Simple Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

The first of the large holiday dinners is a few days away. Mentioning Thanksgiving dinner and “healthy” in the same sentence usually makes people skeptical before I’ve even said anything. It must be something about the idea that healthy equals tasteless.

If you’re vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or just a healthy cook, you know this is far from true. Not only can healthy dishes be delicious, they can also impact everything from our health to our skin to our energy levels.

The way I see it, I’m getting one body to last me my whole life. I want to keep it as healthy and functioning as possible into old age. My goal is to be as agile as my 96-year-old grandmother, jumping up to dance whenever she gets the chance.

The challenge with healthy eating is to retain the taste while cutting back on the fat, calories, and sodium.

Here’s some simple tips for a healthier Thanksgiving feast:

Turkey: Instead of basting with butter, try basting your turkey with honey and a little soy sauce instead. This healthier recipe will give it the same beautiful color.

Stuffing: Use a whole-grain bread and vegetable stock. Cut back on the amount of bread and give it a hearty feel with more lightly sauteed vegetables like celery, leeks, mushrooms, and onions. Click here to try a new recipe.

Yams: Use smashed sweet potatoes roasted with honey and herbs like sage or rosemary. If you have to have your marshmallows, here’s a recipe that’s also gluten free!

Cranberries: Go with fresh cranberries and make your own sauce by adding in apples and orange juice. Take your pick from these yummy recipes.

Pies: Try a custard instead this year. It looks fancy and is a lighter version of the traditional heavy pies.

Another fascinating thing I hear this time of year is about gaining weight. So many of us seem resigned to the idea that weight gain is inevitable.

Let’s rethink this.

Dr. Susan Yanovski, Co-Director of the Office of Obesity Research at
the NIDDK, did some research on this very topic. Here’s what she found:

“One of the things we looked at over the course of our study was who gained more weight, and also how did people really prevent that weight gain. And we found a couple of things. One is that people who were already overweight or obese to start with, they were more likely to gain that five pounds or more over the holidays, so we need to recognize that if you’re already overweight, you’re at risk and you need to be a little bit more careful than the average person. The other thing we found that was very interesting is that it wasn’t how many parties you went to, how many calories you said you were taking in, but we found that people who said they were more active than usual over the holiday season, not only didn’t they gain weight, they ended up losing a little bit of weight. So it sounds like if you make an effort to increase your physical activity over the holidays, that might be one way to prevent that excess weight gain.”

Exercise and moderation is key, not just for this time of year, but all year long and all life long. This time of year is a great time to rethink our approach to eating, to exercise, and to improving our quality of life. You don’t have to have a tasteless, bland holiday dinner to be healthy. Just eat consciously and maintain your exercise program.

Make plans now to stay active over the holiday weekend. If you’re in the Walnut Creek area, join Honest Tea for the Turkey Trot Thursday morning or find one in your local area. I plan to incorporate some extra yoga into my schedule for both the physical and the mental benefits.

Last year I created a “Gratitude Box” for our family. As people arrived on Thanksgiving, they were handed slips of paper and asked to anonymously write something that they were grateful for, serious or silly. After dinner we all sat around and took turns reading them out loud. There were a lot of laughs as we guessed who wrote what, but it made me smile inside to see the underlying purpose of Thanksgiving surface for a few precious moments.

What are your favorite healthy Thanksgiving recipes? Share them in the comments below!