At first glance, the idea of healthy eating and Thanksgiving may seem incompatible—I have certainly experienced “food comas”, the result of overindulging, that chained me to the couch for the rest of the evening. However, with a few substitutions and changes in the Thanksgiving routine, you can make this holiday season just as festive, but healthier for all family members involved.
1. Drink Water Through Out the Day
The holidays might make you forget about the most basic need of your body: hydration. Be sure to sip water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Be aware that drinking fluids during meals can hinder digestion, so try to limit your fluids to approximately 4 oz of room temperature water while eating.
2. Switch to Sea Salt (And Use Less of It)
The white table salt commonly used at home is the result of many refining processes that leaves us with “dead salt” laden with chemical additives. You can add more healthy minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium to your diet instantly by making the switch to sea salt.
3. Load Up On Cranberries, Not Sugar
These little red berries have some of the highest antioxidant levels in berries, and their bright anthocyanin pigments may also act as antioxidants. For a healthier cranberry sauce, substitute water by adding a cup of orange juice and a cup of honey instead of sugar.
4. Skip the Turkey Skin
If you are eating turkey, be choosy about what parts you consume. A single serving of white, skinless turkey (about a size of a deck of cards) has about 160 calories and 4 grams of fat, whereas dark turkey breast meat with skin contains twice the amount of fat and 70 more calories.
5. Stick to Whole Grains
Scientists have found that a diet consisting mainly of whole grains can help lower blood pressure and may help with weight control. Whole grains may also help decrease the risk of heart disease. Yet more than 40 percent of Americans do not consume any whole grains in their diet, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. Instead of loading up on white breads and rice, opt for whole-grain products such as brown or wild rice and whole wheat bread.
6. Don’t Forget Your Greens
You may be excited about the turkey, potatoes, and gravy, but don’t forget to have some fresh, colorful salads on the table. In general, Americans consume fewer vegetables than the recommended five servings per day, so give your family the option of a fresh salad with at least three colors (orange, green and red) for an abundant dose of antioxidants and vitamins.
7. Ditch the Dairy Dessert
Ice cream may seem like a necessary companion to pumpkin pie, but it might not be the best option after an already decadent feast. According to FDA’s standards, ice cream must contain at least 10 percent (mostly milk) fat content. Eliminate the fat and cholesterol in your dessert and reduce unpleasant side effects of dairy (such as skin irritation and upset stomach) by switching to organic soy, rice, or coconut ice cream.
8. Listen To Your Stomach
Finally, a simple but effective rule of thumb for festive eating: know when your stomach is full. When your brain starts justifying eating one more bite because it “tastes so good,” it’s time to put the fork down.
Image: Stacy Spensley