10 Tips to 'Lighten the Load' on Thanksgiving

Amy Hendel | Nov 18th 2016 Jun 1st 2017

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If you read the HealthCentral.com article, “It Can Take Five Months to Lose Your Two-Month Holiday Weight Gain,” then you know that it’s a true challenge to avoid weight gain during the holiday season.  Here are 10 ways to reassess your Thanksgiving habits and your feast.

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Create new traditions with a 'lighter menu' approach

Spend time re-thinking your holiday menu. Change is good in this case, especially if most of the dishes are creamy, sugary, or full of salt. You have plenty of time now to choose some new dishes that are lighter in calories. Experiment ahead of time and taste-test them. A new menu with new dishes can be the start of new food traditions.

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A new spin on brussels sprouts

Make vegetable dishes the second “main event” this year. Halve Brussels sprouts before cooking, and some of the sulphur will release, making them less bitter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast lightly in the oven. Cool and add cubed apples and walnut pieces. Create an apple cider and cider vinegar sauce on the stovetop as a dressing.

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Try stuffed instead of sweet potatoes

Try a new potato dish this year. Bake whole russet potatoes, gently core out the center, and stuff them like you would a cored pepper. Make a mirepoix stuffing by cubing onions, carrots, and celery, and then browning them. Drizzle with turkey gravy, and you have a healthy side dish in lieu of candied sweet potatoes.

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Dress the cranberries

Instead of cranberry sauce from a can, make cranberry relish with apples, oranges, celery, and fennel. There are countless recipes to help you decide the best mix for your family. Preparing the cranberry dish this way will limit sugar and help to boost the nutrients. Make two versions — tart and sweet — with different fruits and vegetables.

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Bake the stuffing

Bake the stuffing outside of the turkey so it’s not absorbing all the fat calories during the cooking process. Use whole grain bread cubes or wild rice to boost the fiber. Go heavy on cubed vegetables and use vegetable broth. Or make it the traditional way but use small serving spoons.  Pick and choose treat dishes and watch portion size.

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A soup recipe swap-out

Creamy pumpkin or butternut squash soups are notoriously loaded with calories and saturated fat. Silken tofu, evaporated skim milk, or soy milk can lighten these recipes substantially. Serve in a cup, not a bowl. Then serve a salad. Your guests might then take smaller servings of all the other dishes.

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Go green bean healthy

Make a green bean casserole with olive oil, shallots, mushrooms, garlic, 1 percent milk, and light cheese. You can easily find recipes for this, and the low fat milk and light cheese help to lower the fat. A lighter meal means you can still enjoy a small piece of traditional dessert. 

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Lose the high-cal liquids

Limit liquid calories. Glasses of egg nog, wine, and liquor-based dessert drinks can add up to more than 1,000 calories. Go for flavored waters, unsweetened teas, and save a special drink served in small cups for dessert. Alcohol blurs the ability to feel full and can nudge an individual to overeat. And then be sure to send leftovers home with guests!