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Tips for Eating Healthy on Thanksgiving: Enjoy the holiday without ruining your diet!

The holidays are always my favorite time of the year – you get to take time off work, spend more time with family and friends, and of course – there’s the amazing food that goes along with it! J But for many people, especially those watching their weight, Thanksgiving can be a real challenge. Most people think they have to deprive themselves if they’re going to stay on their diet come Thanksgiving. That’s a myth! You can totally enjoy the wonderful Thanksgiving treats without depriving yourself – if you follow my 10 Tips for healthy eating on Thanksgiving. Hope they are helpful!

1) Don’t go to the Thanksgiving dinner hungry – eat normally all day! A lot of people starve themselves all day to “make room” for Thanksgiving dinner. DON’T do that! You’ll end up overeating like crazy during dinner and you’ll do more damage. During the day, eat small, light meals that keep you feeling satisfied (like fruit and low fat cottage cheese, and egg white omelet, a bowl of oatmeal with nuts, etc.).

2) Plan out your portion sizes – don’t plan to go back for seconds and don’t eat like this is your last meal on earth! First of all, there are always leftovers – so if you couldn’t get enough of those mashed potatoes, you can always take a bit home and eat it the next day. Remember – for all the “goodies” – it’s all about portion control! One taste of pie will not ruin your diet, but three slices will.  So, to avoid the pitfalls, plan to eat all the goodies that you enjoy – just eat them in moderation. For example: fill your plate ¾ with veggies, lean meat, and salad. The remaining ¼ of the plate you can fill with the fun stuff (mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.). For dessert, I like to take tiny bite-sized portions of each of the options – that way I get to taste a little of everything but I don’t end up eating a 500 calorie slice of pecan pie!

3) Drink plenty of water, and stick to wine/beer over high-calorie cocktails. This one’s a no-brainer. What would you rather have – a 500 calorie cosmo, or a 500 calorie slice of pie? You do the math – to me, the dessert is more worth it J

4) Work out before the big meal! My husband and I usually like to go for a run on Thanksgiving morning. That way, even if we do overdo it a little bit, we have a couple hundred calories to play with on Thanksgiving day .

5) Turkey can be good for you! Just make sure you go skinless (takes away some of the fat/cholesterol), and make sure you go for the white meat – which is the best lean protein. And stick to a 4 oz portion (about the size of a deck of cards)

6) Veggies are definitely good for you Squashes, salad, green beans, potatoes – these are all are great side dishes that have tons of fiber and can fill up your plate without adding too many calories. BUT – sometimes these dishes can end up being calorie laden (e.g. mashed potatoes are usually made with butter & milk, green bean casserole is made with cream of mushroom soup, cheese, milk, and fried onions, and candied yams are loaded with cream, sugar, etc.) – so if you didn’t make the dish and you don’t know exactly how it was cooked, just eat a much smaller portion than you normally would.

7) If you are the Thanksgiving dinner chef, make healthy substitutions without losing any of the flavor! For example: For sweet potatoes, instead of cooking them with tons of sugar/cream, try sprinkling them with a tsp of honey and a bit of brown sugar, and bake them in the oven.  Make your own fresh cranberry sauce rather than using the high-sugar canned version. For stuffing, switch out white bread for whole wheat, or even substitute veggies for bread. For all recipes, substitute skim or 1% milk for whole milk or heavy cream, use light butter vs. regular butter, low fat cheese for regular cheese, 2 egg whites for one egg, low fat sour cream vs. regular… you get the picture J

8 ) Try going vegetarian! There are some really healthy, flavorful, Thanksgiving vegetarian dishes out there. Some of my favorite sources include: Cooking Light, Health.com, and the NY Times Food Section

9) If you do go “rogue” on Thanksgiving, restart your diet IMMEDIATELY the next day. Don’t use the fact that you went overboard one day as an excuse to completely ruin your diet. Create a plan for yourself to get back on track. Even if you ate 2000 calories during the Thanksgiving dinner, if you go back to eating healthy the next day, you won’t end up gaining 5 extra pounds from one meal.

10) Enjoy yourself! At the end of the day, Thanksgiving really is about being with friends and family and spending that time together. Don’t be so stressed out about the food that you aren’t able to enjoy the holiday! Stressing yourself out will only make you feel discouraged and will likely make you end up eating more. Just relax, and if you can’t remember all of these tips –just remember two things: Don’t go back for seconds and thirds, and eat everything in moderation! Happy Thanksgiving!!

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