Before the last bat is cleared from our Halloween belfry, we've got turkey on the brain. Ah, Thanksgiving. We plan the big meal with excitement. And we eat that meal with abandon. When it comes to having a healthy lifestyle, what's the verdict? Is there anything we should do differently on Thanksgiving? Here's the lowdown: It's okay to indulge once in a while. Thanksgiving is a day when dishes and tradition go hand in hand. Families pass down recipes from generation to generation, and part of the fun is making it just like Grandma (or even Great-Grandma) did. However, adherence to tradition doesn't mean we can't keep an eye on our health too. Thanksgiving is just one of a handful of holidays concentrated into a relatively short time period (November through January. So that means you'll have a lot of events and gatherings full of foods you don't typically have throughout the year. There are two things you can do: 1. Enjoy yourself! 2. Make sure you're still "eating the rainbow"—a diet full of colorful fruits and veggies to meet your vitamin and mineral needs—and getting in regular exercise.
Thanksgiving with a side of good health
So how do you have a healthy Thanksgiving? It's easier than you think. When it comes to what's actually on your table, there are a few options to make a healthier Thanksgiving meal. You can tweak classic recipes for more nutrition—or you can opt for an "if it ain't broke, then don't fix it" approach: Eat your favorites but also bring in a few new, healthier dishes. Many Thanksgiving favorites include ingredients that are actually pretty healthy. Let's take a look at some of the usual suspects that, in their basic, whole-food form, are primed for optimal nutrition:
If you feel like giving your Thanksgiving a bit more of a health kick this year, pick a couple from that list and give them a makeover. If you need some inspiration, here are a few ideas: Instead of pumpkin pie, make individual pumpkin custards. That way, you eliminate the carby, sugary, buttery crust. Also consider using coconut milk, which is full of medium-chain triglycerides that help support your metabolism, suppress appetite, and reduce fat stores. Replace the mayonnaise in your deviled eggs with Greek yogurt. If you simply can't live without that particular mayo flavor, whip up a batch of your own. It's actually not a difficult recipe. This way, you control the ingredients. Rather than sauteing your veggies, roast or steam them. Also consider using alternative ingredients to add flavor instead of butter. Miso is a great option! In place of super-sugary cranberry sauce, try a fresh, crunchy cranberry salad instead. Use a touch of maple syrup when cooking the cranberries down. Get the rest of your flavor and sweetness from apples, walnuts, and oranges.
Top 5 tips for a healthier Thanksgiving
If you need more inspiration for how to tackle this year's Big Meal with whole food nutrition and overall wellness in mind, we've got you covered. Here are five easy (we promise!) ways to celebrate Thanksgiving with healthy flair. And remember, you can still have your favorite dishes on Turkey Day. Just practice moderation!
Tip 1: Load up on fruits and vegetables
Conveniently, the traditional Thanksgiving meal already has a lot of fruits and vegetables in it. Just be sure that you leave half your plate free for these health-giving foods when you serve yourself turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. It’s easy to do when you have many delicious choices on the table. With their bright autumn colors and comforting texture, sweet potatoes and squash, including pumpkin, are Thanksgiving favorites. They’re a great way to get beta-carotene (which your body uses to make vitamin A), vitamin C, the B-complex vitamins, and the mineral manganese. A lot of sweet potato dishes have added sugar in the form of marshmallows or brown sugar, but you don't need all of that. This root veggie is naturally sweet and can be served without added sweeteners. Green vegetables, like broccoli, green beans, spinach, kale, and Brussels sprouts, deserve a place at the Thanksgiving table. Green veggies contain beta-carotene, vitamins C and K, as well as manganese. Bonus: Many of them are crucifers, which means they contain powerful detoxifying compounds. If you use red or purple-skinned potatoes for your mashed potatoes and leave the skin on, you’ll be getting the heart-healthy phytonutrients, called anthocyanins. You can also get anthocyanins from roasted beets or cranberries.
Tip 2: Practice mindful eating
After you’ve eaten your first plate, check in with yourself to see if you’re really hungry before going in for seconds. While Aunt Clara's sweet potato casserole is out-of-this-world good and Granny's stuffing doused in gravy is to.die.for, just make sure not to keep eating past the point where you feel full.
Tip 3: Watch your liquid calories
Cut back on alcohol and eggnog. Not only does alcohol have calories, even worse, it makes you lose your impulse control, causing you to eat more than you normally would. Instead, go for carbonated water (there are so many flavor options these days!), unsweetened hot tea, or coffee. When there's so much delicious food and wonderful company around, what's in your glass at the Thanksgiving table is basically a side note anyway.
Tip 4: Upgrade your desserts
Apple and pecan pie are commonly found on the Thanksgiving dessert table. Apples contain fiber, vitamin C, and other antioxidants. Pecans provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. In their basic form, both are healthy options. However, when they undergo their Thanksgiving transformation into pie form, the sugar count goes way, way up. If you'd like to go a little easy on the dessert table this year — maybe for your overall health goals or there's someone at the table who has to watch sugar intake — why not combine forces with these two ingredients and turn them into something that will satisfy your sweet tooth? Enter apple crumble with pecan-granola topping. You could even add a dollop of homemade whipped cream. And get this: You can make it with very little sweetener and it's just as good!
Tip 5: Get moving Keep in mind that you don't need to spend two hours in the gym that day.
Just do something for at least 30 minutes. This could look like a nice morning hike before you get down to the business of cooking or traveling or whatever your day holds. Maybe you'll take a quick jog through the neighborhood — or on the treadmill while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. A peaceful yoga session will work wonders! If you'd rather wait until after the meal, what's more fun than a family game of football? It all boils down to some type of movement, so do whatever feels good for you. Happy Thanksgiving from everyone at Juice Plus+!