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Helping You Live Better

Fantastic Feasts: Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

by Carol T. Clinton, MS, LDN, CNS | Nov 15, 2016
Happy Thanksgiving

November not only brings Thanksgiving and the start of our holiday season, but also National Diabetes Month. An irony, for certain!

But, is it? In 2014, researchers at Cornell University studied 207 households to track food spending and calories over a seven month period, July to mid-November. Researchers found "total weekly per-serving calories increased by 440 during the holiday season." What was even more astounding was that they found the calories purchased continued to rise, doubling to an extra 890 in the post-holiday period!

Despite well-intentioned resolutions that we make every year, most of us struggle with the weight that mysteriously seems to creep up on us.

Here are a few healthy suggestions to make it through Thanksgiving day, and the holidays beyond.

Start the Day Off Right with Breakfast: Have a high protein breakfast with some fiber, not a sugary snack. Knowing they will be eating a feast, people often skip breakfast on Thanksgiving to "save up" calories for later. This will leave you famished and unable to resist doubling up at the big meal.

Rethink the Appetizers: Make your appetizers shine in taste and nutrition. Try crudités with a red pepper or garlic hummus, shrimp with cocktail sauce, roasted red peppers with fresh herbs, marinated mushrooms, or a bowl of pistachios or raw nuts. Limit cheese, simple carbs and other high calorie dishes.

The "Main": While no one can deny that turkey is the main character, make vegetables the supporting cast. Make a large portion of roasted vegetables and fresh salad. Roasted broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts are a favorite addition at our table, and among the first to disappear.

For your dressing, try a whole grain wild and brown rice. Cooking it on the stove top, rather than in the bird, reduces the amount of fat drippings and calories. Adding pecans, walnuts, apples or pears increases the nutritional value.

Bring a Dish: If you will be a guest for Thanksgiving or other holiday events, offer to bring a dish, like a healthy appetizer, vegetable or dessert that everyone will enjoy and will keep you on track.

Slow Down and Enjoy the Day: Fill your dish up once. Put your fork down halfway through for some conversation and laughter, and wait 15-20 minutes before considering getting seconds. Your body needs this time to send a signal to your brain that you are full. If you still want more, reach for the veggies!

Most Importantly ... Move: Food is just half of the equation. Burn off some calories with some movement. Bring your family to the Y for health and fun. Somerset County YMCA offers a variety of group exercise classes offered on Thanksgiving. Start now, and your holiday time will be a healthy, fit time!

Carol T. Clinton, MS, LDN, CNS has been the nutritionist on staff at Somerville YMCA for two years. She has a BA in psychology, and an MS in nutrition from the University of Bridgeport. She is also NETA Personal Trainer certified, giving her a unique perspective when working with members. An integrative nutritionist, she works in two local physicians’ offices, when not on hand at Somerville YMCA.

Pope, L., Hanks, A. S., Just, D. R., Wansink, B. (2014). New Year’s Res-Illusions: Food Shopping in the New Year Competes with Healthy Intentions. Bruce, A., ed. PLoS ONE. 9(12):e110561. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110561

  • Nutrition & Recipes
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