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Making your Thanksgiving happy and healthy

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 12:43 p.m. CDT

Thanksgiving is a wonderful — and sometimes rare, in our face-paced culture — time for families to sit down together and enjoy a big, hearty meal, giving thanks for each other, our freedoms and our blessings.

While eating until feeling as though you could burst may be a Thanksgiving tradition, Hy-Vee Dietician Jenny Thompson suggests the following tips for those who want to enjoy the holiday but also avoid the post-dinner slump:

Portion Control. Consume small portions of a variety of foods, especially those high in calories and fat. Those first few bites taste the best anyway! Remember, moderation is the key to success, especially during the holiday season.

Indulge in only your holiday favorites. Fill up your plate with those favorites that are unique to Thanksgiving, and skip those everyday foods.

Eat slowly. This will give adequate time for your brain to receive a signal of fullness, which takes around 20 minutes. If you are unsure whether you are still hungry, take a break and help clear dishes. 

Remember the plate method. Fill your plate with ½ vegetables, ¼ lean protein, and ¼ starch.

Snack before the big meal. This way you will be less likely to overeat at dinner. Opt for snacks that are rich in fiber and protein, as these will make you the most full. 

Make substitutions. When preparing foods for Thanksgiving, turn less healthy items in to healthier alternatives by making substitutions. This can be as simple as using 2 egg whites in place of 1 whole egg or using skim milk instead of whole milk. 

Remove the skin from your turkey. Also, opt for white meat over dark meat. These actions will save fat and cholesterol leaving more room for other indulgences. 

Skip seconds, unless you are truly still hungry. Leftovers will be there tomorrow, so there is no need to overeat. 

Exercise. Encourage your family to join you in a pre-meal workout. Many communities have short races such as the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. This is a great way to offset extra calories that will be consumed later in the day. 

Thompson also suggested several “Sweet Solutions” for those wanting to plan a healthier Thanksgiving dinner:

• Reduce sugar by one-quarter to one-third in baked goods and desserts. No one will notice.

• Increase the amount of flavoring (like cinnamon or vanilla) in a recipe to enhance the impression of sweetness.

• Use unsweetened frozen or fresh fruit instead of fruit packed in syrup. 

• Enjoy lower-fat versions of quick breads and holiday cakes by simply substituting unsweetened applesauce for butter, shortening or vegetable oil. Keep shelf stable snack-pack packages of applesauce in the cupboard. Each container holds a convenient 1⁄2-cup serving.

• Pass on the salt. Use herbs and spices to flavor foods instead of salt, and use garlic or onion powder instead of the salt.

• Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.

• Try fruit juice or wine for a cooking liquid instead of broth or bouillon.

• Omit or reduce salt in your recipes. 

• Buy fresh cuts of meat and seafood.

• Fill up on fiber by adding a tablespoon of chia to a bowl of cereal, leaving skins on fruits or vegetables when possible or by adding more beans and lentils to recipes. Toss beans on soups, salads and casseroles.

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