LAKE OCONEE — When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of family, friends and, of course, FOOD. Thanksgiving is a day notorious for overeating. With all the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, not to mention, grandmas pumpkin pie it’s not hard to go overboard on calories. Not only is the typical Thanksgiving meal heavy on calories, housing anywhere from 3,000-4,000, it is also laden with refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and sodium. Thanksgiving is also the beginning of the holiday weight gain season. Overeating and lack of physical activity are the culprits. Think about this: a typical 160 lb. person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal, but most people finish off their meal by sitting in front of the television watching football or chatting with family/friends. The following suggestions will allow you to enjoy your day without sabotaging your waistline.
- Help yourself to some turkey: Turkey itself is actually a very healthy bird. It's a good source of protein, high in niacin, phosphorous, selenium, vitamin B6 and zinc. A three-ounce serving of turkey breast meat is just 87 calories.
- Don't stuff yourself on stuffing: Stuffing can pack on calories, fat and carbohydrates. It's dense, usually made with white bread, and saturated in butter. If you have control over how it's made, try substituting fat-free chicken broth for most of the butter. Add extra chopped vegetables (celery, carrots, onion, green pepper) to the recipe. The vegetables will displace some of the dense bread and also supply more vitamins/minerals and phytonutrients.
- Eat your vegetables: Vegetables are important for everyone, they’re low in calorie, high in fiber, an excellent source vitamins and minerals and non-starchy varieties are low in carbohydrates. Unfortunately, the vegetable traditionally prepared for Thanksgiving are loaded with cream soup or butter and topped off with cheese. Try offering a variety of colorful steamed vegetables instead. One cup of steamed green beans has only 36 calories and less than 8 grams of carbohydrates. Whereas it’s green bean casserole counterpart has 165 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates.
- Eat smaller portions: Because high carbohydrate foods are plentiful at most Thanksgiving feasts, watch your portion sizes. If you can't decide on one or two carbohydrate foods to eat, take very small portions or "samples" of several dishes.
- Camouflage the cauliflower: Mashed cauliflower makes a perfect stand-in for mashed potatoes. Though potatoes are not a demon food, mashed potatoes can run you into some trouble. One cup of mashed potatoes can pack on about 237 calories, 5 grams of saturated fat, and 35 grams of carbs per 1 cup serving.
- Don't drink your calories: Soda, juice, sweet tea and sweet drink mixers will throw your turkey day calories consumption through the roof. Stick to seltzer with lime, one glass of wine or champagne, or good old water.
- Don't "save up" for your Thanksgiving meal: In other words, don't show up famished ready to eat the kitchen table. You’re only asking for trouble. Eat breakfast as usual. This will keep your hunger in check and keep you from being over eating at mealtime. If there is going to be more that 5 hours between meals, plan for a light snack or small meal to offset your hunger.
- Don't approach Thanksgiving without a plan: Think about where you want to "spend" your calories and make a pact with yourself to stick with it. Before aimlessly filling up your plate take a survey of all foods at the table. This way you’re in control and the food isn’t. It may sound hokey, but it's guaranteed to make it easier to enjoy your favorites.
- Last but not least: Be physically active! The best way to compensate for eating a little more than usual is to be active. Start a new tradition that involves moving around away from the food. Take a brisk walk, go for a bike ride or play some football rather than watch it.
If you have a nutrition question you’d like answered in this column or if you like to schedule an appointment. Contact the office at 706-473-5801 or email us at email@example.com
Lisa Eisele, RD, CSO, LD, can be reached at (706) 473-5801.