For millions of Americans, Thanksgiving represents a time of indulgence — often, overindulgence. And as much as we’d all like to tell ourselves otherwise, it’s not a one-day affair. Until after the first of the new year, there may be dozens of little events and excuses to consume more than you should, whether that means meals, alcohol, candy, or a combination of the three.
Combine these binges with being “too busy to exercise,” and you can easily put on 10, 15, or 20 pounds over the course of a few months. If you’ve worked hard to keep the fat off and don’t want to give ground for the holidays, then this article can provide useful advice — not just for Thanksgiving, but for the rest of the holidays.
Reimagining the Classic Thanksgiving Feast for a Healthier Celebration
The average American consumes 3,000 to 4,500 calories during a Thanksgiving meal. This single feast can represent double calorie-neutral consumption for some people and, at the very least, a significant increase for others.
There are several ways you can enjoy a great Thanksgiving meal without maximizing your calorie intake:
- Choose Favorites – If you don’t care for a particular dish, don’t eat it. There’s no sense wasting calories on something you don’t love.
- Take Smaller Portions – Thanksgiving dinner is usually served family style, meaning you can control your portions. Eat what you like, but take a little less of it.
- Drink Less – Most drinks (even light beer) contain at least 100 calories. Every time you fill your glass, think about how many calories you add to your diet.
- Make Lower-Calorie Dishes – We’re going to provide you with some excellent tips for making delicious, low-calorie meals.
Appetizers: Fresh and Nutritious Starters
If you’re trying to improve the healthiness of your Thanksgiving meals and reduce calories, appetizers are a great first line of attack. Many families forgo this course since there are so many sides involved in the dinner itself, but it’s nice to give your guests something to snack on while they enjoy the smell of turkey roasting and pies baking. Here are a few suggestions for appetizers.
- Fresh Vegetable Platter – You can purchase these premade at a grocery store or get some fresh produce and prep the platter the night before.
- Deviled Eggs – Deviled eggs are high in protein. You can reduce the calorie count by using light mayonnaise in the yolk filling.
- Apple Chips – Two flavors that exemplify fall are apple and cinnamon, and this appetizer has both. Use a mandolin to slice the apples to about the thickness of a potato chip, coat them with cinnamon, and cook in the oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. When they cool, they take on the texture of a potato chip.
- Roasted Artichoke Hearts – You can buy precut quarter or half artichokes, coat them with olive oil, season them, and cook them in an oven preheated to 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Main Courses: Wholesome Twists on Traditional Favorites
The main course is the downfall of many otherwise healthy and light Thanksgiving meals. Here are a few ways you can cut the calories without drastically reducing your portions.
You will definitely want to give up any plans to deep fry the turkey if you want to keep it healthy and light. Self-basting turkeys sometimes have added fat to make them moister, but that can drive up the calorie count. Instead of stuffing your turkey with a bread-based dressing, you can fill the cavity with onions, apples, herbs, and seasoning. It will make a delicious alternative to heavy stuffing.
Gravy is traditionally made with turkey stock, but turkey gravy is high in fat, cholesterol, and calories. You can find many recipes for vegetable oil gravy online that taste fantastic and will reduce all three of those factors.
Many mashed potato recipes call for butter and heavy cream, which makes them extremely fattening. You can substitute these ingredients with low-fat versions to lessen the calorie impact or serve oven-roasted golden baby potatoes.
Green Bean Casserole
Many green bean casserole recipes call for cream-based soups, which are heavy and highly caloric, and milk. You can significantly reduce the calories of this otherwise healthful dish by using reduced-fat or skim milk and avoiding recipes that call for cream of mushroom soup, for instance.
Desserts: Indulgent Yet Guilt Free Finishes
If you have room for dessert — and let’s face it, most of us will find the room, you can avoid a lot of the extra calories by making these choices:
- Avoid topping your dessert off with whipped cream, or if you absolutely have to have it, use light whipped cream.
- With all other things being equal, fruit-based desserts are better than chocolate or cream-based desserts. In other words, if you aren’t sure of the calorie content, choose apple, cherry, blueberry, or pumpkin pie over lemon meringue or chocolate cream. All of these are high in calories, but there are nutrients and fiber in fruit-based pies.
- Take the smallest piece or cut it in half. If you make a clean cut, no one will mind taking the other half.
- Leave the pie crust. If you don’t like the flaky dryness of pie crust, leave it.
Here are a few healthy desserts you can serve in lieu of some of the more traditional Thanksgiving favorites.
- Fruit Cocktail – Fruit has calories, and in some cases, a lot of calories. However, most fresh fruit is laden with water. In addition to the nutrients you get from fruit, your body will process the water and make you feel lighter.
- Yogurt Parfait – You can make a serving of yogurt parfait that has as little as 150 calories per serving. Even if you buy your parfait from the dairy section at your local grocery store, it’s going to be lighter than a large piece of pie.
- Low-Cal Pies – Find a pumpkin pie recipe that calls for reduced sugar, low-fat milk, fresh fruit, and other calorie-saving ingredients. Use a graham cracker pie crust, and you’ll be a hero to anyone who suffers from gluten intolerance. Just remember to use other gluten-free ingredients.
Beverages: Refreshing and Light Drink Options
If you’re serving wine, learn about which vintages have the lowest calories. Pinot Grigio and Riesling are sweeter wines but have much fewer calories per serving than cabernet sauvignon or merlot. It can be as much as 30 or 40 calories per glass. Light beers generally have 30 to 40 fewer calories than their same-brand counterparts. Vodka has only 64 calories per ounce, while rum has almost 100.
Of course, if you’re serving coffee, you should offer artificial sweetener and light creamer to your guests. Have diet soda options available for both mixers and non-alcoholic beverages.
Advice For Healthy Holidays
If you find that you don’t have the willpower to resist overeating at Thanksgiving, or if you are a guest and you feel your one healthy Thanksgiving recipe won’t make enough of a difference, there are other things you can do to help mitigate the holiday damage.
Practice Good Health Habits During Off Days
Even though there are many celebrations during the holidays, they aren’t perpetual. If you are anticipating overdoing it on Thanksgiving, make sure you have a disciplined week before and after. Make sure that you schedule your exercise around your busy schedule so you don’t skip workouts.
Go For a Walk
Taking a walk in the morning or after dinner will burn a surprising amount of calories. Many people make a tradition of a Thanksgiving morning run in order to burn off some extra calories.
Drink Lots of Water
Even healthy Thanksgiving recipes may contain higher amounts of sodium, which means you need to drink extra water. Many beverages are diuretics. But water will also make you feel fuller, so you’ll be less likely to want second helpings and extra dessert.
Separate Food and Drink
Rather than drinking caloric beverages as you eat, drink water with your meal and save the drinks for before and after. This will help to stretch out your calorie intake over a longer period of time.
Is it Time to Consider Laser Lipolysis?
If you’ve been struggling with reducing your waistline or you have accumulated excess fat in certain areas of your body, you may need some additional help to achieve your ultimate form. Laser lipolysis is a safe, non-invasive process that targets fat cells in specific regions of the body.
Emerald Laser by Erchonia is a low-intensity or “cool” laser system that shows results in a few weeks, with full results in about 12 weeks. The system targets fat cells with ten 532 nanometer lasers, which bore tiny holes through the walls of fat cells. The lasers simultaneously heat the lipids within the cells, which drain through the newly-created pores. Emerald laser is:
- Safe – In fact, it’s the only laser system recommended for individuals with a BMI over 30.
- Painless – The low-intensity lasers do not produce the stinging sensation of other systems.
- Fast – The sessions take less than 30 minutes and can be scheduled before or after work or on your lunch break.
- Effective – In double-blind studies, Emerald was shown to reduce the body circumference of most participants.
- Convenient – There is no downtime after a laser treatment. Patients can immediately resume normal activities following a session.
Thanksgiving dinner and the holidays can be an irresistible temptation for many of us. If you do happen to overeat, don’t beat yourself up over it. You can resume your healthy lifestyle the next day. And if you’re unable to rid yourself of a few extra pounds, consider contacting an Emerald Laser provider near you.