There are few meals that people look forward to as much as Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, gravy, mouthwatering sides, decadent desserts – and all of the trimmings! However, some of our holiday favorites come packed with sky-high amounts of fat, calories, and sugar. Brace yourself – a Thanksgiving plate can contain over 4,000 calories and more than 200 grams of fat. If you are trying to stick to a healthy diet this holiday season, but do not want to give up any of your favorite foods, read on for a few easy hacks.
Don’t Show Up to the Party Starving
While looking forward to the main meal of the day, it is important not to overlook what you eat before the big event. A healthy breakfast and low-calorie snack high in protein and whole grains will take the edge off of your hunger before you hit the Thanksgiving buffet. You are less likely to over-indulge if you have your appetite under control.
Be Ready for Sneaky Liquid Calories
Sodas, wine, beer, eggnog, holiday punch all contain sugar-filled “stealth” calories –they come in undetected because they go down easily, but do not leave you feeling full. To cut some of those calories, try to make a white wine spritzer by adding club soda to your white wine – it will cut the sugar and calories in half and also help keep you hydrated. In place of sweetened sodas, see if you like sparkling water. You can add lemon, lime, berries, or any other fruit to make it more festive and flavorful. For dairy-based drinks, use low-fat or skim milk in place of heavy cream.
Modify your recipes
High-calorie homemade treats are delicious but can pack in the calories and lead to weight gain during the holidays. One way that you can decrease the calories in some of your favorite treats is to substitute ingredients – in our experience, lower-calorie swaps can make the dish lighter and tastier!
Did you know that in many baking recipes, you can substitute applesauce for oil? If you are baking desserts, try substituting applesauce for oil. The ratio for the swap is 1: 1, so if a brownie recipe, for example, calls for 1 cup of oil, use 1 cup of applesauce instead. There are 166 calories and less than 1 gram of fat in a cup of applesauce versus 1,910 calories and 216 grams of fat in the same amount (1 cup) of oil.
Swap out some of the sugar called for with natural low-to-no calorie sugar substitutes such as sweeteners that come from the stevia leaf or monk fruit. Because these are often much sweeter than sugar, make sure to check out a conversion calculator to get the right amounts such as the one found at https://www.sweetleaf.com/pages/stevia-conversion-calculator. When shopping for a sugar substitute, look for ones that come from the natural stevia leaf or monk fruit like Tuvia, Stevia in the Raw, Splenda Naturals Stevia, Sweetly Stevia, and other organic brands to avoid the chemicals found in artificial sweeteners.
For recipes that call for heavy cream or sour cream, try using Greek yogurt instead. Greek yogurt packs a protein punch and can add an extra zing to mashed potatoes. Check out https://usa.fage/recipes for recipe ideas and yogurt substitutions such as no-bake pumpkin cheesecake, creamy roasted tomato basil soup, and others.
Enjoy Your Favorites Mindfully
As the ancient philosopher, Aristotle would say: “everything in moderation”. Even if you are on a diet, allow yourself some room for indulgence; it is Thanksgiving, after all. Delight in your favorite holiday dishes, but be conscious of portion sizes. Take time to enjoy your meal. Eating slowly has two benefits – you can take time to really appreciate that special recipe and it gives your brain time to process that you are full before you overeat.