So you’re hosting or coming as a guest for this Thanksgiving holiday. But… you’re not looking forward to gaining weight and feeling stuffed from eating too much heavy food. There are many delicious alternatives to the usual rich fare that dominates during holiday season. Do you know that sugar or heavy food “hangover” you experience after a feast? I’m very familiar with that! But, I’m getting better at how to still enjoy traditional Thanksgiving and holiday treats by keeping the following tips in mind.
To begin with, eat a reasonable breakfast, and a very light lunch if the Thanksgiving feast is your dinner. This may seems counterintuitive, but instead of saving up all your calories for the big meal, you’ll modulate your intake better if you aren’t ravenous once it’s turkey time. If the feast is in the middle of the day, eat a light breakfast, with plenty of water, tea or light beverages before the main meal, especially if it will take place mid-afternoon. Having soup before your main meal is also a good way to reduce your chances of eating too much later. Soups are filling and can prevent calorie overload once the meal is served.
When drinking, be aware of how many glasses of wine, beer, or hard liquor you’re consuming by not refilling a drink before you’ve fully finished the first glass. Make a decision ahead of time how much alcohol you’ll consume, and try to keep it to no more than 2 glasses at the maximum. The calories add up quickly, and will power goes out the window as soon as alcohol comes into play.
Be aware of the “invisible” calories that come in the form of appetizers before the main meal. Chips, dips, cheese and crackers easily add 500-800 extra calories before you can say “Pass the brie, please.” Don’t be fooled by the dips that are called vegetable dips (artichoke dip is a classic) that have lots of extra cheese, sour cream or butter in them.
There are certain foods that show up almost exclusively on Thanksgiving, such as stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Forego the more common foods like mashed potatoes and bread that may be part of your weekly diet in favor of the specialty foods that appear only on this holiday.
Watch your portions! Usually the most enjoyable bites are the first few, and if you eat slowly, you’ll give yourself the minimum of 20 minutes that are needed to register satiety in your stomach. Socializing is a great way of slowing down the chowing down, so sidle up to your favorite friend or relative to pace your forkfuls. Rethink taking a second serving of anything. You probably are already full, and visualize how you’ll feel if you overeat.
This is a good time to practice the new healthy plate distribution. Fill up half your plate with low starch veggies like green beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, beets, cauliflower and any leafy greens including salad. Fill a quarter of your plate with turkey or other protein, which is very satiating, and another quarter with starchy foods, which include sweet potatoes, rice, squash, corn or peas. This portion should be no larger than half a baseball in size.
When going for dessert, take small slivers of the pies or cakes, or just one cookie instead of piling up your plate. If you take small amounts at a time, there’s a built in delay that will prevent eating more than necessary. Lack of proximity to food is a good deterrent; be sure that you avoid sitting near tempting foods within easy reach.
More tips for managing holiday feasts can be found at https://www.realsimple.com/health/nutrition-diet/healthy-eating/healthier-thanksgiving
I’m a sucker for all types of “orange” veggies, and my favorites are delicata, acorn and kabocha squash and sweet potatoes. Instead of a sweet potato casserole, try this tasty alternative. You can also substitute butternut squash cubes for the sweet potatoes.
Maple glazed roasted sweet potatoes
- 2½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons butter or smart balance, melted
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Active preparation 10 minutes, but ready in 1 hour, 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.
- Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown, 45 to 50 minutes more.
- Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Just before serving, reheat at 350°F until hot, about 15 minutes.
- Serving size: about ½ cup
- Per serving: 92 calories
See http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/18000/holidays-occasions/thanksgiving/ for more great ideas.
Gluten-free mushroom fennel quinoa stuffing- tastes better than it sounds!
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
- 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth (vegetarians use veggie broth)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3/4 cup fennel, diced
- 1/2 cup celery, diced
- 1/2 cup carrots, diced
- 8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Cook rinsed quinoa in broth according to package directions.
- While the quinoa is cooking, in a large heavy sauté pan add olive oil to the pan, then the onion, sauté one minute.
- Add the fennel, celery, and carrots, salt and pepper to taste; cook about 12-15 minutes over medium heat, until vegetables are soft.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan, more salt and pepper if needed and cook, stirring 5 minutes, then cook covered for 2 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released their juice and are cooked through.
- Add the cooked quinoa to the pan and mix well.
Yield: 7 servings, Serving Size: 3/4 cup, calories: 136
For more excellent alternatives to traditional thanksgiving recipes, go to
There are so many great resources online and in articles and cookbooks with a focus on reducing calories, but not your pleasure as you enjoy your holiday meals. Check out the resources above, and have a fabulous, healthy Thanksgiving with your family and friends!