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Tips for healthy holiday eating

Indulge without guilt at Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving buffet

You can eat healthy on Thanksgiving without denying yourself. Just a few simple tricks can help you enjoy the feast–without the guilt!

Thanksgiving kicks off a season of celebration, and nothing brings a celebration to life more than good food — and lots of it. Just remember: There are ways to indulge in the flavors of the season with an eye toward healthy holiday eating — without the guilt! Here are some tips to keep you on track:

1.    Don’t skip meals before your holiday feast. It’s tempting to “save calories” for the big dinner. However, showing up hungry may cause you to overeat, make less mindful choices and consume even more calories for the day than if you had eaten a light breakfast or lunch. Healthy choices are heart-healthy oatmeal and fruit for breakfast and a light salad with lean protein for lunch.

2.   Add a fun, physical activity to your celebration. Take a walk with family and friends and enjoy the fresh air. Participate in your local turkey trot. Or plan a family football game in the backyard. Whichever activity you choose, find time for at least 30-60 minutes of working off those Thanksgiving calories.

3.    Drink! Water, that is. It’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger. Stay hydrated to ward off mindless snacking and cravings for salty foods. However, limit soda, juice, punch or alcoholic beverages — at more than 100 calories per serving, those calories quickly add up.

4.    Show off your culinary skills. Put a healthy spin on some holiday favorites and demonstrate that healthy eating can be delicious, too. A spinach salad with cranberries, walnuts and a light vinaigrette complements any feast. Maple roasted sweet potatoes or green bean almondine are great alternatives to the traditional casseroles.

5.    Choose mindfully, adding healthy foods to your plate first. Before you start scooping food onto your plate, check out all the offerings. Some foods may need moderation, while others you can pile high. First, fill half your plate with the healthier options: salad and vegetables are good choices. Then, take smaller amounts of some of your decadent favorites for the other half of your plate. Pass on the foods you can do without and save room for dessert.

6.    Treat yourself at the end of your meal! Every celebration has a sweet ending. When selecting from the dessert table, take bite-sized amounts of a few different choices to enjoy the variety. Or choose a small portion of your favorite and enjoy.

7.    Lighten up on leftovers. If you’re the party host, use disposable containers to share the leftovers with your guests. If you’re visiting, leave the desserts or other decadent dishes behind. There are likely several other holiday gatherings planned for the coming weeks, so save your celebration splurges for those — and get back on track between events.


Patterson-thumbJoyce B. Patterson, MPH, RD, is a Clinical Dietitian, Cardiovascular Medicine at Domino’s Farms. She specializes in medical nutrition therapy for the treatment of hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, weight loss and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. She also provides group education for cardiac rehab patients and weight loss support groups. She completed her graduate studies in human nutrition at the University of Michigan School of Public Health (UMSPH) and completed the UMSPH Dietetic Internship in winter 2013.

Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.

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