Tuesday, November 25, 2014

10 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner, it’s important to keep your healthy habits in check.

University of South Alabama dietitian Nancy Brumfield, RDN, has shared a few tips to help you enjoy the holiday – without sabotaging your health.

Exercise. If you want to eat more and not gain weight you have to move more. Add an extra walk or a few more minutes to your exercise routine. If you are not typically active, step outside for a walk and enjoy the weather. You can break it up to 15 minutes a couple of times a day. “This includes the cooks,” Brumfield said. “A short walk will clear your mind and invigorate you. You will enter the kitchen more relaxed and ready to go.”

Also, if you are thinking of joining a gym after the New Year, consider doing it now. “Beat the crowds that show up the first of January,” Brumfield said. “You will have a better opportunity to benefit from the gym staff in establishing a workout plan that fits your needs, and you will have more energy during the holiday season.”

Never arrive hungry. Avoid banking your calories by skipping meals prior to the big feast. Eat something before the big meal that is lighter and includes lean protein, vegetables and fruit. You will be less likely to overeat.

Hydrate before you sit down to eat.  By consuming a large glass of water prior to eating you will be less likely to overeat because you will feel fuller.

Be picky. Decide what you are going to enjoy the most. Brumfield said most people who go through a buffet never see what is there until they reach the end of the line and their plate is overflowing. “Step back and look at the bounty of food before you begin,” she said. “Admire it and then make a decision on what you really want to have that pleases your palate without adding on too many extra calories.”

Focus on vegetables. Brumfield suggests filling half of your plate with vegetables, ¼ of your plate with meat, and ¼ of your plate with starch to limit the number of calories. Also, avoid using heavy sauces and cream soups for your vegetables. “Try roasting them with a small amount of olive oil and fresh herbs,” she said. “You can even squeeze lemon juice on them to perk up their natural flavor.”

Be sensitive to guests with special dietary needs. Those who are diabetic or gluten-free, for example, can enjoy the meal by planning ahead. The diabetic will be able to make healthy choices by following the suggestions listed above.

To satisfy those who are gluten free, try cornstarch-based gravy instead of flour. “There are many items they may be sensitive to that contain gluten,” Brumfield said. “Check food labels, and share your menu with them ahead of time.” In addition, you should keep food items that contain gluten in separate serving dishes. For example, serve your sliced turkey on a platter and serve the dressing in a separate dish.

For those with high blood pressure, offer foods high in potassium, calcium and magnesium. “This includes most fruits and vegetables,” Brumfield said. “Foods that are highest in sodium include canned soups, which are often used for casseroles. If you must cook with canned soup, use the low sodium brands. By shopping for fresh or frozen foods and using less of packaged instant or convenience foods section of the supermarket you will avoid the foods that contribute the most sodium to meals.

For the vegetarian, prepare vegetables without meat as a seasoning. Be creative and use fresh herbs. You can also add nuts for a little protein.

Brumfield also suggests inviting your guests who have special dietary needs to bring a dish to share with others.

Limit alcohol. It adds calories and makes you sleepy. Sip, don’t gulp.

Be highly selective with sweets. Avoid trying a serving of all desserts offered. Try a fruit-based dessert. Healthier choices include ambrosia, which is low in calories and packed with antioxidants. Pound cake versus those with icing can cut your calories in half. Try a small serving, and eat slowly.

Make the meal about being thankful and enjoying those gathered at your table. Engage in conversation. “Go around the table and list the things you are thankful for,” Brumfield said. “This will force you to eat more slowly, and you will be less likely to reach for that extra helping.” In addition, consider contributing canned goods to a local food bank or inviting a neighbor over for your family's Thanksgiving meal as an expression of thankfulness.

Lastly, take a walk after your meal. It’s not really the turkey that makes you sleepy, according to Brumfield. “Turkey has no more of the amino acid tryptophan that most other meats, dairy products, seeds, nuts or chocolate. Just the suggestion to yourself that turkey makes you sleepy will make you sleepy,” she said. “Get up, move around, and engage others in being active with you.”

For healthy Thanksgiving recipes, click here.

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