Feast Your Eye On This: A Thanksgiving Menu You Won’t Regret

Author: Rosetta Danigole, UMC Lead Clinical Dietitian – Nutritional Services

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Thanksgiving is almost here.  It’s time to feast and spend time with family.  But while Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season brings joy to many, it can also be the cause of food anxiety.

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Take a deep breath – traditional seasonal fare also offers plenty of good opportunities for healthy eating.

The fall season offers so many nutrient packed foods that can nourish not only your body but your spirit. Listed below are some dietitian approved tips for avoiding overindulging and taking the worry out of those holiday meals.

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Remember always that healthy eating is a lifestyle. Moderation is the key to staying on your healthy eating path through the holidays.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you prepare tomorrow’s feast or sit down to enjoy.

Make it healthy:

  • Choose seasonal foods. Roasted fall vegetables add a festive touch to the table. Think about sweet potatoes, carrots and turnips.  It’s a simple dish but these roasted vegetables combined with olive oil and low sodium herbs can be a good start to a healthy meal.
  • Add winter squash to your holiday table. Roasted, baked or steamed, winter squash makes a delicious and nutritious side dish.  Add your favorite spices such as nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon for a healthy alternative.
  • Make the cranberries a hit. Cranberries contain powerful anti-agers. Try to find either fresh or low sugar canned instead.
  • Prepare a guilt-free dessert. Baked, poached or roasted fall fruits are a great alternative to sugary pies and other sweets. Try apples and pears and even apricots, peaches and plums sprinkled with holiday spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.

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Enjoy it!

  • Start with nuts. Instead of munching your way through the sour-cream dip before dinner, pick the walnuts out of the nut bowl. Eating 12 halves 30 minutes before a meal will convince your brain you’re not all that hungry.)
  • Practice the flip. Try this tip –it’s called flipping” your meal: Make the side dishes the main choices along with your white-meat turkey. Make the higher calorie choices a small side dish. When everyone else is waddling out, you’ll be feeling great.
  • Find a healthy balance. Try to balance your plate with lean proteins, heart healthy whole grains and veggies. If those options aren’t available, just remember to pace yourself.
  • Eat some of everything. Yes, including the pumpkin pie.  Just be mindful of portion sizes. To be sure you are getting the right portion size, use your hands. For the average woman, the palm of your hand is two to three ounces – your thumb is equal to one teaspoon. Take less and savor it more. You’ll end up feeling better after.
  • Dig in to the turkey. Turkey breast is super lean: just 44 calories, 1 gram of fat and no saturated fat per skinless ounce.
  • Don’t reach for seconds right away. Still hungry after your first serving? Wait 20 minutes, have a glass of water, and check in with your body before going for seconds.
  • Stay hydrated. Add sparkling seltzer water to cranberry or pomegranate juice for a festive, low-calorie drink (and it’s alcohol free, if so desired). Pomegranate juice is loaded with anti-oxidants and helps fight inflammation.

As you navigate the rest of the holiday season, remember that a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or nonfat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in alcohol; lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.

For a list of healthy New Orleans-style Thanksgiving recipes, download our free recipe book.

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Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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