Most people eat more at Thanksgiving dinner than they consume in a normal day, and then continue overeating at year-end. So it helps to have a plan in place to avoid any holiday gobbling that you might pay for later.
Turkey, yams, mashed potatoes, green beans and cranberry sauce are all nutritious, so long as lots of salt, sugar and butter haven’t been added to them, says Kathleen Duran-Thal, director of nutrition at Cooper Healthy Living at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas.
An earlier study by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases found that Americans usually gain only one pound during the winter holidays, but the weight put on then isn’t shed in the new year.
Those findings contradict many people’s views that they gain five to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Researchers said the effects of weight gain at year-end, however, are worth worrying about because they contribute to increased weight over time.
Keeping weight stable in the fall and winter may help prevent age-related weight gain and associated diseases, says Dr. Riva Rahl, medical director at Cooper Wellness. In addition to not looking or feeling top-notch, adults with excess weight are at greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers, she says.
Cooper Wellness experts say to go ahead and enjoy your favorite Thanksgiving foods, but consider making healthy choices at your turkey dinner. They offer some tips for keeping you from fiddling with your belt at the end of the meal.
1. First of all, don’t arrive at a Thanksgiving dinner hungry. Eat a good breakfast, and maybe even lunch that day.
2. Fill half your plate with vegetables, one quarter of it with lean meat, and one quarter with starches like mashed potatoes and turkey dressing.
3. Choose white-meat turkey and avoid eating the skin.
4. Avoid gravy. Turkey doesn’t need to be smothered in gravy to taste good. If you want gravy, just drip a little on your meat and potatoes.
5. Limit yourself to small helpings of heavily sweetened yams and cranberry sauces.
6. Use restraint when dinner rolls are passed around. Buttered rolls may melt in your mouth, but they’re full of calories, so eat only one.
7. Try sampling in moderation the many foods that you have looked forward to. And consider bringing something healthy to the dinner, like a side dish that’s low in fat, sugar and salt.
8. Eat slowly. By eating Thanksgiving dinner slowly, your body has time to register when it is full so that you don’t consume too much.
9. At dessert time, try to choose the lightest options. Pick pumpkin over pecan pie, for example, and avoid 200 calories in the process. Or just eat half a piece of pie, and pass on whipped toppings and ice cream. As dinner winds down over coffee, avoid any plates of additional sweets that may be sitting on the table.
10. After Thanksgiving dinner, take a walk with your friends or family. Fifteen minutes of walking will get your blood circulating and can burn off 100 calories, says Susie Kania, exercise physiologist and director at Cooper Wellness. The fresh air will invigorate you after a long stay at the table. (Information courtesy of Cooper Wellness, www.cooperwellness.com)
LIGHT SWEET POTATO PUDDING
Agave syrup is a natural sweetener that doesn’t raise your blood glucose levels. This is a great dessert for everyone, but is particularly good for diabetics.
1⅓ cups mashed, cooked sweet potato
1/2 cup agave syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup egg substitute
16 ounces evaporated skim milk
1/2 cup light whipped topping
Optional 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts,
Optional cooking spray
1. Heat oven to 375 F.
2. In a large bowl, combine sweet potato, syrup, cinnamon, orange zest, salt, ginger, cloves and egg substitute. Beat at medium speed with a mixer until smooth. Add milk; mix well.
3. Pour mixture into a 2-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 F for 1 hour or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. (For individual servings, pour 2/3 cup potato mixture into each of 4 custard cups. Bake at 375 F for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.)
4. Let pudding cool. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Serve with a tablespoon of whipped topping and sprinkle with walnuts, if desired. Makes 4 servings (2/3 cup per serving, 88 calories).