Thanksgiving Tips: How to Indulge While Making Healthy Choices

Thanksgiving Tips: How to Indulge While Making Healthy Choices

By Laura Drucker

There are plenty of ways to be healthier on Thanksgiving that don’t include depriving yourself. Being conscious of what you’re eating allows you to indulge without overdoing it. Check out these tips for a healthy holiday:

1. Simple swaps

Thanksgiving is notorious for rich food, but all that cream and butter can easily add up. Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor in order to make some healthy substitutions. Incorporate one or more of these swaps for a meal that is a little lighter but still heavy on the flavor.

Turkey: Ditch the butter rub before you roast the bird, and remove the skin before serving to reduce saturated fat.

Gravy: Butter is not a necessary part of a delicious gravy—the pan drippings from your turkey work just as well. Add extra herbs or stock to provide more body and flavor without additional fat.

Stuffing: Forego the prepackaged stuffing mix, which is often heavy on the additives and salt. Make your own better-for-you stuffing base by cubing whole grain bread and leaving it out overnight to dry (or putting the bread cubes in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes). For flavor additions, skip the sausage and go for apples or butternut squash.

Green bean casserole: It’s more work, but making homemade mushroom soup instead of using canned will save you calories, fat and sodium. Using frozen green beans instead of fresh will give you more time to make the soup, while still giving you tons of nutrients. Instead of the fried onions or buttery crackers on top, lightly pan-fry shallots in seasoned flour and sprinkle them over your cooked casserole.

Mashed potatoes: Swap out part of the butter for nonfat Greek yogurt, which provides creaminess with loads of protein. To pack in flavor, rely less on salt and more on flavorful additions like roasted garlic or crumbled goat cheese.

Pumpkin pie: Pureed pumpkin has natural sweetness to it, so you can safely reduce the amount of sugar you use and focus instead on adding other flavors—like ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Store-bought crust is fine, but ingredients matter: You can find crusts with healthier alternatives, like spelt instead of refined flour, in the freezer section at stores like Whole Foods Market.

2. How you eat matters

Don’t deny yourself your favorite foods, but don’t overdo it, either. Here are a few common-sense ways to enjoy, without going overboard.

Plate wisely: Take some of everything that you want, but take more of the healthy stuff. At least half your plate should be dedicated to salad and/or veggies.

Eat in moderation: Just because you only eat sweet potato casserole on Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you should eat a year’s worth in one sitting. Just like satisfying any craving, a small portion is generally sufficient to hit the spot.

Skip the seconds: Fill your plate up once, and only once. Knowing that what’s on your plate is your entire meal (minus the trip back for dessert, of course) will make you savor what’s there, instead of rushing through it to get back in line for seconds.

Be gracious to yourself: Remember, a day off your diet is not going to make or break you. It’s certainly easy to overindulge, especially with all the temptation around you, so cut yourself some slack if you slip up. Be thankful for the great things your body can do for you, and don’t let eating an extra slice of pie ruin your holiday.