It can seem like a daunting task to maintain a healthy diet during the holidays. Thanksgiving dinner will be one of many meals where it seems like it just isn’t possible to find healthy choices. If you are going to a loved one’s home to share a Thanksgiving meal, or if you are preparing it, here are some great ideas on how to stay the course and select healthy foods.
As we’ve mentioned in many of our previous weight loss posts, the ideal diet for health and weight loss is a balanced one. When Thanksgiving dinner is ready, making the “right” choice is easier than you might think.
Start by choosing to fill your plate with vegetables- if you’re prepping the meal, here is a recipe for delicious garlic parmesan green beans:
If there is a salad option available, choose that. But, don’t forget to keep an eye on how much dressing you add to the salad- that’s where the sugar, fat, and calories add up quickly and can counteract the beneficial choice of a salad.
Try this easy chicken caprese salad that you can serve at dinner.
Another great idea is to offer it as an option to your guests to replace the chicken for turkey – that way, the plate is filled with mostly vegetables, but people also get to enjoy the delicious turkey.
Or, try this almond apple quinoa salad– the grain helps fill you, so you’ll be less likely to fill up on unhealthy choices later in the meal. Next week, we’ll also review other foods like quinoa that will help you feel full, and decrease appetite.
If there doesn’t seem to be many salad options, you can still make smart choices with the traditional Thanksgiving fare. For example, potatoes don’t have to be an unhealthy choice- it’s all in how you prepare them. Potatoes are naturally low in fat and high in both potassium and vitamin C, and by making these adjustments to mashed potatoes, you can still enjoy the traditional dish:
- Blend cauliflower with the potatoes to get a buttery flavor with fewer carbs
- Whip potatoes with Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream to get a creamy consistency
- Add chicken stock to get a creamy texture when you mash potatoes at home
- Add creative seasonings like garlic, paprika or ranch style salad dressing to give your mashed potatoes more zest.
- Use olive oil instead of butter for creamy potatoes (note: the calorie count will still be high but butter is a source of saturated fat and olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fat which is considered to be a healthier fat.)
Who can pass up dinner rolls, especially on Thanksgiving? If you’re visiting someplace, watch the portion of bread you eat. If you’re making the bread, give this honey whole wheat dinner roll recipe a try- it has only a few ingredients (and notice, no sugar!), and is much healthier than any store bought option:
If you’ve ever had cranberry sauce out of the can, you know that made from scratch is the way to go. Here’s a low-sugar option that is big on flavor:
Most people think that choosing white meat is the healthier option, but one New York Times article dove into the topic. According to their research:
“Many people choose white meat over dark because of its lower caloric content. But according to the Department of Agriculture, an ounce of boneless, skinless turkey breast contains about 46 calories and 1 gram of fat, compared with roughly 50 calories and 2 grams of fat for an ounce of boneless, skinless thigh.
But dark meat has its benefits. Compared with white meat, it contains more iron, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12. Both have less fat than most cuts of red meat, so you can’t go wrong either way.”
So, the takeaway is this: portion size is where the real difference is. Keep portions reasonable (around 3.5 ounces, which is around the size of a deck of cards), and you can also remove any skin, which will help save a few calories.
It’s almost time to wrap up dinner, but not before dessert is served. Between the pies, puddings, custards, tarts, and everything in between, dessert can be filled with diet landmines! Fresh fruit is a healthy alternative to baked goods, but if you must take part, keep the portion small. Here is an excellent recipe for a pumpkin pie in a mug. It keeps the portion size reasonable, cuts out the crust, but still offers the great flavor you’re looking for:
Or, if you’re in the mood for apple pie. . .this recipe for mini apple pies helps keep portions in check:
The long and short of eating during the holidays is this: you don’t have to skip dinner or pack your own meal. Structuring your plate with healthy items (like mostly veggies), and watching portions both make a big difference. If you’re preparing food, of course, you have more freedom in how you modify the ingredients. Select quality ingredients, and you’ll find that there is no shortage of recipes to help guide you in preparing healthy foods. And don’t forget, if you overindulge a little bit, it’s not the end of the world. The next day is a new opportunity to get back on track, reflect on how to better approach the next holiday meal, and move on.
For more great food and diet ideas, follow us on Pinterest. There, you’ll find links to recipes we mention in our blog posts, along with other great finds that we add along the way.
Main image courtesy of: thisiscuriosity.com