Do you ever wish that everyday could be Thanksgiving? All the delicious turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, tasty green bean casserole, and mouth-watering pecan pie. While your mouth may be saying “Yes!”, your waistline is calling out “Whoa!” – and for good reason. Thanksgiving can be a real challenge if you are watching your weight. But you don’t have to sabotage your diet. Here are a few tips from Julie Noel, dietitian with Des Peres Hospital's bariatrics program, to help you navigate the buffet table without depriving yourself.
Eat before you eat. This may sound counterproductive, but if you eat a wholesome breakfast and lunch you can avoid overeating Thanksgiving dinner later. "That way you’ll have more control over your appetite because we tend to eat too much when we're hungry," said Noel.
Go light on the calories. Many Thanksgiving goodies are loaded with extra fat and sugar, including mashed potatoes with all the butter and sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows. Noel suggests making recipes healthier by making a few substitutions, such as fat-free chicken broth to make gravy or plain yogurt in casseroles. When possible, choose breast meat rather than leg meat and remember to remove the high-calorie skin from your meat.
One size doesn’t fit all. Just because certain dishes are offered doesn’t mean you have to sample every one. Avoid the all-you-can-eat mentality and limit yourself to smaller portions if you cannot control the ingredients used in a dish. "Good serving sizes include about a baseball size serving of fruit, a deck of cards size portion of meat, and a computer mouse size helping of veggies." said Noel.
Don’t cover your whole plate. There’s no need to pile your plate high with every food that is offered. Look over the buffet table first and then make your selections. Opt for reasonable-sized portions of holiday favorites that are served only once a year. Save room for dessert by skipping seconds.
Eat s-l-o-w-l-y. By savoring and chewing every bite thoroughly and putting your eating utensil down between bites you can enjoy your meal and be satisfied with one plate of food. Leftovers are better the next day anyway. "Pace yourself and eat only until you feel full." said Noel. "Drink plenty of water and try to keep alcohol down to a minimum since calories from alcoholic drinks can add up quickly."
Put down your fork and go for some fresh air. Spread out the food and fun by going for a walk after your main meal and then having dessert later. It’s a great way to get in some exercise and spend quality time with your family.
If you are eating out for your Thanksgiving meal, ask for food that is steamed, grilled or broiled rather than fried or sautéed. Request that sauces and dressing be served on the side and watch out for super-sized portions that tempt you to eat too much.
"Finally," said Noel, "try not to be overly hard on yourself if you overeat. Thanksgiving is, after all, just one day and you can be careful about what you eat over the next few days and then exercise enough to balance your overindulgence."
For some healthy Thanksgiving recipes, visit www.eatbetteramerica.com.