A healthy Thanksgiving? It sounds like an oxymoron.
Between the turkey, creamy casseroles, pumpkin pie and all those decadent desserts, the calories can add up fast.
According to the Calorie Control Council, Thanksgiving dinner alone can net 3,000 calories, not to mention drinks and appetizers which could add up to a whopping 4,500.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you forget about all of your favorite holiday dishes and serve salads and steamed vegetables but there are several changes you can make to have a healthy Thanksgiving.
1. Have a snack
Before Thanksgiving dinner, make sure your kids eat a healthy breakfast made up of fiber and protein such as whole grain toast with a scrambled egg and fruit.
A healthy breakfast will fill them up and keep their blood sugar stable which will prevent overeating later on. If dinner will be served in the late afternoon or later, also give them a healthy snack so they won’t arrive to Thanksgiving dinner overly hungry and fill up on horderves or overeat.
2. Put out a buffet
This year, my husband and I are hosting 18 people, both family and friends. Our house is small so to make Thanksgiving dinner easy, we’re serving dinner buffet style so everyone can serve themselves.
Leaving all of the dishes out on the table makes it tempting to take seconds or pick after everyone has finished eating. Since you’ll have to get up from the table to have a second helping, you might second guess it or at least you’ll be more mindful about how much you put on your plate.
A buffet is also a great way for kids to make their own choices about what they want to eat and can increase the chances they’ll choose a healthy dish or something they’ve never tried before.
3. Offer choices
Surprisingly, Thanksgiving is actually a great holiday to get kids who are picky eaters to try new foods. There are so many delicious, colorful, even healthy dishes for kids to choose from that they’re bound to taste something new.
If there are two types of sweet potatoes or several desserts, encourage your kids to choose or take smaller portions.
4. Bring a dish
If someone else is hosting, offer to bring a dish so you know you’ll have something healthy to eat.
5. Re-think recipes
If you want to make your favorite dishes, think about making a few substitutions to lighten them up without losing the flavor. For example:
- Instead of sour cream, try Greek yogurt.
- Instead of oil, try applesauce.
- Instead of butter, try avocado.
Also, skip fattening extras like bacon, marshmallows and cream.
6. Plan ahead
If anyone in your family has food allergies or food intolerances, ask the host what’s on the menu and tell them about the dietary restrictions. Although you can’t expect them to alter the menu, you can bring a complementary dish that is safe to eat.
7. Watch portions
It’s OK to let your kids eat what they want but remind them that there will be a lot of food, so they should taste and ask for small portions.
8. Fill up on veggies
Follow the MyPlate recommendations: Fill up half your plate with vegetables first, 1/4 turkey or plant-based protein and 1/4 grains or stuffing, for example.
9. Don’t drink your calories
If your kids ask for apple cider or juice, dilute it with water to reduce the amount of sugar they consume. If you’re going to have wine, beer, or alcohol, be mindful of how much you’re drinking too.
10. Get out
Instead of watching TV or sitting around the table after dinner, encourage everyone to get moving. Take a walk around the neighborhood, play a game of catch in the backyard or put on music and dance.