How to eat healthy on Thanksgiving

Published 5:50 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Thanksgiving holiday is notorious for encouraging overeating. However, with obesity being a growing problem in the United States, more people are looking for ways to have a healthy Thanksgiving.

Amy Gelfand, a registered clinical dietician with Sentara Obici Hospital, had a few tips to help people avoid indulging at the dinner table.

People cooking dinner can help their family and guests eliminate calories and sugar with the way they prepare the food, Gelfand said.

“If you’re cooking at home, you should avoid using butter and try and use a healthy oil like olive oil or canola oil,” Gelfand said. “Also, avoid cream sauces. Try to keep the vegetables by themselves or just flavored with a little bit of garlic, salt and pepper. Avoid the creamed corn.”

As for turkey, Gelfand said, diners should remember to choose white meat rather than dark meat, and get a portion about the size of a deck of cards.

“You want to try to fill up at least half your plate with vegetables,” Gelfand said. “The other half should be about a quarter turkey or ham or whatever your protein is, and a quarter starch like mashed potatoes or stuffing.”

Cooks can make a healthier meal by choosing a whole grain or whole wheat stuffing, either by making their own or purchasing the boxed variety.

“That is going to help with your satiety a little bit, and keep your blood sugars a little more level,” Gelfand said.

Diners who save room for dessert should limit their choices to two, and they should take just a few bites of each, Gelfand said. She did say, however, that some desserts are OK in moderation.

“If you really are a dessert person, don’t eat as much dinner to make up for it,” she said.

People who are going to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving often have no control of the menu, but it still is possible to make healthy choices, Gelfand said.

“Pick and choose where you want your calories to come from,” Gelfand said. “If you’ve got to have the dark meat, get some vegetables that are not made with a fat.”

Gelfand suggested drinking water with dinner. However, those who insist on having eggnog should dilute it with skim milk, Gelfand said. Just one cup of eggnog has 343 calories, Gelfand said.

If you drink alcohol, limit it to one or two glasses and don’t drive home, Gelfand said.

In general, it’s a good idea to eat slowly, Gelfand said, since it makes you less likely to overeat.

“Pay attention to how you’re feeling throughout the meal,” Gelfand said. “When we’re socializing, we tend to overeat. Put your fork down in the middle of the meal and if you’re full, definitely stop eating.”