A tasty and healthy Thanksgiving? It’s possible with these easy tips.

Written by Siddhi Shroff, a registered dietitian at the UK Markey Cancer Center.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to enjoy great food in the company of friends and family. But it’s also an opportunity to overindulge when faced with a huge spread of the usual appetizers, side dishes and desserts.

The good news is it’s possible to enjoy your favorite holiday food and traditions while still making healthy choices. Here’s how:

1. Be smart about portions.

How much of each Thanksgiving dish should you eat? It can be tricky to balance all the different options without overindulging. Remember to eat until you are satisfied and not stuffed. And try using a smaller plate this year, as bigger plates can encourage you to grab more food and potentially eat more than necessary.

Here are a few easy ways to think about healthy portions this year:

  • Turkey: Aim for a palm-sized serving of white or dark meat.
  • Green vegetables: Take up to a baseball-sized serving of salad and other vegetable side dishes.
  • Stuffing, mashed potatoes and other starches: Try not to take more than a 1/2 cup of each, or a serving about the size of a scoop of ice cream.
  • Butter for rolls: A dice-sized serving should suffice.
  • Pie and dessert: Stay away from the big slices, and aim for a piece that’s about the size of a regular-sized light bulb.

2. Consider some healthy ingredient alternatives.

Food preparation is another great way to cut calories and incorporate healthier choices into your holiday meal. Try the following:

  • Cook with low-fat, low-sodium options and limit saturated fats. Use milk or Greek yogurt in recipes that call for heavy cream. Choose low-sodium broths, and cut the amount of cheese and butter in a recipe in half.
  • Choose whole-grain breads, grains, rice and pasta when making your favorite holiday staples. Try using whole-grain bread for your favorite stuffing recipe, or using whole-grain pasta or brown rice for any recipes or casseroles.
  • Consider adding vegetables to your favorite side dishes, such as casseroles, potatoes, pasta or rice.

3. Think twice about seconds.

Do you best to avoid going back for seconds.

If you’re craving a second serving, give yourself a little time to digest and feel full. Sticking to one serving can prevent you from feeling stuffed or bloated afterward.

4. Control your sweet tooth.

Limit the amount of sweets you consume to one treat or dessert. Splitting a dessert with a family member or friend is an easy way to cut calories in half.

5. Don’t skip other meals.

Skipping meals earlier in the day to “save room” for one big meal later is not a good idea. Continue to eat regular meals – including a healthy breakfast – and you will be less tempted to overeat once dinner is served.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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