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How To Have a Healthy Thanksgiving Feast: 3 Great Tips

Photo by Ruthanne Reid on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons attribution license.

Thanksgiving is all about appreciating the good things in our lives – no matter what form they come in. Traditionally that means spending time with your friends and family and enjoying a fantastic meal together.

That being said, holidays can also be stressful for a number of a reasons – preparing a large meal for many people, having out of town guests, missing those you can’t see, dealing with extended family – the list goes on. On top of everything else, you may also feel pressure around staying committed to your exercise and nutritional plans during the holidays.

Making healthier choices doesn’t have to to leave you feeling deprived of your favourite seasonal foods. In order to help make your Thanksgiving a stress-free as possible, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you have a healthy Thanksgiving meal!

1. Eat Breakfast

Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day. This is true even if it isn’t the main culinary event of Thanksgiving. You may think it’s wise to wait to eat all of your calories for your dinnertime feast, but eating breakfast helps control your appetite throughout the day, making you less likely to overeat at dinner. Breakfast will also give you the energy you need to get through your Thanksgiving day – whatever it entails.

2. Portion Control and Moderation

Rather than thinking you “can’t” eat a specific food, focus on the size of the portions. Take a cue from your everyday portion sizes in a normal meal and be moderate in your consumption. Studies have shown that larger plate sizes are linked to overeating, so consider using smaller plates, or don’t fill your entire plate.

Instead of taking heaping piles of every dish, focus on taste-sized portions and try to balance the foods on your plate between vegetables, whole grains and protein. Skip the second helpings (that’s what leftovers are for), and yes you can still have a slice of pumpkin pie! As far desserts go, pumpkin pie is not a bad choice – it has beta carotene, fiber, antioxidants and the pumpkin filling counts as a half serving of vegetables!

3. Choose Lower-GI Foods and Healthier Alternatives

In our last article, we discussed The Gylcemic Index (GI) and why choosing lower GI is beneficial to your health. On Thanksgiving, choosing lower GI foods will leave you feeling satiated for longer than carb-loaded high GI foods. An easy way to make your stuffing have a lower GI ranking is by making it with wild rice instead of bread.

You may also want to consider the caloric value of the foods you’re eating. The easiest way to cut calories in your holiday meal is to reduce oils, butters and sugars where you can. For example, make homemade cranberry sauce with agave instead of sugar – it is ridiculously simple to make, and so much better than the canned variety! You can also easily omit butter from your mashed potatoes; instead, use vegetable or chicken broth.

If you are preparing the Thanksgiving meal, focus on providing more whole foods (non- processed) and choosing healthier side dishes. Some ideas for side dishes to go along with your turkey (or Tofurkey) include: roasted sweet potatoes, steamed peas and carrots, salads with leafy greens, Brussels sprouts sautéed with lemon and garlic and acorn squash dressed with maple syrup and cinnamon.

By the way, speaking of Tofurkey, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, or if you’re hosting someone of this persuasion, the Toronto Vegetarian Association has a great guide for how to cater to both vegheads and meat-eaters in the same holiday meal – recipes included!

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving from all of here at Women’s Fitness Clubs of Canada!