10 Tips for a Thinner Thanksgiving
Enjoy the holiday feast without the guilt -- or the weight gain.
Thanksgiving only comes around once a year, so why not go ahead and splurge?
Because gaining weight during the holiday season is a national pastime. Year
after year, most of us pack on at least a pound (some gain more) during the
holidays -- and keep the extra weight permanently.
But Thanksgiving does not have to sabotage your weight, experts say. With a
little know-how, you can satisfy your desire for traditional favorites and
still enjoy a guilt-free Thanksgiving feast. After all, being stuffed is a good
idea only if you are a turkey!
Create a calorie deficit by exercising to burn off extra calories before you
ever indulge in your favorite foods, suggests Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, former
president of the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
"'Eat less and exercise more' is the winning formula to prevent weight
gain during the holidays," Diekman says. "Increase your steps or
lengthen your fitness routine the weeks ahead and especially the day of the
Make fitness a family adventure, recommends Susan Finn, PhD, RD, chair of
the American Council on Fitness and Nutrition: "Take a walk early in the
day and then again after dinner. It is a wonderful way for families to get
physical activity and enjoy the holiday together."
While you might think it makes sense to save up calories for the big meal,
experts say eating a small meal in the morning can give you more control over
your appetite. Start your day with a small but satisfying breakfast -- such as
an egg with a slice of whole-wheat toast, or a bowl of whole-grain cereal with
low-fat milk -- so you won't be starving when you arrive at the gathering.
"Eating a nutritious meal with protein and fiber before you arrive takes
the edge off your appetite and allows you to be more discriminating in your
food and beverage choices," says Diekman.
Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner or bringing a few dishes to
share, make your recipes healthier with less fat, sugar, and calories.
"There is more sugar and fat in most recipes than is needed, and no one
will notice the difference if you skim calories by using lower calorie
ingredients," says Diekman.
- Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make gravy.
- Use sugar substitutes in place of sugar and/or fruit purees instead of oil
in baked goods.
- Reduce oil and butter wherever you can.
- Try plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes,
Police Your Portions
- Thanksgiving tables are bountiful and beautiful displays of traditional
family favorites. Before you fill your plate, survey the buffet table and
decide what you're going to choose. Then select reasonable-sized portions of
foods you cannot live without.
"Don't waste your calories on foods that you can have all year
long," suggests Diekman. "Fill your plate with small portions of
holiday favorites that only come around once a year so you can enjoy desirable,
- Skip the Seconds.
Try to resist the temptation to go back for second helpings.
"Leftovers are much better the next day, and if you limit yourself to
one plate, you are less likely to overeat and have more room for a delectable
dessert," Diekman says.
- Choose the Best Bets on the Buffet.
While each of us has our own favorites, keep in mind that some holiday foods
are better choices than others.
"White turkey meat, plain vegetables, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed
potatoes, defatted gravy, and pumpkin pie tend to be the best bets because they
are lower in fat and calories," says Diekman. But she adds that, "if
you keep your portions small, you can enjoy whatever you like."