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Celebrating a healthy Thanksgiving

The proverbial Thanksgiving meal brings to mind images of buttery mashed potatoes, turkey with gravy, stuffing, creamy green bean casserole, mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows, cranberry sauce, pumpkin, cherry or pecan pie and many other tasty dishes. Who could pass that up?

Studies have shown that the average person will gain over one pound during the holiday season. While one pound seems harmless, research shows that this extra weight can be quite stubborn, still present a year later. When next year’s holiday season rolls around, another pound is put on and the cycle continues.

The average American will consume more than their fair share of food on Thanksgiving Day alone. Estimates on how many calories are consumed range from 3,000 to 4,500 calories just for that day.  Whatever the number may be, the fact is, Thanksgiving Day offers ample opportunity to “overdo it.”

However, there is a way to enjoy these classic dishes without going overboard, gastronomically speaking. Below are some tips to accomplish just that.

Start with smaller portions. This can be achieved in many ways. Using smaller plates gives the illusion that we are eating a lot as we fill it up. Another strategy is to cut down on the portions of each dish. Instead of two full scoops of mashed potatoes, try one scoop. You can always go back for more if you are truly hungry for more. Using these strategies allows you to taste a little bit of everything without overdoing it.

Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. This is one of the primary recommendations from MyPlate, and it makes sense. If you fill up first with vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and fruits, chances are you won’t feel that hungry for foods high in fat and calories.

Remember, dessert often follows the main meal. Pumpkin pie and other delicious desserts are often staples for Thanksgiving. To truly savor the flavors and aromas of these, eat them while you are still feeling slightly hungry. In the words of a child: “Save some room in your tummy for dessert!”

Beware of liquid calories. Good wines and other spirits may be offered during Thanksgiving. Juices and other sweetened beverages may be available to children. Practice portion control with these and try to drink water as well.

Get moving. It takes an average of one to three hours (longer if you are pregnant) for food to be digested. The more we eat and the more fat content is in the food, the longer it will take our bodies to digest it. To encourage digestion, take a walk after dinner or engage in another gentle physical activity.

The real purpose of Thanksgiving is..? Remind yourself that the celebration you are sharing with friends and/or family is about being thankful. It is about being with people you love and esteem while appreciating the blessings in your life. It is not about the food.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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