It’s no secret that Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most decadent meals of the year, and let’s be honest, that’s a big reason why we love it. Who doesn’t love carbs and butter? Indulging in good food and drink is a big part of the experience, but when does a little harmless indulgence become excessive over-indulgence?
Realistically, the holiday season is probably not the best time to start a new weight-loss diet, but there’s no reason not to at least maintain the weight you’re at. I am not suggesting you give up any of your Thanksgiving favorites because I love them just as much as the next person, but the trick is to distinguish between the vital calories that make the meal what it is (e.g., adding a bit of butter under the turkey’s skin before it goes into the oven for extra juicy meat), and empty calories that nobody would miss if they were eliminated (e.g., full-fat buttermilk in your mashed potatoes).
Here are are 10 sneaky ways to keep the calorie count of your Thanksgiving feast in check without compromising on flavor..and I bet nobody will notice the difference.
1. Stay balanced – just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean sensible eating should go to hell, so don’t forget to include all the food groups in your meal to ensure balanced nutrition. The USDA’s new “My Plate” is a very visual and intuitive guideline.
2. Opt for brown bread (or no bread!) in your stuffing – lower the glycemic index of your stuffing by using brown bread instead of white bread or brioche, or replace bread altogether with a hearty complex grain like wild rice, quinoa or farro.
3. Offer serving-sized portions – make portion control easier for yourself and your guests by serving your food as individual-sized portions. Get creative – you can carve out mini-pumpkins for your stuffing or lay out a canapé-style buffet for your appetizers and sides.
4. Easy on the butter! – use butter where it matters for high impact. You will definitely taste the difference if you brush your turkey with a little flavored butter before it goes into the oven (you can even put some butter under the breast skin), but overly buttery sides are unnecessary.
5. Use non-fat ingredients strategically – make your meal leaner by using low-fat ingredients where full-fat ones are not vital, such as low-fat buttercream in your mashed potatoes, or low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth for basting your turkey. Just don’t cut out fats completely, because studies show that some amount of lipids is important for achieving that feeling of satisfied fullness.
6. Brine your turkey – brining your bird in flavored salt water (you can add garlic, mixed herbs, honey, soy and Worschestire sauce to create complex flavors) keeps the bird juicy and reduces the amount of basting with butter and/or broth you have to do while it cooks.
7. Select relatively low-sugar desserts – pie is a Thanksgiving staple, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare for your pancreas! Choose a relatively low-sugar dessert, or cut the amount of sugar the recipe calls for by one third. Fruity pies taste better anyway when the tartness of the fruit is still evident. Also, serving the pie open-faced like a tart and using puff pastry instead of regular crust significantly cuts down carbs.
8. Get creative with wine – reduce your alcohol consumption by combining with low-calorie mixers. Wine or champagne spritzers are chic and light alternatives to a glass of wine.
9. Slow down – nutritionists say it can take up to 20 minutes for your stomach and brain to realize you’re full, so eating slower can help you eat less.
10. Don’t beat yourself up – allow yourself to enjoy the day. Try to be as healthy as you can, but even if you have an “off” day, don’t beat yourself up over it and make sure you stay on track. One day of reasonable indulgence will be relatively harmless if you go back to good eating habits straight afterward (meaning the next day, not the following week!)
In good health,
Get the recipe here.
* Images compliments of choosemyplate.gov, marthastewart.com and williams-sonoma.com