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Guest Post: Tips for Making Healthy Choices on Thanksgiving

Posted Nov 24 2010 10:18am

There’s no doubt about it: the holidays are the one time of year when most of us elect to throw our diets to the wind, pig out, and pack on the pounds like there’s no tomorrow (leading to a spate of New Year’s resolutions aimed at fitness and weight loss).  But what if you could enjoy all of the holiday foods you love without gaining a pound, raising your blood pressure, or flirting with heart disease and diabetes, effectively cruising through the season without raising the ire of your long-suffering physician?  If you’re like most people, you would probably love to have your cake and eat it, too.  By adopting just a few simple changes, you can enjoy the cuisine of the season without incurring the otherwise inevitable health-risks.

For starters, you need to cut back.  I know what you’re thinking; I just said you wouldn’t have to give anything up.  And you don’t.  You simply have to limit your intake somewhat.  You will no doubt have plenty of food on hand, from turkey and stuffing to biscuits and veggies to pie and ice cream.  None of these items are particularly bad for you as long as you consume them in small doses.  In general, a complete meal might consist of proteins (meat), carbs (bread, pasta, potatoes, etc.), and vegetables.  And you probably don’t eat more than a single serving of each.  You can eat a little bit of everything and still stay within a pre-set caloric range by simply cutting down on the portion size.  Another good way to exercise control is to use a smaller-than-standard size plate (and resist the urge to refill it).

But this isn’t the only trick you can hide up your sleeve.  You can also implement substitutions.  For example, you can make mashed sweet potatoes instead of the regular fare.  They are equally tasty and come packed with additional nutrients like vitamin A and beta carotene.  Although they are higher in carbs than white potatoes, they have a lower glycemic index, meaning they won’t make your blood sugar spike as much.  They also contain slightly less calories, no fat, and more dietary fiber.  All of this is good news for people who want to remain healthy and maintain their current weight.    Other items that can be subbed out are canned cranberry sauce (use real cranberries that aren’t jellied with a lot of added sugar), green bean casserole (skip the extras and simply steam the greens), and pumpkin pie (okay, you can’t replace pumpkin pie, but you can swap in low-fat condensed milk, an egg substitute, and a pie crust low in trans fats).  And don’t forget that turkey is an excellent source of heart-healthy lean protein…as long as you don’t deep fry it.

Finally, opt for a lot of color in your meal.  A plate full of yellow and beige tones (turkey, bread, potatoes, and corn, for example) simply won’t give you the same nutrients as more colorful items like those listed above (sweet potatoes, cranberries, green beans, etc.).  Not only will adding a variety of brilliant hues up the nutritional ante of your meal, it will also provide for a much more appealing presentation that practically begs to be devoured.

What are your tips for making healthy choices on Thanksgiving?

Sarah Danielson writes for Everyday Health where you can find answers to all of your health related questions including information on arthritis and how to treat it.

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