Many people get anxious about weight gain over the holiday season, fearing that their eating habits may spiral out of control. I want you to enjoy the upcoming season, so I’ll be sharing some tips over the next few months. You don’t want to throw your health goals out the window from November to December – you want to stay on track and avoid weight gain. But, don’t dwell on a day here or there that you overeat. When it comes to your eating habits, if you find yourself in a “I blew it!” mentality, don’t worry, just get back on track at the next meal. Keeping a journal this month may help you set some goals so you can avoid any end of the year weight gain.
I have a strategy for you: Enjoy eating over the holidays! Change your mindset. Don’t think of this or that food as “forbidden” or “bad for me”. Instead, give yourself permission to enjoy your favorites, but pay attention to your fullness cues. The beautiful thing about Thanksgiving – leftovers! You can always eat a bit more tomorrow, or try the other side dish you missed on Thursday, the next day. Of course, stick with a regular exercise routine too – Try to fit in 20-60 minutes of exercise daily, five days a week.
I surveyed a few colleagues for their favorite healthy Thanksgiving side dishes and for their best tips to stay sane and healthy this holiday season. Here’s what they had to say:
Jessica Corwin’s favorite Thanksgiving side dishes take her right back to her childhood and have now become holiday staples for her in-laws as well. “My top two include sweet potato casserole, topped with a decadent pecan and brown sugar topping, as well as Scalloped Corn (yes, made with Jiffy Mix cornbread topping). Both are absolutely rich and delicious, therefore you do not need very much to feel satisfied.” And, she notes, they both contain a vegetable! You can always lighten up the Corn Casserole by cutting the amount of butter and cheese in half. All the flavor, less calories.
Betsy Crisafulli suggests a Sweet Potato Casserole with Toasted Pecan Topping. “It’s straight up cooked (peeled) sweet potatoes, mashed, then thrown into a Pyrex dish and topped with brown sugar and pecan topping.” She leaves out the butter, and goes easy on the topping, but according to Betsy “It’s like candy, masked as a vegetable dish.”
For something different, Gail Nelson, MPH, RD, ACSM-CPT suggested roasting some small Brussels Sprouts. She prepares hers with olive oil, garlic, and salt. The roasting process brings out the natural sugars in the vegetable. “They taste like candy!”
Barbie Cervone’s favorite is roasted butternut squash with figs. “The smell warms up the whole house, its sweet, delicious and a healthy addition!”
Author and dietitian, Liz Ward says curb calories by fueling up right in the morning. Load up on protein and fiber at breakfast such as oatmeal prepared with low fat milk instead of water, and an egg. This high protein, high fiber duo will fill you up so you can avoid random snacking and overeating at dinner. As far as her favorite dish: “Mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top!” (I admit it too, I started making a small marshmallow-sweet potato casserole for my children when they were young. They loved it, and even my one teenager, still requests it! I figure a few mini marshmallows deliver a load of fiber and beta-carotene!).
“I just came upon this totally fabulous way to combine pumpkin and stuffing. It is delicious and you can vary it in so many ways.” says dietitian Sheila M Campbell. This dish was one of the pumpkin items recently featured at A La Carte Food Tours’ “Homage to the Great Pumpkin”.
Another thing to consider, is while you may have the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and stuffing on the menu, be sure to add one simple vegetable like steamed broccoli or green beans. “Green beans are so easy” says Alex Black. She suggests a simple green beans with almonds recipe. “They provide a nice addition to the table.”
And, if you’ve never made your own cranberry sauce, try it out this year! “I love a homemade cranberry-pear chutney“, says Melanie Zook. “It uses whole fresh cranberries & bosc pears. So much better than that can-shaped gel, and it’s pretty too!”
Bottom line? Dietitians aren’t the food police; we want you to enjoy Thanksgiving. Keep portions under control, add variety to your menu, and keep moderation in mind when planning your meal. It doesn’t hurt to take a nice long walk the next day too…