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Planning Your Healthy Thanksgiving Meal

As the fall and winter holidays approach, one thing many of us look forward to is the delicious food that comes with festive celebrations. 

Thanksgiving is especially noted for its sumptuous meals and assortment of pies, desserts and other treats.

While it’s OK to indulge with a slice of pumpkin pie, you can still eat a healthy diet during the holiday that will satisfy both your taste and your health.

Why are healthy holiday meals important?

Preparing foods for Thanksgiving that are healthy benefits you in more ways than just your diet. For some people, healthy meals are vital to their lives.

Most holiday meals are packed with sugar, empty calories and the temptation to clean your plate — and go for seconds. 

For those diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and other conditions, having a healthy Thanksgiving is essential.

Take a look at your plate and make sure you have healthy choices. Fill half of your plate with vegetables like carrots, spinach, greens and other veggies. If you don’t have a lot of vegetable offerings at your meal, add fruits like cranberries or baked apples.

Once you have half of your plate filled, look at the other side and split it in half. Fill one portion with lean turkey without the skin, baked chicken or another healthy source of protein. Skip the gravy to keep both your calories and sodium down.

The last section is all about the grains: baked or mashed potatoes, stuffing and sweet potatoes are all good choices. While the smell of fresh baked rolls or bread may make your mouth water, skipping these will help keep your blood sugar in the right range.

Preparing healthy meals

If you have the honor (or burden) of hosting a Thanksgiving meal, take time to thoughtfully prepare dishes that are both tasty and healthy. Look for low-calorie options, plenty of vegetables and lean proteins. 

Most people don’t think it’s Thanksgiving without a turkey. Roasting your turkey is the best way to keep it healthy. Frying a turkey or adding tons of butter are not the way to go for a healthy Thanksgiving.

Casseroles are standard Thanksgiving treats, but they pack in a lot of extra fats and sugar that are not healthy. There are many healthy casserole recipe options available online that can guide you through making some that remind you of grandma’s cooking, but in a new and healthy way.

For drinks, provide water, unsweet tea and sodas that are diet or sugar-free. Mixed drinks, punch and alcoholic beverages are also full of excess sugar, so try to avoid those. 

Desserts are one of the most tempting items during Thanksgiving. Find healthy recipes for traditional desserts that substitute a lot of the excess sugar and fat with other offerings. There’s nothing wrong with making a traditional dessert the way mom used to — just limit your portion size and make the decision beforehand to indulge in only one dessert.

Before you head off to join your family and friends for Thanksgiving, make a plan and stick to it. Being mindful of what you will or will not indulge in during your meal will help you make the right choices. 

With a little thought and planning, your holiday will be both tasty and healthy

Tanner Health System, Get Healthy, Live Well

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