Sarah Remmer: The Non-Diet Dietitian


Nine Ways to Make Thanksgiving A Little Healthier

Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a food free-for-all

Thanksgiving is not only a time to connect with family and friends and remind ourselves of how thankful we are, but also a time to enjoy our favorite comfort foods—turkey, stuffing, potatoes, yams, gravy, roasted veggies, pumpkin pie...mmmm. What I find though, is that people tend to over-indulge during the holidays, and end up feeling guilty and regretful, which takes away from the enjoyment of these wonderful foods and, well, the entire experience. You really don't have to stuff yourself to savour these delicious foods—trust me! Stuff your turkey instead and read on...

Here are nine ways to enjoy Thanksgiving foods in a healthy and mindful way:

1. Don't save up: Don't bother skipping any meals or snacks before your Thanksgiving dinner—you'll end up overeating if you do. Make sure to have a healthy and balanced breakfast and lunch, and make sure to have a healthy snack 2-3 hours before your Thanksgiving dinner. This way, you'll feel in control when you serve up at dinner. 

2. Include lots of veggies: Veggies are filling but do not contain many calories (unless of course they are drenched in a creamy sauce or butter). If you are preparing Thanksgiving dinner, make sure that there are 2-3 veggie dishes for people to choose from. If you are a guest, offer to bring a veggie dish that you like. Try to fill at least one third (I aim for half) of your plate with veggies that you enjoy. 

3. Don't plan to over-indulge and restrict later: This way of thinking is closely related to the "yo-yo dieting" mentality and frankly, is a recipe for weight gain over time. If you allow yourself a moderate portion of each food that you love, while being mindful of not over-stuffing yourself, you shouldn't have to over-indulge to enjoy your meal. And you shouldn't have to restrict your food intake the next day because of it. 

4. Keep up with your activity: Even though you may not be as active as you usually are because of social commitments, you can still fit a brisk walk, a quick trip to the gym, or a yoga class on Thanksgiving weekend. A tradition in my family is to get together in the morning for a long walk while the turkey cooks. 

5. Use a smaller plate or bowl: Use a lunch-size plate (or imagine a lunch size plate on top of your dinner plate) when you serve up. Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and because many of us are programmed to eat to completion, we eat what we serve ourselves, regardless of how full we are. c

6. Don't eat for the sake of eating: Sometimes when there is delicious food hanging around, as it tends to during a holiday weekend, it's hard not to eat, eat and it some more, regardless of whether or not you're actually hungry. Sometimes we eat because we see food, sometimes it's because we see others eat it, and sometimes it's just...because. Try to be mindful of why you're eating this weekend. 

7. Slow down and tune into your hunger cues: During Thanksgiving dinner, slow down to taste your food and savour it. Allow your body to digest by taking mini-breaks and reflect on your own personal hunger scale. When you reach comfortable fullness (full and satisfied but not stuffed), evaluate whether or not you want to keep going. You could, but why?! You can always enjoy your leftovers the next day in the form of Toasted Turkey Sandwiches, which in my opinion are the best part of Thanksgiving. 

8. Watch the alcohol: Alcohol, as delightful as it is, contains calories. Quite a few actually. One beer or one small glass of wine contains roughly 120-150 calories. Have 3-4 drinks and you've got yourself a meals worth of calories in alcohol alone! 

9. Cut back where you won't miss it anyway:  We tend to eat more if there is more variety. Think of a buffet—you likely eat more than usual when there are hundreds of items to choose from. Although you may be tempted to sample every single food that is presented to you this weekend, stick to the foods that you know you really enjoy and leave the ones that you don't care for. That way, you can eat without feeling deprived but not waste your time (or calories) on foods that you wouldn't normally choose anyway. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!