Thanksgiving Dinner: Stuff the Turkey, Not Yourself - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on November 18, 2015

Thanksgiving Dinner: Stuff the Turkey, Not Yourself

The average American will consume 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat at Thanksgiving dinner alone.

Meeting with a registered dietitian may
help you avoid holiday weight gain.

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season, a time of the year where, no matter how busy our lives get, we make a concerted effort to get together with our friends and family. However, Thanksgiving is also often regarded as a feast to fill up your plate with turkey and side dishes multiple times until you’re more stuffed than the turkey.

It’s this philosophy about Thanksgiving that starts the notorious holiday weight gain. Most Americans gain at least one pound during the holidays, possibly more – the extra weight gained during the holidays often remains permanently. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American will consume 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat at Thanksgiving dinner alone.

However, making some different choices at Thanksgiving this year can help you avoid holiday weight gain without feeling deprived at the festivities. Here’s what you can do.

Eat Breakfast

Some people like fasting all day long on Thanksgiving to be able to eat as much food as possible at dinner. However, skipping breakfast to “save up” room and calories for your big meal can leave you feeling absolutely starving once your meal is served – this can cause you to eat more than you need and to eat more quickly, which can result in eating until you’re so full you don’t feel well and can trigger heart burn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Eating even a small meal for breakfast can prevent this starving feeling to give you more control over your appetite.

Get Active

Do something earlier in the day to get moving and create a calorie deficit before your big meal – you can get the whole family involved too. So many running clubs, fitness organizations and race organizers host special Thanksgiving turkey trots that give you the Thanksgiving holiday spirit and a good sweat. But it could also be something as simple as going for a walk early in the day and even again in between dinner and dessert.

Be Picky

Just because all the food is out on the table or buffet line for you to put on your plate doesn’t mean you have to eat everything. You may feel like you’ll be offending your host by doing this, but it’s likely no one will notice if you skip past one of the dishes. If you absolutely love a side dish that isn’t a healthy option, try skipping another side dish that isn’t your favorite.

You can also pick and choose what to put on your plate for a lower-calorie meal. For instance, white meat contains less fat than the dark meat of the turkey.

When it comes to choosing between the type of potatoes to dish onto your plate, sweet potatoes and white potatoes are considered nutritionally equal; however, sweet potatoes are typically creamed, candied and topped with marshmallows for Thanksgiving. In this case, mashed potatoes made with low-fat milk and a light dollop of butter is the lighter option.

If your Thanksgiving spread includes dinner rolls and stuffing, try picking just one of these breads to pair with your meal. But, if the stuffing was cooked inside the turkey, it will be loaded with fat and sodium.

When dessert is served, pumpkin pie might be the healthiest option (shocking, right?!) – it tends to contain fewer grams of fat, calories and sugar than pecan pie and other traditional Thanksgiving desserts.

Lighten Up

When you’re cooking, there are ways to lighten up some of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner dishes without compromising flavor. You can use fat-free chicken broth to make your stuffing, baste your turkey and make the gravy. You can also try using plain yogurt, fat-free sour cream or plain Greek yogurt in mashed potatoes, casseroles and creamy dips.

Eat More Slowly

It’s easy to get excited about the feast and eat quickly. However, if you slow down and savor your meal, you may find you’ll eat less – it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to send your brain the message that you’re full and can stop eating. Plus, eating more slowly and savoring your food can promote mental and emotional satiety. Plus, it improves your digestion.

And, remember, Thanksgiving isn’t just about the food – it’s a time to celebrate the relationships you have with family and friends. Make the main event the time you spend socializing, reminiscing and spending quality time together, not just what food is on the menu.

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