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Last-Minute Thanksgiving Health Tips

Natalie Stein
November 22, 2020
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Thanksgiving is upon us. If you are still figuring out how to celebrate it this year, you are not alone! Times seem different this year, and many of us have been caught off guard. 

Plus, millions of us are going to be breaking with our traditional routines due to COVID-19 concerns. That may mean we can’t do what we did last year. Finally, you may be trying to get healthier this year. That could be the result of the so-called COVID-15 (the 15 pounds people have gained during stay-at-home orders!), or due to health concerns.

Bottom line: If it is time to get serious about healthy Thanksgiving plans, we have what you’re looking for. These are some last-minute ideas for throwing together a healthier Thanksgiving. And great job keeping up with your health progress and using the proven power of Lark’s coaching to help make the long-term decisions that lead to a healthier life!

1. The Magic of Walking


It does not matter how rushed you feel. Taking a walk or doing some other sort of physical activity can make all of your holiday days better whether you spend your “You” time talking on the phone, listening to music, or planning your Thanksgiving Day in your head.

2. Enjoy the Turkey


Thanksgiving itself may normally be a high-calorie weight loss disaster, but ironically, it is not necessarily because of the iconic turkey. White and dark turkey meat is naturally high in protein, low in fat, and rich in minerals. To keep it in your calorie budget, you could consider removing the skin before eating the turkey. Also, portion size matters. 

3. Cooking? Use An Oven Bag


A oven bag may be life-changing if you have spent past Thanksgiving days basting a turkey for hours throughout the day. It is simply a large plastic bag that is able to be put in the oven without melting. It allows you to: 

  • Keep the turkey moist and juicy without basting or butter. 
  • Save your back by avoiding lifting the turkey out of and into the oven multiple times during cooking.
  • Save hours or more because cooking is faster and clean-up is easier.

Oven bags tend to come with instructions for any size turkey so it is easy to figure out for how long and at what temperature to cook it.

4. Serve Simpler Sides


It is easy to swap out high-calorie side dishes for quick, easy, and delicious ones. Focusing on vegetables is a good rule of thumb, whether you choose roasted brussels sprouts, sauteed green beans with almonds, or a simple fresh salad with greens, tomatoes, cucumber, and pears or any other fruit you have on hand.

Stuffing, or dressing, can be another diet-busting side with unnecessary calories and fat from butter and bread. Instead, using broth instead of butter to moisten it, adding extra vegetables such as mushrooms, celery, and onions, and swapping regular bread for whole-grain bread and/or cauliflower pieces, can make it healthier while keeping it satisfying. Baking it in a pan instead of inside the turkey can keep stuffing lower in fat.

Frozen vegetables such as green beans, broccoli, or cauliflower work well in casseroles. Low-fat cream of mushroom soup is lighter than full-fat soup or real cream, and chopped nuts can create a crunchy topping instead of fatty, starchy onion rings. Almost any combination of cooked vegetables goes well in casseroles with egg whites, with flavor coming from anchovies or strong cheese such as blue or parmesan.

5. Keep Spuds Healthy


Potatoes and sweet potatoes are naturally healthy and delicious, so why turn them into villains? Instead of butter-laden mashed potatoes, cauliflower cooked with broth and pureed with nutmeg, salt, and black pepper can do the trick.

Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet without adding marshmallows or brown sugar. They go great blended with silken tofu and cinnamon and topped with pecans, or sliced thin and topped with olive oil and salt before baking.

6. Monitor The “Extras”


Canned cranberry sauce has 200 calories and 50 grams of sugar per half-cup. Gravy can be heavy in fat and starch. Salad dressings can have 100 calories per tablespoon. The bottom line is that condiments can sabotage your efforts to keep Thanksgiving dinner under control.

Mustard is a great choice for adding flavor to your plate. If you love cranberry sauce, consider making your own from fresh or frozen cranberries, a bit of calorie-free sweetener, water and, if you like, some orange zest or cloves for additional flavor. As for salad dressings, having oil and vinegar on the side or purchasing light vinaigrette to serve on the side can save hundreds of calories, effortlessly.

7. Give Thanks


Do you remember what Thanksgiving is about? Pausing to give thanks can increase your awareness and make you a happier person. You can be grateful internally, or voice your gratitude to people who make your life better. The time you spend giving thanks will be more than worth it. Try making a list of the 10 things you’re most thankful for!

8. Serve A Healthier Dessert


Cinnamon, apples, and pecans are naturally healthy and delicious, so they make great ingredients for healthier desserts compared to pecan or apple pie. One idea is to toss oats, pecans, and a dash of sweetener such as stevia or monk fruit with olive oil. Then slice apples and stew them with some cinnamon and a bit of water. Serve the apples with the oat mixture.

9. Pare Down Desserts


There is no better way to save time than to prepare and serve fewer dishes, and what better way to cut calories than eliminating a few pies? It can help to select a single traditional dessert that is essential at your Thanksgiving dinner and serve only that. Every piece of pecan, apple, pumpkin, or sweet potato pie, or cheesecake, that you do not have saves 400 calories. 

If you do serve yourself the full-fat, full-sugar version of your favorite Thanksgiving dessert, consider having only half the usual portion size and avoiding extras such as whipped cream or ice cream with it.

Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health