The holiday season is quickly approaching, and many people will be spending extra time eating big meals with family and friends.
As you prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, consider these expert-recommended smart strategies for enjoying holiday meals without overindulging.
Here are healthy tips from Richard S. Cohen, a dietitian and educator at Kettering Health Network’s Kettering Weight Loss Solutions.
- “Start the day right by eating a good breakfast, preferably one that has some fiber in it such as a high-fiber breakfast cereal with low-fat milk. Add some berries for a treat. Take a 30-minute walk in the morning before you go to the holiday party. Don’t show up at the holiday party hungry.”
- “Turkey is the main focus for most Thanksgiving feasts. Start with an unbasted turkey instead of the prebasted kind. Prebasting usually means that added salt and oils have been injected into the turkey. When cooking, make slits in the skin, and stuff some fresh herbs under the skin; rosemary, sage and thyme work really well. Oven bags are great for cooking turkeys and help seal in the moisture. Note the cooking time in the instructions. Skinless white meat turkey at approximately 35 calories per ounce is much lower fat and calories than dark meat at approximately 50 calories per ounce. Skip the skin if can because it is mostly fat and more than double the calories of dark meat turkey.”
- “Regularly prepared gravy can contain up to 800 calories per cup. To lower the calories, put the pan juices into a fat separator cup, and pour off the fat. If you don’t have a separator cup, pour the juices into a bowl, place in the freezer or add a few ice cubes. The cold allows the fat to rise to the top and harden, where it can easily be skimmed off. There are also several good tasting choices of nonfat or low fat gravies that can be purchased in the grocery store.”
- “Cook the dressing outside of the turkey. Use a fat-free broth instead of fat to moisten your dressing. For added nutritional benefits, try using whole grain bread instead of white. Also, instead of using salt for flavor, add lots of celery, onions, peppers, and/or other vegetables, as well as herbs and spices. Apples and raisins can add a special zing.
- “Decrease or remove the fat from side dishes and casseroles. Prepare your mashed potatoes with fat free chicken broth or skim milk. Using nonfat yogurt or nonfat sour cream can add a rich flavor. Also, adding some herbs and spices like garlic and oregano can enhance the taste. When making casseroles, many times you can leave out or reduce butter or margarine, and also save calories by using nonfat or low-fat cheeses, nonfat ricotta cheese, nonfat sour cream, and low-fat cream soups. Cinnamon added to sweet potatoes or winter squash dishes adds flavor without the calories from sugar.”
- “Try modifying your holiday dessert recipes. For instance, use evaporated fat free skim milk in pumpkin pies. Substitute egg whites for whole eggs to reduce fat and cholesterol. Reducing the sugar by 25 percent in recipes won’t significantly affect the flavor but will save calories. Cut 50 to 75 percent of the oil in quick breads, and add sweet potatoes or pumpkin for moistness. Using pastry flour for quick breads yields a better product.”
- “If you feel tempted to eat pie, try eating only the insides of a fruit pie. The crust is the most concentrated source of calories at about 150 calories per ounce, while the fruit filling is only about 25 calories per ounce. One way to reduce temptation when the desserts come out is to get up and take a walk, go play with the dog, or hold the baby.”
- “Be careful, and don’t sit next to the high calorie appetizers. You will end up eating them. Sit as far away as possible, or face away from them. Although nuts have healthy fats, they are very high in calories at about 800 calories per cup. Stay with vegetable or fruit based choices. Also, during the main course don’t sit in the middle of the table because it puts too much of the food at arm’s length. Sitting at the end of the table limits access and calories.”
- “Alcoholic beverages can really help pile up the calories by stimulating your appetite. Wine is about 20 calories per ounce, beer about 12 calories per ounce and liquors about 100 calories per ounce. Try making a wine spritzer, and drink slowly. Better yet, sip on a non-sugared iced tea or water.”
- “Start the main meal off with a clear soup. This strategy has been shown to cut down the total calories eaten at a meal. You can also fill up on vegetable based salads, but avoid high calorie salad dressings. If you feel you need a second portion, wait at least 20 minutes before taking it. You may realize that you are very full and not want it at all. If you just need to have the special high calorie food take a small amount, chew slowly and savor the flavors. Enjoy without overindulging.”