It’s impossible to separate Thanksgiving from the turkey, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. The big feast can be full of fats and calories, but celebrating the holidays doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite dishes. Some small tweaks can make a big difference.
Let’s talk turkey
The bird is the main dish so try these healthier tips:
Less calories, more nutrients
Since fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, fill half your plate with them. That can be easier said than done, so try, for example, boosting the nutrition of your stuffing by adding celery, mushrooms, apples or cranberries.
Mashed potatoes are another must-have on Thanksgiving, but typically have added butter and cream, increasing the amount of fat in an already starchy vegetable. Try using skim milk, light sour cream or Greek yogurt. Go a step further and mix some riced cauliflower with the mashed potatoes to lower the carbohydrate and sugar count. When making gravy, avoid the flour. Instead, make it with reduced-fat chicken broth or turkey stock.
Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and antioxidants. But on Thanksgiving, many of us spruce it up with butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows. For a simple substitute for sugar, try plant-based zero calorie sweeteners such as Stevia or Truvia.
Green bean casserole is another popular side dish that is often topped with fried onions and made with condensed cream of mushroom soup, both of which add fats, carbohydrates and sodium to the very nutritious green bean. This year, keep it simple and just roast or steam fresh green beans.
Take a break before dessert. A short walk will do you a lot of good. When whipping up your favorite baked goods or pie, you can decrease the amount of sugar in any recipe by 25% without compromising flavor. You can also use unsweetened applesauce in place of sugar in baking recipes. Replace the sugar with applesauce in a one-to-one ratio: for example, one cup of sugar would be replaced with one cup of applesauce.
Sugar can exact a significant toll on our health when consumed excessively. Luminis Health sees the resulting effect in our medical practices with a 1% to 2% drop in diabetic control each year in January.
When making pies, hold the crust. It’s full of fat and calories. If you must have crust, use one layer rather than on the bottom and top.
For pumpkin pie lovers, you will be happy to learn pumpkin is one of nature’s season superfoods. Pumpkin is heart healthy. It’s rich in potassium, which can help regulate your blood sugar, and rich in vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants—all of which help prevent heart disease. In addition, pumpkin can:
Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Adding extra calories with alcohol, soda or juices isn’t worth it when you have so many tasty food options to put on your plate.
Remember that Thanksgiving is only once a year, so enjoy your favorite family dishes while following portion size control and keeping leftovers to a minimum.
Colleen Kiley is a lead diabetes educator at Luminis Health Diabetes and Endocrinology.