We call it “Happy Thanksgiving” – not “Guilty Thanksgiving”. Don’t stress over the holiday meal. Embrace it to have a “Healthy Thanksgiving”. But how do you enjoy the meal rich with carbohydrates, calories and fats without sacrificing your health goals? Be realistic, strategic and calm about the holiday. Here’s how!
It’s been said that Americans gain about five pounds over the holiday season, which doesn’t sound too daunting to lose. But add that up over five to 10 years and it’s easy to see how we gain weight as we age.
Dr. Keith Kantor, CEO Service Foods Inc., (drkeithkantor.com, servicefoods.com), and author of The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, says to stick with your diet around the holiday season and give yourself the special meals as cheat meals.
“Everyone should aim to continue to eat a healthy diet leading up to any holiday meal, but enjoy the ‘actual’ Thanksgiving meal,” he confirms. “Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast and lunch and feel free to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.” Keep calm about the calories, and don’t let yourself feel deprived of your favorite Thanksgiving foods, but also avoid taking it to the extreme by gorging all day and the day after on leftovers, appetizers, desserts, and more, he adds.
Healthy Meals for Kids
To keep the entire family healthy over the holidays, start healthy traditions and encourage your kids to stay healthy. Get them excited about the meal, especially the veggies, says Kantor. “Every meal should include vegetables,” he says. Depending upon their age, get them involved in the food prep. They’ll enjoy all of the washing, peeling, mixing and tasting. And they may even like the healthier foods more than the sweets because they helped make it. Imagine the difference for them between mashing potatoes or baking a pie compared to opening a box and adding water. They will grow an appreciation for whole foods. Give them free reign on servings of vegetable side dishes and limit their plates with gravy, butter, salt, white bread and dessert.
As for making it a healthy holiday for the kids, make a tradition that involves getting the family moving while spending time together. “Parents can incorporate exercise into their Thanksgiving day, [with] a trip to the park, a pickup game of football or a long walk.”
Weight Loss & Holiday Weight Gain
Be realistic. Don’t expect to lose weight around Thanksgiving (unless, of course, you’re weight goal is for an impending wedding or a birthday). But don’t sweat it. “The actual Thanksgiving meal itself does not promote exceptional weight gain,” says Dr. Kantor. “You may put on one to two pounds.” That weight will go away fairly quickly if you’re already eating healthfully and are exercising regularly.
Avoid Weight Gain
What will pack on the pounds is if you look at Thanksgiving as being more than a meal. You will be enticed by what Dr. Kantor calls “mock Thanksgiving meals.” That’s when your work cafeteria offers a full turkey and ham lunch instead of the typical lunch special, which might normally be an egg salad sandwich or salad. It could also be a church fundraiser, school social function or even a special menu at your favorite restaurant. But let the “actual” Thanksgiving meal you spend with family and friends be special and save your indulging for that day.
Seven Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
“Thanksgiving is the beginning of the seasonal weight gain slope,” says Dr. Kantor. So here’s where the strategy comes in. Consider these tips, along with sticking to your exercise schedule, to avoid holiday weight gain.
- Eat healthy for all of your other meals to reduce the impact of a holiday feast.
- If you’re traveling to visit family, make sure you have healthy snack and meal options. If not, bring a protein bar, almonds and fruit in your carry-on luggage.
- Don’t shop for Thanksgiving groceries while hungry. You may get distracted by snack foods that are processed and unhealthy.
- Challenge yourself and your family to a whole-food Thanksgiving meal. Avoid or limit any already prepared foods, such as packaged gravy or frozen pies.
- Get the family moving on Thanksgiving with a hike or game of catch before dinner.
- Make the protein and veggies the star of the meal and focus less on dessert or appetizers.
- Create healthy leftovers and use the Thanksgiving protein remains for soups, salads and sandwiches. Skip the meat pies, casseroles and fry-ups.
Dr. Kantor offers these two recipes to cut back on calories, carbohydrates, flour and sugars.
- 1 large head cauliflower
- 5 garlic cloves
- Sea salt to taste
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp fresh chives
- Ground black pepper to taste
Chop cauliflower into large chunks, and steam until soft and you’re able to smash them with a fork. Add butter and salt, and blend until smooth with hand mixer. Serve in a bowl and top with chives and black pepper.
Revised Pumpkin Pie (no refined flours or sugars)
- 1 cup almond flour
- 3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup almond milk
- 1 cup water
- 1 14-oz can pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp cloves
- ½ tsp cardamom
- ¼ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Combine almond flour, eggs, honey and maple syrup and blend for 2 to 3 minutes until completely smooth, add almond milk slowly. It is very important to blend until completely smooth; otherwise your custard will be watery. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined. Pour into room-temperature (cool to touch) pie shell. Spread the top out evenly with a spatula. Bake for 40 minutes. Allow pie to cool completely before serving.