MountainStar Health - November 19, 2019

If Thanksgiving usually has you secretly loosening your belt before the pumpkin pie is served, you’re in good company—the average American consumes a whopping 3,500 calories with this dinner alone. While we’re not remotely suggesting that you diet on turkey day, wouldn’t it be nice if, just once, this tradition-blessed feast didn’t send your resolve spiraling down—and your weight soaring up—for the rest of the holidays? We know. We’ve been there. That's why we figured out a way to indulge in every course without breaking the 1,000-calorie barrier.

Go for turkey!

This part is easy. Turkey breast is already super lean: just 44 calories, one gram of fat, and no saturated fat per skinless ounce. Plus, the big bird is a great source of iron, zinc, potassium, and B vitamins. Registered Dietitian, Jessica Hargroder, says, “Choose your favorite cut of meat but stay away from the skin. Aim for a piece of meat that is close to the size of your palm or about 3oz.” Additionally, if you do cook a whole turkey, roast or bake it -- don't even go near a deep fryer.

Add gravy that has more flavor than fat

Two choices: make yours using low-fat, low-sodium broth rather than drippings from the roasting pan; or if drippings are a family requirement, stick them in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Chilling makes it easier to skim off fat before using the juices to make gravy.

Stuff your bird with whole grains

Bake the stuffing separately so it doesn’t soak up grease from the bird (safer, too, say the bacteria police—ensures that the stuff gets cooked all the way through). Instead of boring white bread crumbs, wow your guests with a whole-grain mixture. Try the slightly nutty flavor of quinoa, rice pilaf, or a bulgur stuffing with dried cranberries and hazelnuts. You won’t save calories, but you'll gain oodles of antioxidants plus fiber, iron, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins—and compliments.

Add a touch of green

Okay, green bean casserole may be retro-hip, but you can cut calories in half by boiling fresh beans until just tender and then seasoning them with just a touch of olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Sounds simple, but the flavor is amazing. Or add greens by making a cranberry and kale salad with roasted chunks of butternut squash!

Sweet potatoes are already sweet

Tone down the marshmallows, brown sugar, and butter. These root vegetables are delicious on their own. Hargroder recommends to, “Roast them in the oven with a brushing of butter and cinnamon to make a sweet, festive side dish that doesn’t take the place of deserts to come!”

Watch the liquid calories

Even tiny trimmings add up. For instance, one glass of white wine is about 120 calories. If certain beverages are special to your family’s celebration, pour a serving, savor it, then switch to water for the rest of the meal.

Try it all, by keeping portions small

Thanksgiving dinner entices our taste buds because there are so many things to try. Often our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. A typical meal may have one or two carb choices. Thanksgiving dinner may have 6! Hargroder says, “Remember, it doesn’t take a large amount of something to enjoy it. If you want to try several different dishes, serve portions that are only a few bites. This way you feel like you have partaken in all the dinner has to offer but without feeling overly stuffed afterwards.”

Oh my, don't skip the pie

Who wants to skip desert? No one, that’s who. “There are delicious, lighter deserts that can become the new Thanksgiving staples. Try making a pumpkin spice custard, apple cinnamon pecan crumble, or berry and cream parfait,” says Hargroder. These can deliver on flavor without making you feel like you need a 3 hour nap immediately afterward. 

No regrets. Feeling completely satisfied with a 981-calorie feast that still spells Thanksgiving with a capital T? Priceless. And there's a long-term payoff as well: maintaining a constant desirable weight, rather than roller-coasting through the holidays, can make your body feel six years younger.

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