Do you ever wish that everyday could be Thanksgiving? All the delicious turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, tasty green bean casserole, and mouth-watering pecan pie. While your mouth may be saying "Yes!", your waistline is calling out "Whoa!" - and for good reason. Thanksgiving can be a real challenge if you are watching your weight. But you don't have to sabotage your diet. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the buffet table without depriving yourself:
EAT BEFORE YOU EAT This may sound counterproductive, but if you eat a healthy breakfast and light lunch you can avoid overeating Thanksgiving dinner later. That way you'll have more control over your appetite because we tend to eat too much when we are hungry.
GO LIGHT ON THE CALORIES Many Thanksgiving goodies are loaded with extra fat and sugar, including mashed potatoes with all the butter and sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows. Recipes can be healthier by making a few substitutions, such as fat-free chicken broth to make gravy or fat free/light sour cream in casseroles. When possible, choose breast meat rather than a leg or thigh and remember to remove the high-calorie skin.
ONE SIZE DOESN'T FIT ALL Just because certain dishes are offered doesn't mean you have to sample every one. Avoid the all-you-can-eat mentality and limit yourself to smaller portions of foods you may not typically eat. Good serving sizes include about a baseball size serving of fruit, a deck of cards size portion of meat, and a computer mouse size helping of veggies.
DON'T COVER YOUR WHOLE PLATE There's no need to pile your plate high with every food that is offered. Look over the buffet table first and then make your selections. The first step is to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Opt for reasonable-sized portions of holiday favorites that are served only once a year. If you are going to have seconds, fill up your plate with vegetables and lean meat.
EAT S-L-O-W-L-Y By savoring and chewing every bite thoroughly and putting your eating utensil down between bites you can enjoy your meal and be satisfied with one plate of food. Leftovers are better the next day anyway. Pace yourself and eat only until you feel full. Drink plenty of water and try to keep alcohol down to a minimum since calories from alcoholic drinks can add up quickly. Spread out the food and fun by going for a walk after your main meal and then having dessert later. It's a great way to get in some exercise and spend quality time with your family.
If you are eating out for your Thanksgiving meal, ask for food that is steamed, grilled or broiled rather than fried or sautèed. Request that sauces and dressing be served on the side and watch out for super-sized portions that tempt you to eat too much. Try not to be overly hard on yourself if you overeat. Thanksgiving is, after all, just one day and you can be careful about what you eat over the next few days and then exercise enough to balance your overindulgence. For some healthy Thanksgiving recipes, visit www.eatbetteramerica.com.
Holly Mlodzinski is a registered dietitian and health promotions coordinator at Hilton Head Hospital.