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4 Tips for a Healthier Thanksgiving

Oct 31, 2014

By Hana A. Feeney, MS, RD, CSSD • For Active.com

Too often Thanksgiving is a stressful day full of guilt associated with overeating; it also often signifies the start of a season of overindulgence. This year, plan for a different kind of Thanksgiving. Discover new ways to enhance the flavor of the day by engaging with loved ones and focus on meaningful traditions instead of the mashed potatoes.

Plan Ahead to Save Calories and Money

Plan your Thanksgiving menu at the beginning of the month so that you have time to find new recipe ideas and shop the sales. By planning your menu early in the month, you can shop the ads and identify good deals on foods that you know you will need. Seek out new, tastier and lighter Thanksgiving dishes this year. Your body will thank you and so will your family. Rather than passing out after dinner, everyone will be feeling great and continue to enjoy each other. There may be a few untouchable recipes that are so near-and-dear to your family that they can't be modified. That's OK. Focus on portion control and provide a variety of other healthy dishes to offset those heavier dishes.

Spice it Up

Traditional Thanksgiving recipes are laden with butter, cream, sugar and salt to make the dish sweet, savory and indulgent. Fortunately, by adding a little spice you can mix up the ingredients and create a tastier dish that doesn't rely on unhealthy ingredients to taste good. Here are some ideas for making traditional Thanksgiving dishes tastier and healthier.

Pumpkin pie: Cut the sugar in half and add extra 1 to 2 tablespoons of cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves

Pumpkin muffins: Replace all of the oil with applesauce or pumpkin puree.

Other baked goods: Replace all of the white flour with whole-wheat pastry flour.

Mashed potatoes: Cut butter and cream in half and replace with milk and broth. Try cooking cauliflower florets with the potatoes and mash right along with the potatoes. The natural buttery taste of cauliflower allows you to use less butter.

Cut the salt in any dish by adding minced garlic.

Sweet potatoes: Roast sweet potatoes with cubed pineapple, cinnamon and raisins instead of candied sweet potatoes made with loads of brown sugar.

Green bean casserole: Make your own mushroom sauce seasoned with sage, thyme and marjoram instead of condensed soup, and top with whole-wheat croutons instead of onion rings.

Gravy: puree cooked carrots, onion and celery to add texture and flavor to the gravy while cutting back on flour and grease.

Stuffing: Try a wild rice and brown rice pilaf with nuts and dried fruit. Sage is a wonderful herb to use in a rice pilaf on Thanksgiving Day.

Start New Traditions

Good food on Thanksgiving is definitely important—but so are the people you are sharing the day with. Add new traditions to Thanksgiving Day that are non-food related to give you long-lasting memories. Here some ideas that adults and kids of all ages might enjoy:

  • Start a game of football or Frisbee in the park
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood calling on your neighbors
  • Go for an annual family hike
  • Try a craft that kids and adults enjoy. Who doesn't love making a hand turkey?
  • Start a family Thanksgiving journal that everyone contributes words and artwork to.
  • Make Thanksgiving napkin rings.

There are so many ideas to make Thanksgiving fun, entertaining and memorable; plan something great this year.

Take Care of Your Self

Be a little selfish and take some time to be thankful for your amazing body. Be appreciative of your physical body and make exercise a priority for the day. If you are in charge of meal preparation, exercise first thing in the morning before you do anything else. It will help reduce the stress of the day. Next, take care of your emotional self. Many times we overeat because we are too hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Stop. Don't stuff yourself for emotional reasons, it will only make you feel worse.

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