The fact is the tradition of overindulging at Thanksgiving is as big as the meal itself! The traditional Thanksgiving meal has been estimated to contain more than a full day’s worth of calories with anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 calories depending on what (and how much) fills your plate. It’s no wonder when creamy mashed potatoes covered in gravy, sweetened yams, butter laden stuffing, sugary cranberry sauce and rich desserts are the dishes of many a family feast.
The good news is that holiday meals do not have to spell dietary disaster. With a bit of planning and some healthy cooking tricks, you can enjoy both good food and good health while giving thanks this year.
They say when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. A big family meal is no exception:
- Whether you make the meal at home or are a guest, be sure there will be plenty of non-starchy vegetables on the menu. If you are a guest, offer to bring a large green salad or tray of fresh veggies as your contribution.
- Plan your carbs. After determining your carbohydrate budget for the meal (the amount you can healthfully enjoy while still keeping your blood sugar in check), decide how you spend them. Most carbohydrate budgets will allow an average of 45-60 grams for your meal.
- Consider saving your carbs for your holiday “must-haves” and forgo the usual rolls or mashed potatoes. Choose sugar-free, carbohydrate-free beverages to leave more room on your plate budget.
- Work to get your blood sugar under control before the holiday. Having it under control can eliminate extra stress (that can also raise blood sugar), and help you enjoy all the day has to offer. That means eating healthfully and exercising now.
Eliminate excess carbohydrates and fat but not flavor.
- Add extra vegetables to stuffing, rice or other dense carbohydrate dishes to lighten carbs. Rutabaga, turnips, and steamed, well drained cauliflower can be added to potatoes and butternut squash makes a great stand-in for sweet potatoes in casseroles.
- Use lower fat dairy products, cheeses and prepared soups in your traditional recipes. Substitute broth for some of the butter in mashed potatoes and stuffing.
- Use sugar substitutes or a combination of sugar and sugar substitutes for sweetening sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pies. (Full sugar cranberry sauce has 30-35 grams of carbohydrate per ¼ cup!)
- Try any of these sweet recipes to help you deliciously s-t-r-e-t-c-h your holiday carbohydrate budget: Two-Way Cranberry Sauce, Sweet Potatoes with Apple Cider Syrup, or Creamy Pumpkin Custard Cups.
Marlene graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in nutrition from U.C.L.A. in 1986 and is one of a select group of dietitians to hold an advanced certificate in Child and Adolescent Weight Management from the American Dietetic Association. Combining her love of food with her educational foundation, she has held such positions as Hospital Foodservice Director, Nutrition Professor, Cooking Instructor for the Columbus State Culinary Academy and as a national nutrition educator to chefs for the American Culinary Federation. Her passion for teaching others how to make healthy food taste delicious also extend to her private nutrition practice specializing in weight loss, diabetes, and wellness.
Marlene loves to teach (and to eat!); her energetic and upbeat style has made her a popular food and nutrition speaker for organizations such as the American Diabetes and American Heart Associations and sought after for television and radio appearances which have included affiliates for ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and Shaw TV (Vancouver) and radio stations nationwide.