Gearing up for Thanksgiving

This article was originally written for Lawndale News.  Original can be viewed here: http://www.lawndalenews.com/2011/11/gearing-up-for-thanksgiving/

Thanksgiving is the time to give thanks and spend time with friends, family, and loved ones.   Holiday favorites can have a place on the menu as part of the fun and tradition of the season.   When it comes to meal planning, keep health in mind and remember to look at the whole day, not just one food.   Here are some strategies to get through the day and still stay on track with eating better.

  •  Eat breakfast.   Breakfast helps set the tone for the day in regards to hunger level and getting important nutrients are on the menu.   Enjoy foods that may not be invited to the party, such as whole grain toast or oatmeal paired with fruit, low fat dairy, and even a serving of vegetables.   Stir some pumpkin into that oatmeal for a festive way to enjoy a veggie in the morning.   These choices will help balance high fat treats on the party buffet.
  • Add some action.   Appropriate activity burns extra calories consumed at parties.   Build in extra walking at the mall or grocery store by parking farther away and circling the stores with extra steps, or try a brisk walk around the block after dinner.   Every little bit helps burn calories and manage stress!
  • Make smart holiday choices.   Instead of grabbing foods that are always available like chips or butter, go for that delicious piece of fudge or small slice of pumpkin pie.   The secret to fitting in holiday treats is to have them in place of other treat foods instead of adding them on top of everything normally eaten, and to be aware of portion size.
  • Dip smarter.   A tasty, colorful, way to find vegetable servings at the party is to use them in place of chips for holiday dipping.   This adds eye appeal to the table while adding nutrients needed for minimal calories.   One whole cup of raw veggies like carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, bell pepper, or cauliflower provides about 25 calories.   Ten potato chips have about 100 calories.   It’s easy to see how swapping veggies for chips can save many calories before dinner is even served!
  • Portion distortion.   Make sure to choose sensible portions of seasonal foods that only appear this time of year, and take less of high fat extras like butter, sour cream, and gravy.   A mere teaspoon of fat has 45 calories, so any higher fat food item will have more calories in a littler portion.   Try salsa in place of gravy or sour cream on baked potatoes for a fat free zip, or make mashed potatoes with low sodium broth, herbs, and spices to add flavor without extra fat and calories.
  • Stop eating party foods when the party is over.   Enjoying party foods at a party for one day is one thing, eating party foods for several days after the party is another.   Build in awareness of how much is eaten by using a plate and moving away from large displays of food.   By visiting the buffet table instead of locating right next to it, portion control and mindful choices are part of the plan.   At the same time, be sure to fill the plate with those once a year treats in mindful portions, and enjoy the day.   To help get back on track, freeze favorites to portion out over time and enjoy later, divide extras up amongst partygoers, and keep it easy by making enough for the party without having excessive extras.