The American Heart Association and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation offer the following tips to make the Thanksgiving meal healthy and delicious. Many of the traditional foods served during Thanksgiving can be healthy — a simple trick is to not load on the butter, cream and sugar.
For many people, more than half of annual weight gain occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Some studies say the average American puts on up to five to seven pounds in these few weeks. To avoid seasonal weight gain, fill your plate with veggies first and watch your portion sizes of the calorie-heavy foods.
Try the following tips to ensure a healthy and delicious Thanksgiving meal:
1. Start small. When it comes to Thanksgiving, the biggest concern is not just what you are eating, but how much of it you are eating. Aim to have small portions of those foods that are high in calories, such as casseroles and desserts, while filling up on lighter fare such as vegetables and lean turkey.
2. Turkey is a great source of lean protein and is healthiest if you skip the skin and go for the white meat. If you prefer the dark meat, mix and match in order to get a little extra flavor without adding too much fat.
3. Sweet potatoes are a source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber that can make a tasty side dish or dessert. A healthy way to cook them is to cut them in half, sprinkle with orange juice and a little brown sugar, and pop them into the oven.
4. Canned cranberries are packed with antioxidants that can help keep you healthy. Unfortunately, canned cranberry sauce is often also packed with sugar and calories you don’t need. Try making your own by mashing fresh cranberries with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar or apple juice concentrate.
5. Pumpkin is low in fat, low in calories, and loaded with potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Make pumpkin pies with canned evaporated fat-free milk, half the amount of sugar in the recipe, a graham cracker crust, and light or fat-free whipped topping for a light and tasty dessert.
6. Opt for less bread in your stuffing and add more onions, celery, vegetables, or fruits such as dried cranberries or apples to make a lower calorie version of the old standby. Try using whole wheat bread in order to make it an even healthier option.
7. Baked apples, poached pears, or roasted stone fruit are perfect, light ways to end any autumn meal.
8. Avoid greasy gravy by using a fat separator or refrigerating the pan juices and skimming the fat off before making the gravy. This can cut out a significant amount of fat.
9. Use low-fat buttermilk or low-sodium chicken stock in place of cream or whole milk in dishes like mashed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes, or butternut squash. You’ll achieve a creamy consistency and loads a flavor, minus the unnecessary fat and calories.
10. Try sneaking in more low-calorie vegetables by mashing or pureeing steamed or boiled cauliflower with low-fat milk. It’s a flavorful substitute for mashed potatoes and can help balance an otherwise potato-rich meal.
11. Fall veggies such as squash and green beans are great side dishes that can add color and variety to the meal without adding too many extra calories.
And, the AHA says to top off a healthy Thanksgiving meal with a 30-minute heart-healthy walk!
RECIPE: Red and Green Pepper Boats
1 medium green bell pepper
1 medium red bell pepper
1/4 cup sliced almonds
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon salt-free lemon pepper seasoning blend
Cut each bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard the stems, ribs, and seeds. Cut each half into six pieces. Arrange the pieces with the skin side down on a decorative serving platter. Set aside.
In a medium skillet, dry-roast the almonds over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Transfer 1 tablespoon of the almonds to a small plate and reserve for garnishing. Process the remaining almonds in a food processor or blender for 15 to 20 seconds, or until finely ground.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, lemon pepper seasoning blend, and lemon juice with an electric mixer for 1 to 2 minutes, or until creamy. Add the ground almonds and beat for 10 seconds, or until combined.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a wide star or round tip. Or snip the corner off a re-sealable plastic bag (a plastic freezer bag works well) and spoon in the mixture. Pipe about 1 teaspoon of the mixture onto each bell pepper piece. Garnish with the sliced almonds.
This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement. Recipe copyright © 2006 by the American Heart Association.