Worrying about weight loss around the holidays is typical, but this year you don't have to let Thanksgiving sabotage your efforts. With a little know how, you can enjoy your holiday feast with much less guilt! Try my R.D.-approved tips for making your thanksgiving experience healthier and still satisfying.
Stop blaming tryptophan (chemical found in turkey) as the sleepy culprit on your holiday plate. The heaps of carbohydrates — the stuffing, potatoes and yams smothered in marshmallows — are the true problem! Medical experts say that excess carbohydrate intake makes tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why carbohydrate-heavy meals can make you drowsy. If you are trying to stay awake for most of the holiday and keep your calories in check, limit yourself to only one starch at your meal. This will keep you from having both stuffing and mashed potatoes on your plate or macaroni and cheese with dinner biscuits. If you follow this rule of thumb, chances are you'll have more protein (turkey) and other sides, such as nutrient dense vegetables, taking up most of your plate instead of heavy starch (carb) choices.
Instead of only offering traditional mashed potatoes or white bread stuffing, prepare whole grain sides such as quinoa, barley or black rice to compliment your turkey. Try one of my favorite quinoa recipes: Parmesan Pumpkin and Spinach Quinoa Salad. This savory side dish is bursting with fall flavors, making it perfect for Thanksgiving!
Look at your plate. Do you have only white or brown foods on it? (i.e. turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes) If so, add vegetables! Yes, I know the turkey and stuffing are your go-to's, but try first filling your plate with vegetables or a salad, then the turkey, and last, the high-calorie/high-fat carbs like mac and cheese, buttery mashed potatoes or brown sugar glazed sweet potatoes. You can only eat so much before you are uncomfortably full, so it's better to fill up on the fiber-rich vegetables instead of the fat-packed carbs when watching your waistline.
Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner or preparing a few dishes to share, make your recipes healthier with less fat, sugar, and calories. Most recipes call for more sugar and fat than is actually needed. I've tried these healthy swaps on traditional favorites and was not able to taste the difference; can you?
Green Bean Casserole: Between the fried onion strings, condensed soup, and mushy canned beans, this entire dish offers nothing but unhealthy fat and starchy carbs. Leave this dish off the table and replace with fresh steamed green beans sprinkled with light Parmesan cheese or roasted green beans with olive oil and fresh garlic.
Gravy: Make your gravy the night before then chill the gravy overnight in the refrigerator. The next morning, simply skim the layer of fat collected on top of the gravy, discard, then reheat and serve to your guests. This modification will save you 130 calories and 13 grams of fat per tablespoon without sacrificing taste!
Mashed Potatoes: You won't feel like anything is missing from your beloved mashed potatoes when Greek yogurt is substituted. Replace 1-cup butter with ¼ cup nonfat plain Greek Yogurt and ½ cup butter; it will add a tart, creamy texture and a bit of protein.
Sweet Potato Soufflé: Replace candied pecans with chopped pecans and decrease added sugar to a ¼ of the amount the original recipe calls for. If you want to lower fat content in this dish but keep its original sweetness, reduce the amount of butter your recipe calls by half and whip the ingredients with a mixer instead of by hand to create a soufflé like consistency. Try Nutritionist Ellie Krieger's Sweet Potato Casserole for a lighter version of this popular Thanksgiving Day side.