November 22, 2004
This week is Thanksgiving
once again. For many this means a big feast filled with comfort
foods. The burning question in your mind may not be: "How
can I make Thanksgiving dinner more healthful?" Then again,
you may be wondering just that.
"How can I make
Thanksgiving dinner more healthful? With a main dish of lean poultry
and a traditional dessert made from squash, you wouldn't think
this would be so difficult. But estimates of the calories in the
traditional Thanksgiving dinner range from anywhere to 2,000 to
4,500, depending on what you put on the plate. Given that people
of average size who get moderate activity should average between
1,600-2,400 calories per day, by any standards this is a hefty
Counting calories may
not be what you are looking forward to this holiday season; it
also may not be entirely necessary. Just a few things to keep
"The secret to having
your cake and eating it too is moderation. Make sure you create
a plan ahead of time. We all know we will eat a little bit (or
in some cases a lot)
more than we typically do Thursday; so, mathematically we have
to allow for this meal. If you want to maintain your weight and
still eat that meal, you have to exercise ten minutes more each
day this week to justify the additional calories you will be consuming.
... Another good behavior is to eat normally before the 'big meal.'
If you starve all day in an attempt to save up all the calories
for the one meal, you will most likely be so hungry by the time
you sit down that you will overeat. ... Remember, controlling
your weight through the holidays is all about moderation, not
deprivation. Once you begin to feel like you are depriving yourself,
you will begin to binge. It's okay to taste all of the delicious
food you look forward to this time of year: That should be enough
to satisfy any craving."
Exercise ten extra minutes
a day, don't starve yourself beforehand, and it's okay to taste
a little bit of everything. That doesn't sound like too much to
ask for a healthier day filled with less guilt. Also, try not
to think of Thanksgiving as an isolated day. Try to balance your
food intake over a few days.
Ph.D., an associate professor at The University of Texas Health
Science Center at San Antonio, says even the strictest dieters
can indulge in the holiday feast -- if they just balance their
calories like a bank book. 'You can actually budget for your Thanksgiving
dinner -- eat less the day before, so your calorie intake will
even out over a two-day period,' Dr. Mobley said."
This doesn't mean you
should go into the meal starving and ready to inhale two days
worth of calories in one sitting.
"Don't skip meals.
This will just make you hungrier, you'll eventually eat more and
your metabolism will slow down. Drink lots of water to help satisfy
hunger and keep you energized. Limit alcohol consumption to avoid
empty calories and a loss of inhibition. Get extra exercise, enough
sleep (7-8 hours is optimal) and eat plenty of nutritious fruits
Drink lots of water,
and eat healthy snacks. It's not just about the quantity, but
the quality of the food is also important.
lots of potential for making Thanksgiving dinner lighter and much
more healthful. Turkey is one of the leanest meats around. Both
sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie are great sources of beta carotene.
White potatoes, even if they're mashed and served with gravy,
aren't a bad source of potassium...."
Even with all those healthy
foods on the table, 3,000 to 4,000 calories of anything is not
recommended for most people in one meal.
"Are you ready to
start a new Thanksgiving tradition? ...
[T]his healthier option has a total of 826 calories, 11 grams
of fat and 989 milligrams of sodium per serving...."
With some basic changes
to how each dish is prepared, you can keep each of the traditional
foods, but only keep a fraction of the calories and fat. For those
seeking alternatives to the traditional turkey; or for those wanting
to try new things:
"...You don't have
to include a stuffed turkey with your Thanksgiving fare. Instead,
try a meatless meal that celebrates the season's harvest -- fresh
fruits and vegetables and hearty whole grains. This menu has a
total of 926 calories, 23 grams of fat and 515 milligrams of sodium
Links to healthy (both
traditional and vegetarian) Thanksgiving recipes can be found
at the above link. To find out how these recipes compare to those
they are intended to replace, you can view their "Nutritional
breakdown per serving" at:
Questions of the Week:
If you have no control over the menu, what can you do to have
a healthier, yet enjoyable, holiday? What choices can you make
that day? What choices can you make throughout the week? If you
have some influence over what is included on the menu -- and/or
how things are cooked -- what are some simple changes that you
would want to try in order to provide healthier options? How could
you present new ideas and suggestions in a way that your family
and/or friends would be more willing to try some different foods
-- or some foods prepared a little differently? What changes would
you not want to make? What would you say to friends or family
members who were uninterested in making any changes either to
the food offered, or how they chose to approach the meal? Why?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum