24 November 2015 5 Ways to de-junk your Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday devoted to sharing a good meal with friends and family. What's not to like about that? Unfortunately people who are trying to manage their weight can dread Thanksgiving. It looks like a calorie bomb waiting to ruin their good intentions.

What to do? You could try to make everything with low calorie ingredients. I don't do that and I don't recommend it. There's another strategy: de-junk your meal.

Over many years, the basics of Thanksgiving -- turkey, gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes -- have expanded and changed in ways that just aren't necessary. Most of these changes just add calories.

Take sweet potatoes: they're a nutritious and delicious food. Then they were junked up with brown sugar, butter, orange sauce and marshmallows. When did that become the norm? A 150 calorie serving of baked sweet potato is now a 400-500 calorie nightmare.

So to avoid calorie overload, get back to basics and de-junk your Thanksgiving meal. Here are 5 easy ways to do that:

  1. Lose the marshmallows. Sweet potatoes do not need to be drowning in sugar/butter sauce, and they definitely do not need marshmallows. One alternative: cut the potatoes into quarters, rub with olive oil and roast them with garlic. Lots of flavor without all the added sugar.
  2. Don't serve or eat same-old-same-old pre-meal snacks like chips and dip or cheese and crackers. You can eat those anytime.
  3. Green bean casserole? It ends up being a serving of gooey cream sauce with onion rings, garnished with a few overcooked green beans. Serve green vegetables, but forget about creamy calorific sauces. Steam or boil green beans briefly so they're still green, and toss with lemon juice and a small amount of melted butter. Garnish with toasted almonds.
  4. Thanksgiving is about pie: pumpkin and apple are traditional favorites. Why add cake and ice cream to the dessert menu? Or candy?
  5. Sugary soft drinks have no place at a high calorie meal like this. Drink water.

Here's another calorie saving tip: do you really need two types of potatoes? Sweet potatoes are filling. So are mashed potatoes. Why do you need both of those at one meal? Pick one. Some people really like mashed potatoes with gravy, in which case you don't also need sweet potatoes.

And another: if you're going to serve special seasonal beverages like eggnog or mulled cider, serve in small cups, not giant mugs or glasses. And neither of these needs to be coated in whipped cream.

These are pretty simple ideas. But added up, they could save you 800-1000 calories. And you can still enjoy the traditional foods: turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, vegetables and pie.

Donna P. Feldman MS RDN

Nutrition journalist at Radio Nutrition

Co-host: Walk Talk Nutrition podcast.

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Holidays / Parties/Thanksgiving

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