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How to Enjoy a Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Dinner
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By Alicia J Kroat, RD, LDN, Jennifer Fleming, MS, RD, Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy the company of family and friends. While we feel the excitement of the holiday season as it draws near, we also begin worrying about it long before it arrives. Much of the added stress of the holiday season comes from the fear of gaining weight from eating too many of the high fat and high calorie foods that we typically limit throughout the year. Even though this happens only during the holiday season – just once a year – we feel guilty. What if we told you that you could eat all your holiday favorites guilt-free by following some simple guidelines for the weeks leading up to and including Thanksgiving Day?

Before Thanksgiving Day:

· Stay Active – Holiday preparation can be time consuming but don’t neglect yourself. Set aside time to engage in your favorite physical activity. Prevent weight gain by lengthening your fitness routine in the weeks ahead and especially the day of the feast. Remind yourself that your goal is to maintain your weight, not to lose weight during the holiday season.

· Palate Preparation – Get your taste buds ahead of time by finding out what is on the menu and decide what foods and beverages you will have for dinner before you go through the buffet line or serve yourself at the Thanksgiving table. .

· Bring Your Own – Prepare a heart-healthy dish to share with the group: low-fat, low-calorie, and/or low-carbohydrate.

On Thanksgiving Day:

· Wake Up Call – Start your day with a high protein breakfast -- such as an egg (or egg white omelet) with a slice of whole-wheat toast -- so you won't be starving when you arrive at the table on Thanksgiving Day. People often think it is a good idea to forego breakfast and/or lunch to save extra calories for the dinner meal, but by doing this you may end up eating more than you usually would because you are hungrier than normal.

· Survey the Selection – Before loading up your plate, look at all the options.

· Portion Distortion – Take smaller portions than usual of the items you like. Taking smaller portions helps you increase variety on your plate. Look to fill your plate with a variety of color. Choose lower calorie (and nutrient dense) fruit and vegetable dishes that will help you feel full and very satisfied. Fight off the urge for seconds and you’ll have leftovers that you can eat for lunch the next day and maybe even the next day after!

· Slow and Steady Wins the Race – eat slowly and put your fork down between bites. Not only does this allow for time to engage in conversation, but it allows your brain time to respond to your body’s hunger cues to tell you to stop eating when you’re full. Sip water between bites of food. This slows down eating, too.

· Alcohol – Limit alcohol. Drink water or sparkling water to cleanse the pallet. If you enjoy wine with your meal, reduce the alcohol and calorie intake by adding a calorie free soda or using sparkling water to make a wine spritzer.

· Focus on Family – Thanksgiving is not just about the delicious buffet of food. It's a time to celebrate relationships with family and friends. Spend quality time doing something other than eating, such as taking a walk or playing card games.

· Delectable Desserts – you can still have dessert, but be mindful of your portion size. Also, choose just one dessert carefully and savor it slowly!

Enjoy all your favorites in moderation this holiday season with family and friends. Strive for weight maintenance instead of weight loss during this time of year. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Vegetable Recipe of the Month: Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Fruit Recipe of the Month: Chicken Waldorf Salad

photo courtesy

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