Making Health a Thanksgiving Tradition

During Thanksgiving and the rest of the holidays, many traditions center around food and feasting together. However, as millions of Americans are caring for aging adults or managing chronic illnesses themselves, it is time that we re-think some of the traditions and find healthier ways to eat. Whether you are taking a dish to a holiday party or hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your house this year, here are a few tips and recipes for finding the balance between celebrating a family feast and eating well.

  1. Serve soup or salad options before the meal begins. By getting in the greens first, this will lessen the appetite to consume more of the filling foods. Consider a pumpkin soup or a salad with pears, fennel, and walnuts.
  2. Rather than setting all the food on the table, plate food in the kitchen to help with portion control and to make sure everyone gets their veggies in.
  3. Instead of making a traditional stuffing that soaks up much of the fat of the turkey, create a protein-rich alterative that is made outside of the turkey. Try a quinoa with garlic, pine nuts, and raisins for a sophisticated alternative.
  4. Traditional green bean casseroles can be high in sodium and fat due to soup bases. Try a fresh approach to the dish by cooking an orange scented green bean dish.
  5. Whether you like them creamy, whipped, smashed or mashed, potatoes can be high in salt, butter and carbs. Instead, try cauliflower mashed “potatoes” or mashed butternut squash and pears.
  6. Okay, let’s talk turkey. Instead of adding fat during the cooking process and adding gravy after, consider an herb roasted bird or a turkey with aged Italian vinegar and brown sugar sauce.
  7. When it comes to dessert, make sure there is a nice pause in between the main meal and the sweet treat in order to aid digestion. It can take a while for the body to catch up and realize how full it really is. Creating a dessert that has sweet fruit tastes can be a wonderful alternative to the calorie-rich traditional dishes. Try a rustic apple-cranberry tart and serve it with fat-free frozen yogurt.
  8. The holiday season is full of baked goods, which are delicious, but often full of fat. A wonderful alternative to using oils or butter in baked goods like muffins, cakes, or breads is to substitute them out for applesauce. Look for no-sugar added, organic applesauce.
  9. Incorporate exercise into your family tradition. Consider participating in community walks/runs around the holidays, or even just coordinate a family walk around the park before or after the feast.
  10. Stay hydrated. One of the best ways to cut down on overeating is to drink plenty of water (not booze). Instead of serving heavy, sweet, or alcoholic drinks, consider adding orange, lemon, or cranberry to ice water to make it feel festive. Or try one of these infused water recipes!
  11. Bonus Tip - Incorporate gratitude into your healthy habits this holiday season. Every day, take time to think of three things that you are thankful for. This will help you stay in the moment during the holidays. 


Published on November 7, 2017.