein, the traditional Thanksgiving turkey is a good enough source.
It’s even healthier than roast beef and ham.
Nevertheless, try to keep portions down to the size of your palm and remove the skin.
Alternatively, you may choose to remove animal protein entirely and go with plant-based ones.
- Homemade Is Best
Most food sold in stores feature bright and enticing packaging, but that’s about all they offer.
These processed foods are highly addictive, and most contain genetically modified organisms, which can be potentially harmful to your health.
That’s why it’s healthier and infinitely better to stick with homemade items.
- Nothing Beats Vegetables
Since vegetables are making up half of your plate, opt for the nutritious ones.
Veggies have high fiber content and are probably the only food you can eat as much as you want without any fear of gaining weight.
- Cut Down on Drinks
Yeah, you’ve probably heard that alcohol contains a high number of calories that can pack on the pounds around your middle pretty quickly.
What you may not know is that the same thing applies to soft drinks too.
Carbonated soft drinks contain as much as 300 calories, which the brain doesn’t even register anyway.
It’s best to just replace these drinks or beverages with water, a glass of wine, or a wine spritzer.
- Look For Potato Alternatives
Mashed potatoes covered in gravy and butter is a traditional favorite due to its amazing taste, but yams and sweet potatoes will serve just as well.
Yams also have higher nutritional value, loaded with nutrients such as Vitamin C, copper, carotenoids, potassium, and manganese.
However, if you’re sticking with mashed potatoes, try swapping some ingredients for healthier ones.
For instance, instead of cream or butter, use skim milk or low sodium broth. You may also try roasting the potatoes with the skin on.
- Pumpkin Pie For Dessert
Pumpkin pie has fewer calories, not to mention sugar, than apple pie and most other dessert options.
This will help cut down your calorie intake, especially if you only took small portions of the mashed potatoes and turkey.
- Don’t Skip Meals
It may seem like it’s the obvious thing to do, skipping meals in an effort to conserve their calories before the Thanksgiving dinner.
This approach is actually counterproductive; coming to the table sporting a ravenous hunger will make you eat faster and potentially overheat.
Begin the day with a small and nutritious breakfast, eat a protein-filled lunch, and just before you arrive at the venue, eat a healthy snack.
This will help you eat with more moderation.
- Do Light Exercise After The Meal
A sure sign that you’ve overdone it is if you feel like lying down and taking a nap immediately after the meal.
However, that will not help a bit. What will help is a bit of exercise, such as setting out on a walk around the neighborhood with your family.
It may not be enough to get rid of all the calories, but it certainly can help with digestion.
Healthy Turkey Dinner
It’s safe to say that Thanksgiving turkey is the main attraction on the table.
The great news is that there’s a way to enjoy this traditional favorite without feeling guilty and without sacrificing the flavor that makes this meal such a delight.
Here’s a list of top healthy roast turkey recipes for a wonderful and amazing Thanksgiving dinner.
1. Cider-Brined Spatchcock Turkey
Spatchcocking is the method of removing the backbone of the turkey or chicken and beating the meat flat.
It brings down the cooking time and results in moist and evenly browned turkey.
Brining ensures that the meat is infused with so much flavor from fresh herbs, onion, oranges, celery, and apple cider. It’s also a great way to prepare roast turkey for the oven.
2. Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast With Garlic
If you’re not planning a large Thanksgiving dinner, this recipe is perfect.
It is inexpensive and doesn’t take long to cook; it can be prepared in just about thirty minutes.
Flavor for the meat is provided by roasted garlic, salt, and pepper, and fresh herbs.
3. Herb-Roasted Turkey
This is a particular favorite because it’s so easy to prepare, and the turkey turns out looking great, evenly brown, and moist every time.
It tastes just as good as it looks too. You may serve fresh herb sprigs and citrus wedges along as garnishment along with the meat.
4. Apple-Shallot Roasted Turkey With Cider Gravy
This recipe is particularly sumptuous due to the rich flavor of the cooked meat.
The bird is stuffed with apples and shallots and roasted alongside other herbs.
The herbs keep the meat tender and moist and also infuse it with rich flavor.
Shallots and apple cider also vastly improve the taste of the gravy.
5. One Pot Turkey Tetrazzini
This traditional recipe is primarily for leftover turkey from the Thanksgiving lunch or dinner.
This traditional casserole can be transformed into a perfectly healthy meal by loading it up with vegetables and reducing the sauce.
Everything can be prepared in a single pot.
6. Turkey Noodle Soup
Another delicious meal that can be made with leftover roasted turkey.
It’s also pretty simple to prepare; just combine the turkey with simple vegetables and pasta into a broth.
This traditional soup is relaxing and delicious and gives you a chance to regain your breath after the bustle of Thanksgiving day.
7. Lemon-Garlic Roast Turkey And White-Wine Gravy
In this recipe, we use a home brined organic turkey instead of turkeys bought from supermarkets that have been enhanced with sodium.
Brining the turkey helps to keep the meat extra juicy.
The explosion of flavors provided by the lemon-garlic rub and the white-wine gravy makes this turkey extra delicious.
8. Main Dish Turkey Stuffing With Herbed Gravy
If you’re planning a low-profile Thanksgiving dinner, then let us suggest this one-dish turkey and stuffing dinner.
Simply cut tender turkey breast into chunks, roast alongside other traditional ingredients, and serve with bread cubes.
Preparing the gravy is just as easy, and no drippings are required.
9. Cedar-Brined Turkey
This recipe is a wonderful treat for your taste buds, and it’s just so easy to prepare.
Marinate the turkey in a cedar brine. This will ensure that the meat turns out moist and full of delicious flavor.
10. Bay-Spiced Roast Turkey
For this recipe, an organic turkey would work best.
Brining the turkey will keep the meat moist while the homemade bay-spice provides it with an irresistible flavor.
You can also add parsnip or diced celery root to the gravy for better flavor and texture. This traditional, healthy dish is sure to leave you and your guests salivating.