Can you believe the holidays are officially upon us? Without further ado, we would like to take the time to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving from Red Dietitians! We are so thankful for the opportunity to serve our clients and for the ability to use our knowledge and passions to have an impact on their health. In the holiday spirit, we hope you have a very blessed and happy holiday full of traditions, family, friends, and feasting. With all that in mind, please read on to learn about how you can “eat, drink, and be healthy” while doing so.
We all know that holiday season seems to be the time of year when health is the last thing on our mind. The chilly weather has us curling up inside with comfy blankets and comforting food. With fewer options of activities to do outside, our activity level greatly drops too, and then we may see ourselves starting a cycle of rationalizing away our normal routines and allow unhealthy habits to trickle in. One of the biggest things we can do this year to break that pattern is to strive to recognize that the warm and fuzzy feelings we get during this season do not only come from the food traditions. It is so much more than a food fest, so this year we challenge you to embrace the spirit of the holidays as coming together with our loved ones instead of focusing just on the traditions centered around the foods we enjoy at this time.
Here are a few simple ways to implement that this year.
Rule #1: Don’t diet.
It really can be that easy. It’s a mental shift that will allow you freedom to enjoy the season. Knowing that restricting your eating will only cause disappointment, resentment, and overeating, it is important to remember this is a time to share with your family and not to get carried away by food.
Rule #2: Plan ahead.
You already know the dates and events you will be celebrating. Since our big feast is going to be this Thursday, knowing that the rest of this week you will stay on track will allow you to indulge in your favorite recipes without guilt on Thanksgiving. It is easy to stay on track when you can be in complete control of your options, so take advantage of that in the time leading up to the big day. In anticipation of the big dinner on Thursday, allow yourself to have a big, filling brunch full of healthy fruits and veggies. Fresh fruit salad, an omelet filled with veggies, or healthy smoothie will keep you full of good nutrients.
Rule #3: Avoid Temptations
Let yourself up for success by making smart choices. On your way out the door, grab a quick, healthy snack like a piece or two of fruit that will provide fiber to keep your stomach feeling full, or a handful of nuts that give a good serving of filling protein. This will ensure that you are not starving come mealtime, and therefore will be less likely to overeat. When filling your plate, start by using a small plate so you take small portions of each food. Follow the guidelines of filling half your plate with fruits or vegetables, which will fill you up with lots of good fiber so you don’t feel the need to have a bigger portion of those mashed potatoes. Realize that you will likely be indulging in a delicious dessert, so shy away from other foods (or drinks!) packed with sugars during or before dinner.
Rule #4: Strategize your dessert intake.
Enjoy your favorite holiday treats in small portions. It will be hard to choose just one, so if you want to really indulge in multiple desserts, consider sharing with someone else. Most importantly, really slow down to enjoy the treat you are eating to really stretch out the enjoyment for as long as you can.
Rule #5: Be smart about leftovers.
Easiest way to do so? Give them away to your guests! But we all want to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor, so if you do end up with some, find a smart way to repurpose the dishes. The traditional leftover meal may be a sandwich stacked high with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, you name it. That’s a lot of carbs and sugars! Instead, toss the lean meat on a salad or into a soup with lots of veggies!
Rule #6: Add activity to your holiday plans!
The weather may be cool, but there are ways to make it work. For your benefit, but for also for the benefit of your loved ones, find a way to make a tradition out of something active that you all can participate in. Let’s face it, football may be just as traditional as the feast on Thanksgiving Day. Instead of watching it on the couch all day, see if you can get anyone to play a game outside, or just toss the football around. After the big feast, grab some hot drinks and take a family hike or walk! Or a great family event is the Pittsburgh Turkey Trot downtown Thanksgiving morning. It has options for 5K, 5 mile runs or a 1 mile family walk.
Finally, If you haven’t decided what to bring for your Thanksgiving get together this year, this tried and true vegetable dish is delicious, and packed with loads of good nutrients. Roasted Vegetables with Nutmeg and Ginger takes care of most of these rules all in one place. Filling up your plate with these veggies will keep you full of fiber, and any remaining after the feast will help you repurpose your other leftovers by combining them into a new dish such as a frittata, egg casserole or even leftover Thanksgiving tacos!
What are you making for Thanksgiving? What recipes are traditional at your holidays? Have you found a recipe that you’ve repurposed to make it healthier? Comment with your recipes below!
*Some information contributed and written by Sarah Rattigan, BS dietetics