The year ends with many upcoming festivities, events, and feasts. Since we always say that your health management is always composed of regular exercise, stress management, effective medication and healthy eating, let’s focus on the latter now that we are going into the thick of holiday season. We’ll explore a few different ways that holiday meals and festivities can be a weak spot in your health goals, and give you some practical tips to try. The overall goal is for you to enjoy yourself without falling completely off the health wagon, making it that much harder to start the new year well. Pinpointing what area of holiday eating you can work on is a great start, so ask yourself if any of the following are aspects you can tackle:
The Main Issue
Let’s go straight to the main course. The Thanksgiving meal revolves around the turkey, which is the heart of the dinner. While turkey in itself isn’t unhealthy, many people tend to load up on the stuffing and the gravy. Identify for yourself if your main course is actually your main problem. Do you love deep-fried turkey and lots of it? Do you eat an even amount of turkey and stuffing and don’t hold back on the gravy?
Tips for Healthy Main Course:
- First of all, don’t deep-fry the turkey. Eating a baked turkey and avoiding the skin and dark meat will be healthier. Eat from the breast, which is the leanest part of the turkey.
- Homemade stuffing is always better than store bought since you can control what’s going in it. Substitute the bread with whole wheat panko, and add celery, walnuts, apples and turkey sausage.
- Don’t forget there’s gluten-free options for gravy, and that no matter what, portion control with stuffing and gravy is a great way to keep your main course healthier.
- You can also use the cranberry sauce more than the gravy.
Perhaps the turkey and stuffing isn’t what your heart desires most, but the sides. Some healthy versions of sides include mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes over roasted potatoes. Of course, our palette craves savory comfort food which makes us reach for carbs, but designing a menu where the large majority of sides are vegetables. You can look for online recipes for dishes like Brussels sprout, green beans, carrots, asparagus, and pan-roasted veggies. Find versions that use spices that will bring out appealing flavors and avoid recipes that call for a lot of butter or sauces with a lot of sugar and calories.
Tips for Healthy Sides:
- Make a healthy soup a side that people could start with while waiting.
- In your cooking, avoid excess salt, butter and rich creamy sauces.
- Instead of snacking on chips and dip while waiting for food to cook, prepare chicken or steak bites as appies. These protein appetizers could be seasoned with light salt and pepper.
- While not technically a side: don’t drink your calories. If you’re going to have looser boundaries on the food, then skip the wine and eggnog and stick to water and tea.
Dessert and Meal as a Whole
One of the main reasons holiday meals can throw your diet or health routines off so easily is because we think of and experience them as exceptions. While of course they are special and celebratory feasts, it will help you to plan ahead. For example, if you know that you will definitely be indulging in pumpkin pie and ice cream for dessert, then make a deal with yourself to eat a healthy main course to justify the reward that you’re looking forward to. Alternatively, if you don’t mind skipping the pie, then treat yourself to a glass of red wine (if permitted by your health conditions and medications). Be thoughtful about what part of the meal will be treats and what part you will enjoy in a healthy way.
Tips for Healthy Overall Meal:
- Use smaller serving plates. You can tell yourself you’ll go back for seconds but after that first plate, you will likely see that you are more full than you expected. Or you can go back for just that one favourite item.
- Follow this portion: make half your plate veggies, a quarter protein and a quarter to carbs.
- Replace the vanilla ice cream that goes with your pie with frozen yogurt, or look for a healthier dessert alternative to pumpkin pie.
- Portion control. If you can follow this one, you’ve already succeeded.
We hope this article has given you good ideas for enjoying your Thanksgiving meal without guilt or straying too far from your healthy routine.