Healthier Choices at Thanksgiving

Healthier Choices at Thanksgiving

There is no avoiding the temptation of holiday foods. While it may seem that everything is loaded with calories, unhealthy fat, and sugar, even a small effort to pick something more nutritious can make a big difference. Use these tips to help you navigate the food table and make healthier choices at Thanksgiving.

Roasted Turkey vs. Fried Turkey

Choosing roasted turkey saves both calories and fat. When making roasted turkey, healthier fats, such as olive oil, and fresh herbs are used to give the meat flavor. In fried turkey, additional flavors come from the fat used during frying. Frying foods uses refined oils and, because the bird is left in contact with the oil, there is more fat per serving. Whichever turkey you choose, stick with the white meat for a leaner source of protein.

Vegetables vs. Casseroles

Casseroles are notorious for unhealthy ingredients such as high-sodium canned soups and high-fat processed cheeses. Choosing roasted or sauteed vegetables that have not been doused with butter or cream sauces will save you calories and saturated fat.

Mashed Potatoes vs. Sweet Potatoes

While sweet potatoes are more nutritious than white potatoes, the large amount of butter in sweet potato casserole makes it not much better for you than mashed white potatoes. Traditional holiday preparations of sweet potatoes are also plagued with added sugar in the form of brown sugar, syrup, or marshmallows. Make sweet potatoes your dessert or skip them altogether. If you are preparing the sweet potatoes, make them healthier by blending the potatoes with low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock in place of the excess butter and cream.

Fresh Cranberry Relish vs. Cranberry Sauce

Fresh cranberries can be chopped in a food processor with ingredients like orange juice, orange zest, herbs, and unsalted nuts for an easy relish or cranberry salsa. A sprinkle of sugar will tame the tartness and allow you to consume much less than what is found in a traditional cranberry sauce.

Rolls vs. Biscuits and Muffins

Most rolls are simply made with yeast, water, flour, and salt. They don’t become high in fat or sugar until butter or honey is added at the table. Whole grain rolls can even provide a little fiber to your meal. Similar offerings, such as cheese biscuits and corn muffins, have extra fat due to butter and eggs. If you don’t want to skip this side altogether, choose a whole grain roll over other options.

Pumpkin Pie vs. Pecan Pie

The nuts, syrup, and butter in pecan pie causes both the calories and fat content to soar. While pumpkin pie still contains fat and sugar, it is a lower calorie choice. You can save even more calories by choosing a crustless pumpkin pie or stick with a simple pumpkin pudding.

Spritzers vs. Cocktails

Spritzers are made by adding club soda to an ounce or two of 100% fruit juice. It makes a festive drink without excess calories from alcohol. If you do choose to have an alcoholic drink, use club sodas and flavored, unsweetened sparkling waters to your advantage. Make a white wine spritzer, or use sparkling beverages to top off your drink instead of using high-sugar, pre-made cocktail mixers.

Healthy Ways to Prepare for a Holiday Meal

Healthy Ways to Prepare for a Holiday Meal

Commit to a morning workout

There is no reason to miss out on holiday meals. Your eating and exercise patterns leading up to a big celebration can allow you to enjoy special foods and drinks without ruining your fitness plan.

Commit to your morning workout.

The calories burned during exercise add up to offset the extra calories you eat. Sticking with your workouts helps control weight gain during the holiday season. Don’t skip workouts on the days you have planned celebrations. Also avoid putting off exercise until later in the day. It’s much too easy for last-minute invitations or errands to steal the time you’d planned to spend at the gym. A morning workout will guarantee you fit it in.

Lighten up for a few days.

Lightening up doesn’t mean skipping meals to prepare for overeating. It does mean making smart food choices that are satisfying and dense in nutrients. Choose more fruits, vegetables and lean protein to get the nutrients you need and to keep you feeling full. Limiting carbohydrates and fat will give you more wiggle room in your eating plan to enjoy favorite holiday foods.

Keep stress to a minimum.

You can’t avoid stress completely, but you can take steps to control how you react to stressful situations. You might be nervous to attend a party or feel overwhelmed with all you have to do. These feelings can lead to overeating. Stress also impacts sleep in a way that can lead to hormonal imbalances, hunger, and cravings. Identify what is stressing you out, and take steps to resolve it. Incorporate stress-relieving activities like meditation and regular exercise.

Set boundaries.

Don’t go to a party or attend a dinner buffet without giving some thought to your game plan. Set rules for yourself and stick to them. Enjoy one cocktail, choose dessert over an appetizer, or skip the dinner rolls and have a small scoop of mashed potatoes. By creating balance with your meal and making trade-offs for those things you want to enjoy, you can stay in control of your calorie intake and weight loss.

Mushroom and Brown Rice Stuffing

Mushroom and Brown Rice Stuffing Recipe

Stuffing is a traditional holiday dish that is often loaded with refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fat. This version has the familiar flavors, but replaces some of the bread with lower-calorie, protein-rich mushrooms and brown rice for extra fiber.

Yield: 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 20 minutes


1 tbsp olive oil

¾ cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups sliced white button mushrooms

3 ½ cups whole grain bread cubes

1 cup unsalted chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup cooked brown rice

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ tsp poultry seasoning

½ tsp fine ground sea salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper


In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stir in the mushrooms and cook for 5 to 7 more minutes, until all vegetables are browned and softened.

Reduce the heat to low and add the bread cubes. Pour in the stock and stir to saturate the bread, breaking it up into small pieces. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking dish, about 10 x 7 inches, with non-stick cooking spray.

Stir the cooked rice, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper into the skillet.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish and press firmly to smooth the surface. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is browned and edges are crisp. Serve warm.

Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 156; Total Fat 3.9 g; Saturated Fat 0.6 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 272 mg; Carbohydrate 26.3 g; Fiber 3.5 g; Sugar 4.7 g; Protein 5.7 g; Vitamin A 214 IU; Vitamin C 5.9 mg; Calcium 45 mg; Iron 1.8 mg

Ways to Avoid Overeating

Ways to avoid overeating

Take advantage of what you can control.

During the holidays, we are constantly offered unhealthy meals and high-calorie desserts. Healthy eating may seem impossible, but the truth is, you have more control than you think. On the days you have parties to attend, take special care to eat healthily before and after those events. Meals should be low-calorie and loaded with fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. Limit snacking, and choose a healthy smoothie instead of a pastry for breakfast on the days you have social events. Taking control of the times you are not celebrating can help you avoid holiday weight gain.

Apply the one trip rule.

Make a second trip to the food table off limits. Carefully look over the selection, and take only those foods that are special to the occasion. By limiting yourself to one plate of food, you exercise portion control. Keeping portions in check will allow you to enjoy a few of your favorite foods without consuming too many calories.

Think in bites.

It’s natural to want a little bit of everything when you are faced with numerous options. In order to enjoy more without excess calories, think of each serving you take in bites. Take only a spoonful that requires two to three bites to finish. When you slow down your eating and mindfully consume your meal, you will find that you are satisfied with these few bites, and you will keep yourself from becoming uncomfortably full.

Fill up on fiber.

Fiber-rich foods keep you feeling full and reduce the urge to snack on leftover cookies and candies. Fill your plate with salads, roasted vegetables, and choose whole grains.

Stay hydrated.

Keep your water bottle handy throughout the day, and make sipping a regular practice. Often when we let ourselves get thirsty, it can present itself as hunger and lead to mindless snacking. With so many extra treats around this time of year, this can put you at risk for blowing your calorie budget.

Training the Triceps

Training the Triceps

The triceps are the muscles that extend along the back of the upper arm. Exercises that effectively train the three main areas of the muscle are essential to strengthen and tone it. Training these muscles does not require a big time investment, and there are many exercises that require no equipment. The American Council on Exercise conducted research to evaluate the most effective triceps exercises. For the best results, include these moves in your training plan.

Triceps Dips

The dip requires only a sturdy bench or chair. Another challenging exercise that uses your body weight, you may find it difficult to lower completely. Begin with a small movement and increase the range of motion as you get stronger. You can also make the move more difficult by extending your legs out in front of you and resting your heels on the floor.

Sit on the bench and grip it with your hands at each side of your hips. Walk your legs out slightly so that your bottom comes off of the bench. With legs bent and feet flat on the floor, lower your bottom as you bend at the elbows. Lower just until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and then push back up to the starting position.

Benches and chairs have a tendency to slide during dips, so it’s important to push them against a wall before beginning.

Triangle Push-up

Rated the top triceps exercise, researchers believe the use of body weight is what makes this move so effective. It’s difficult to use momentum to carry the movement, meaning you are engaging your muscles more with each repetition.

Get into a push-up position on your hands and toes. Move your hands to the center of the floor, under your chest, so that your index fingers and thumbs touch to form a triangle. Keep your body in a straight line as you bend at the elbows and lower your chest towards the floor. Push back up to the starting position and repeat.

This is a challenging exercise so it is best to begin on your knees and move to your toes only after you grow stronger. You may also find that you can lower only a little at first. As you gain strength, it will become easier to lower yourself closer to the floor.

Triceps Kickbacks

Triceps kickbacks can be performed with dumbbells or exercise bands. Stand to the left of a bench. Place your right knee and right hand on the bench, and keep your back parallel to the floor. Hold a weight in your left hand with your elbow bent at 90 degrees and your upper arm tucked close to your side and parallel to the floor. Move only the forearm to lift the weight and kick the arm back until your whole arm is parallel to the floor. Lower the weight to the starting position and repeat.

Triceps kickbacks can also be done without a bench. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend forward at the waist. Perform the movement as described above. To do the exercise with bands, step firmly on the band to secure it and complete the arm movement as you would with the dumbbell.

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