Dieting? Go Ahead and Enjoy a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner
With a little planning, you can leave the table satisfied without gaining weight.
Did you hear the story about the dietitian who served mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving? Her disappointed family made her promise never to do it again.
Most people don't want anyone messing with the Thanksgiving foods they know and love. Unfortunately, the traditional Thanksgiving meal is a minefield for people with diabetes or obesity who are trying lose weight. Some simply give in and indulge, figuring it's only one day in 365, but that may not be wise.
"If you get off track at Thanksgiving, it can start a trend that leads into the holidays. Before you know it, your diet is out the window, and you've gained several pounds," says Cleveland Clinic dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS,RD.
When Thanksgiving comes around, no one cares if you are on a diet. But if you care, you need to think ahead.
Plan Your Day
Don't starve yourself in anticipation of a big dinner, or you may overeat. Start your day with a good breakfast that contains at least 8 grams of protein. Depending on when you will be sitting down to the Thanksgiving feast, you may need a protein-filled lunch, as well. This will help you resist cravings and control the amount you eat.
Although Thanksgiving is a holiday, don't take a break from exercising.
"Make a conscious effort to walk, hike, bike or do something to burn calories in anticipation of your big meal," saysKirkpatrick.
Plan Your Plate
If you want to try everything, just take a little bit of each food and focus on making sure that turkey or another protein source fills at least half your plate. Then add a substantial amount of salad or veggies. That won't leave much room for the bad stuff.
Turkey is a healthy source of lean protein, so long as you stick with roasting it.
"Frying turkey adds a huge number of calories and unhealthy fats to your meal," says Kirkpatrick.
Watch Out for Carbs!
If you are in charge of Thanksgiving dinner, cut down on the number of carbs you plan to serve. Do you really need mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls and stuffing, too? Swap one or two of these for healthier alternatives. Even the ubiquitous green-bean casserole would be a better choice, since it contains fiber from beans and a little fat from butter and mushroom soup, which will help you feel full.
If your family can't live without stuffing, make it healthier by using 100 percent whole-grain bread and cutting back on the butter.
If you are a guest at Thanksgiving dinner, ask if you can contribute a healthy dish, such as oven-roasted fall vegetables. Then load up on these vegetables and choose a small portion of one carb.
Avoid Unhealthy Fruits
Cranberry sauce is loaded with sugar. You'll find the zinfandel-onion recipe we included here to be a terrific alternative. It's naturally sweet, has few carbs and no added sugar. It can also be made with grape juice and is just as good.
Limit Alcohol Use
Alcohol is wasted calories. Be conscious of how much you drink. If you are tempted to over drink, mix 2 ounces of wine with diet 7-Up, club soda or cranberry juice for a low-cal wine spritzer.
Say No to Leftovers!
If your hosts push food on you, throw it out on your way home. If it reaches your kitchen, it's likely to find its way into your mouth.
"Thanksgiving is an important time for enjoying traditional foods in the company of friends and family. If you are on a diet, you don't need to deprive yourself. You can fully enjoy the day if you eat wisely," says Kirkpatrick.
Don't Be Seduced by Desserts
Thanksgiving used to end with pumpkin pie. These days, it will still make an appearance, but is likely to be joined by pecan pie, apple pie and other treats. They look and smell so good, that most of us dig right in, even if we're stuffed.
If you don't want to be seduced by the dessert table, try one of these approaches:
- Take one bite (not one slice) of every dessert you like, so you won't feel deprived.
- If you can't resist a piece of pie, take one, but pass up the stuffing, rolls and potatoes.
- Walk around the block instead of eating dessert. Your desire for it will fade, ifyou wait long enough.
- Offer to clean up the dishes instead of eating dessert. By the time you are done, most desserts will be gone, and the remainder will look messy and unappetizing.
Zinfandel-Chia-Onion Relish Recipe
- 1 cup red onion, sliced
- 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 11/2 tsp agave nectar
- 4 Tbsp zinfandel wine
- 1/2 tsp chia seeds
1. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan. Add onions, and sauté until tender.
2. Add agave nectar, and sauté until onions are lightly caramelized.
3. Add zinfandel wine and chia seeds. Reduce until it reaches a syrupy consistency.
4. Serve in place of cranberry sauce.
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Yield: 2 servings
Nutrition Information Per Serving: 100calories, 3 g total fat, 2 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 0 mg sodium
Recipe courtesy of Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute