A Healthier, TASTY Thanksgiving

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • I’ve written many columns about Thanksgiving over the years.  Some of the past articles explored holiday stress and managing your feelings, while others featured recipe swap outs, helping you to reduce the fat, sugar or salt levels in recipes. 


    In 2010, my blog was all about acknowledging the struggle with balance during the holiday.  In 2011, I tried to offer ways to “splurge” on the holidays, while avoiding weight gain.  Both columns are still very relevant and offer a wonderful variety of tips for recipe interventions, healthy behaviors, smart party-planning and buffet strategies, as well as ways to manage difficult relationship situations that typically present during the holidays. 

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    Some recent recipe finds of mine include a delicious Beet and Apple salad that includes pistachios, horseradish and thyme.  Why not offer a “creamy” vegetable side dish that uses pureed macadamia nuts for the cream?  By the way, you can also puree other nuts, like walnuts with water to create a creamy base, or use evaporated skim milk or Greek yogurt as a swap out for a creamy ingredient in some recipes.  Why not make a refreshing fruit sorbet for dessert made with melons?  Using buttermilk and a very small amount of butter allows you to create a succulent roasted chicken


    One of the easiest recipes I make is roasted vegetables, which simply requires an array of vegetables (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and small onions), mixed with fresh peeled garlic cloves, toassed with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and the tiniest dash of sea salt.  I roast the vegetables on cooking sheets for about 40 minutes at 450 degrees.  I also mix Greek non-fat yogurt with chopped apples and cinnamon and top with dark chocolate chips for a healthy dessert parfait. 


    If you are going to splurge on your main course, then your side dishes and dessert should be a bit lighter.  Or enjoy a healthy turkey or chicken dish, and then splurge on a dessert or side dish.  The point is to make choices.  If you are also celebrating Chanuka, remember that you can bake the tradtitional potato latkes or bake sweet potato latkes.  If you do decide to fry the latkes, use soybean (vegetable) or canola oil since these polyunsaturated oils help to lower LDL, while not affecting HDL levels of cholesterol.


    The mantra for the holiday season should be to pick and choose your treats, and mindfully compensate with healthy food choices at other meals, and with daily fitness.  Don’t abandon fitness during the holidays, just find moments to fit in small bouts of vigorous activity, and consider finding time to do about 30 minutes of interval training to burn more calories in less time.  Walk as much as possible and don’t turn to food as stress therapy.  Holidays are a great time to gather the family in the kitchen, preparing and cooking healthier dishes together. 


    One serving tip that will help everyone’s waistline is to only serve fruit, salad and vegetable dishes family style.  All other offerings like the turkey, the stuffing, and any creamy or sweet side dishes should be placed on a buffet table or go back in the kitchen.  If you or your guests want more, the effort of having to “go get it” may discourage over-eating.  Another tip is to make sure to give away leftovers in small containers or bags marked with the name of the dish and the date, because no matter how much willpower you have, you will not win against the “call of the leftovers.”


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    Have a wonderful holiday!!


    Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant, Health Coach, journalist and host of Food Rescue, Simple Smoothies and What’s for Lunch?  Author of Fat Families, Thin Families and The 4 Habits of Healthy Families, she tweets health headlines daily @HealthGal1103.  Catch her guest appearances on local and national news and talk shows, and check out her website.  Follow my blogs.


Published On: November 23, 2013