Diet-Friendly Thanksgiving Tips

Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008

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With Thanksgiving, glorious Thanksgiving, only a week away, I thought I would share some of my time-tested weight management tips.  Thanksgiving dinner can be a healthy meal, if you approach it sensibly, and it only comes once a year, so I think you should enjoy it.  But don’t let it sabotage your weight management plan, either.

Figure Out Those Calories!

Are you wondering how many calories will be in your Thanksgiving dinner?  You’ve got to try this very cool Thanksgiving dinner calorie calculator.  It’s eye-opening!  Just check the boxes and you’ll get the sum.  It also tells you how much you’ll need to walk to burn off the calories you ate at dinner.   So useful!  Then you can make some informed decisions about where you’ll splurge and where you’ll cut calories.  I know I will!

Would you please share your tips, as well?  I’m trying to lose weight and I need all the help I can get.

Before the meal…

I exercise!  I find exercise energizes me, and if I exercise for at least an hour a couple of hours before a meal, then I eat less and I feel more satisfied than when I don’t exercise.   It’s definitely the number one way I have found to eat sensibly.

On Thanksgiving morning, I may take a brisk walk with my family (stopping for some good stretches halfway through) and do some moderate cardio step, squats, lunges, and free weights while watching the Thanksgiving Parade on TV.  Anytime I start to watch a TV program these days, I pick up my weights and do some bicep curls and squats!

Sometimes people offer you alcohol before a meal, or a soft drink, with appetizers.  I find that drinking even a little alcohol lowers my inhibitions and I eat more (especially if it’s something yummy, like cheese and crackers).  So, I drink seltzer water with a little cranberry juice and lime.  It looks festive, it’s yummy, it’s good for you, and it’s very low in calories. If I stick to crudites (25 calories) instead of mixed nuts (don’t ask) and 1 little bit of cheese (70 calories), that will not be too bad.

I’m sorry but if you are trying to lose weight, like I am, you have to forget about egg nog. I am not even going to tell you how many calories are in it.

These days, if I imbibe, I have one glass of wine (120 calories) with a meal.  And I drink a lot of water. That seems to work for me.

Preparing and enjoying the meal…

Portion control can be hard at Thanksgiving.  SO hard! There’s so much to try, and it all smells delicious.  Since it’s often just me and my son, we go out to a restaurant that offers a plated dinner rather than a buffet, so I won’t be tempted to over-eat.  It’s often more economical than trying to make our own dinner, and there are no leftovers to tempt me!  Otherwise, I am sure I would be sneaking into the kitchen to snitch leftover stuffing all night 🙂

This year, I’m visiting relatives, so I know they will help me keep on track.  I hope!

I have found lots of ways to prepare and enjoy the traditional meal and still cut calories, without feeling deprived.  For example, I mash  potatoes with buttermilk (about 80 calories a serving).  It doesn’t need butter and it saves fat and calories.  Throw in a garlic clove while cooking the potatoes and mash that in, too, or some chives, if you want a little extra flavor.

I use powdered mix or canned turkey gravy instead of making my own from drippings. I don’t know why, but the fat and calories are much less in these easy-to-prepare gravies, about 25 calories a serving (instead of 150 calories).  I don’t mind the taste, so this works for me. Sure the home-made tastes better — but the store bought kind seems healthier.

I adore stuffing but I make it with chicken stock instead of butter.

It’s just the cold, hard truth that you will save 200 calories a serving if you eat steamed green beans instead of green bean casserole.  I hate to break it to you, but there you go.  I know. I love it, too.

You do have to watch cranberry sauce.  Who would think?  It looks so innocent on the table.  But a 1/4 cup serving of the canned version has 110 calories.  That’s a lot for a condiment.  So I will have have just a teaspoon of that.

Same with rolls.  Love the hot rolls at Thanksgiving.  But I only have one, with a little butter (150 calories or so). Fortunately, they’re usually small.

For dessert, I love pecan pie — but I have given it up because it just has too many calories (480! calories).  So I choose my second favorite, pumpkin pie (180 calories), instead.  No way, no how am I piling on 400 extra calories just to have pecan pie for dessert.  I allow myself a liberal amount of spray whipped cream, because it only has about 15 calories.  And I don’t eat the crust.  The crust is where a lot of the fat and calories are, and I don’t miss it.

How do you keep your diet on track during Thanksgiving?  Will you be working out on Turkey Day?


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