How to Build a Better Thanksgiving Plate

Kim T Blog

Thanksgiving - it doesn't have to be a nutritional disaster. Traditional Thanksgiving foods can actually come together to form a decently healthy meal. It's the heavier side dishes and desserts that are more indulgent. All in all, it is a holiday, and this meal only comes once a year, so you should be able to enjoy the meal and not worry about how it will affect your waistline (one meal will NOT), but knowing which foods you should be loading most of your plate with, and which you should enjoy a few bites of, will make the meal healthier.

Do not fast all day

One of the worst things you can do is fast all day in anticipation for the big feast. You will be so starving by the time you sit down that you will most definitely over eat...and then keep eating until you are uncomfortable. Eat light meals throughout the day before, with protein and fiber to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your hunger at bay. "Spoil your appetite" just a bit.

Load your plate with protein and veggies - and eat them first

Load up the majority of your plate with protein and vegetables. Skinless turkey is high in protein and will fill you up quickly and keep you full longer. If you're in charge of some cooking, contribute a side of roasted vegetables and fill your plate with them. The fiber will also fill you up with low calories and  lots of vitamins & minerals that your body will be thankful for. Eat most of the protein and veggies first before moving on to the sides, you'll find you won't be as hungry for as much of the heavy side dishes.

Sample the side dishes

Side dishes is where the calories really rack up - stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, etc - and you might feel tempted to just take a heaping serving of everything. At least start by taking just a small scoop of each side dish that you would like. That way you allow yourself to have a little bit of everything that you want, but it is more controlled. Skip the side dishes you don't care for too much and just choose from your favorites. Know that you can always go back for more if you really want to afterwords.

Go easy on the gravy

Gravy adds a nice touch to the meal, and we usually don't think of it as "food"- but it IS a source of many calories. Most of gravy consists of turkey fat and flour to thicken, and it is often very salty. So to avoid piling on a ton of calories and sodium, use just enough to add the flavor and texture to your food, and avoid drowning your plate in it.

Drink lots of water

Every try to put on your shoes after Thanksgiving dinner and they feel a little too snug? It's the sodium. Be sure to drink a lot of water to flush out all the excess salt you'll be consuming.

Eat Slowly

We hear it all the time, and it doesn't sound THAT important, but it is backed by research that if we chew and eat slower, we consume significantly less food. You also ENJOY the meal more when you eat slower, and therefore you will feel more SATISFIED with smaller portions. P.S., it will also be much easier to eat slowly if you're not ravenous by the time you sit down, so all the more reason not to "save all your calories" for dinnertime.

Again, remember that if you are eating healthy consistently, this one meal will not derail your progress. Enjoy the holiday, turn the main focus away from the food and focus more on your family, friends, and gratitude.