How to Have a Guilt Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving will be here before you know it. Your mouth may be already watering at the thought of savory casseroles, stuffing and pumpkin pie. It’s time to figure out your game plan to get through the day, enjoy your family meal and not have the guilt afterwards.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Felicia Stoler is fond of sharing her hour-by-hour survival guide for the holiday. Her top 10 tips are:

  1. Get a full night’s sleep the night before. Thanksgiving Day will likely be stressful, and a lack of sleep will take its toll.
  2. Eat breakfast. Don’t save up for the big meal. Eating right away in the morning will help get your metabolism moving, and prevent you from overeating later in the day.
  3. Work out. This is another metabolism booster. It is easier to have the motivation to exercise right when you wake up, rather than after a heavy meal that makes you sleepy. Don’t have time to hit the gym? Don’t worry, household chores and cleaning count!
  4. Drink water throughout the entire day.
  5. Put on your normal jeans, not those baggy sweats that are a size or two too large.
  6. Snack. Choose a low-calorie healthy snack to help prevent overeating at the big meal.
  7. Season dishes with healthy herbs and condiments. Season dishes with fresh herbs if possible. Otherwise dried herbs are okay. Try making some dishes with a little kick. Spicy foods are harder to eat in excess. Also consider an oil change. Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil is a healthy alternative to corn and canola oils, and also has a higher smoke point.
  8. Wait at least a half hour between dinner and dessert. Your brain will have to time to get the message to your stomach that you are full, and you won’t eat as much dessert (or any).
  9. Take a post-dinner walk. If you are still awake and able to move, an after-dinner walk is a great way to speed up digestion.
  10. More tips for a healthier Thanksgiving meal:
  • Buy a turkey that is 100 percent bird: If a turkey is at the center of your table, order an organic pasture-raised bird from a local farmer. Most store-bought frozen turkeys have been injected with up to 12 percent of a solution containing added sugar, salt and artificial flavorings. These birds must be labeled as ‘basted’, ‘marinated’ or ‘injected’. Additives are not allowed on fresh turkeys.
  • If you fry your bird, use an oil with a high smoke point such as Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil. When oil is heated beyond its smoke point, its molecular structure begins breaking down. It may even form trans fats. Overheated oil may lose its nutritional value, and give your food a bitter or burnt taste. Once it reaches that point, the oil really shouldn’t be consumed.
  • Ditch the boxed stuffing: That familiar stuffing in the red box contains partially hydrogenated oil, our primary source of trans fats. Nix all the prepackaged stuffings – many contain trans fats or other unhealthy ingredients – and pick up some day-old bread. Have your little ones help by tearing the bread into pieces the night before. Create a family tradition with homemade stuffing.
  • Pass up the canned crescent rolls: Refrigerated dough products including crescent rolls often contain partially hydrogenated oils as well as emulsifiers such as monoglycerides and diglycerides. These may also contain trans fats. Easy drop biscuits take just 15 minutes to make and require just a handful of ingredients.
  • Avoid the gravy packets/chemical soup: Prepare your own gravy by whisking a few tablespoons of flour or cornstarch into the turkey drippings. Many powdered gravy mixes contain partially hydrogenated oils as well as monosodium glutamate, disodium inosinate and artificial colors.
  • Before you bring Grandma’s good china out of the attic, rethink your holiday menu. A few of these healthy swaps may make this year’s feast better for your family.

Dr. Felicia D. Stoler, America’s Health & Wellness Expert™, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, exercise physiologist and expert consultant in nutrition and healthful living. She was the host for TLC’s reality show, Honey We’re Killing the Kids. She is the author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes™: The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great (Pegasus 2011). She specializes in integrating behavior modification to influence positive health outcomes.