Thanksgiving is a day filled with thankful hearts, quality time spent with family and a beautifully set table, all around the most anticipated meal of the year. However, this meal in itself can bring up a lot of anxiety on many different levels. For example, some people have had great weight loss success because of their lifestyle and dietary changes during the summer and early fall months, and they fear that this one holiday meal will send them soaring in the opposite direction, leading to weight gain and derailing their weight loss progress.
As always, during the holiday season, the biggest challenge is your mindset…and, keeping it tight throughout the entire 6 week holiday gauntlet, from Thanksgiving – New Year’s. But, like everything else in life, success is based on a solid plan of attack. There’s absolutely no reason your Thanksgiving day celebration can’t be a delicious, healthy and protein packed meal.
The Thanksgiving Calorie Culprits
The average American will easily consume about 4500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. At first glance, this calorie count seems fueled simply by over consumption. However, careful consideration of the foods being consumed will often show how a few poor choices help to quickly raise the total calorie tally. Foods such as: gravy, stuffing, overuse of butter on multiple items, alcohol, vegetables masked in casseroles and dinner rolls – these foods and beverages, consumed in unison, quickly accelerate your calorie count.
Fitness By Patty Thanksgiving Day Rules
1. Exercise. Carve out some time during the day, either before and/or after meeting family, to get some solid heart pumping exercise for at least 45-60 minutes.
2. Eat a nutritious breakfast. This will help hold you over until the main course, so you don’t over consume appetizers, and you can fit in your much needed important breakfast nutrients.
3. Put a cap on the alcohol. If you are planning on having an alcoholic drink, set you limit to 1, and definitely no more than 2. Yes, alcohol counts towards your total calories. Alcohol is nothing but wasted calories and sugar, with no real nutritional benefits for your body. Sure, you could get tipsy for a few hours, but the effect wears off and typically leaves you starving…which, then causes you to eat even more to satisfy your cravings.
4. Load up on vegetables. Be it salad or roasted vegetables or sautéed green beans, just make sure the majority of your plate is colorful with vegetables. Your body will thank you later.
4. Drink a lot of water. It’s important to keep everything moving and flowing. The day’s increase in calories will shock your body into a food coma state that typically takes a couple of days to fully wear off.
6. Share dessert if you insist on indulging. No need to sample a variety of desserts all by yourself, share with someone else so you don’t consume the entire slice or serving. Plus, I’m sure someone else is looking to share the willpower with you.
8. Easy on the cheese. Cheese tends to be a popular appetizer option, as well as showing up multiple times through the main course…on vegetables, in a salad, on bread, etc. A little bit of cheese goes a long, long way in increasing your calorie and fat content.
10. It’s a cheat meal, not a cheat weekend. So, limit your leftovers of everything except turkey and veggies. This will keep you from re-eating all of the same calorie-filled foods that you already enjoyed once.
Healthy Alternative Recipes to Classic Thanksgiving Dishes
I have curated a list of healthier version to the classic Thanksgiving meal items. these whole food recipes are both delicious and nutritious, and will help to not send your body into a calorie induced coma 🙂
Replace Classic Stuffing with Healthy Vegan Stuffing
- 6 toasted pieces of Ezekiel bread, cut into small squares
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 4 medium red apples, diced
- 2 cups spinach
- 1 1/2 cup red quinoa
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/4 cup rinsed capers (optional)
- 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- Sauté the onions, apples and fennel for a few minutes on medium high. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, cut bread into small pieces.
- After onions begin to brown, add in fresh herbs, spinach and quinoa. Sauté for about 5 minutes, then pour into a glass oven pan.
- Sprinkle bread crumbs on top and capers (optional), then pour low-sodium vegetable broth over.
- Bake for about an hour, or until quinoa is soft.
Replace Squash Casserole with Roasted Delicata Squash Recipe
- 2-4 delicata squash, depending on size (~1.5 lbs)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt to taste
*this amount serves 2 to 4 people. So, increase accordingly.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Clean the delicata squash by running under warm water and scrubbing away dirt with your hands. Scrape off any hard spots on the outer skin with a butter knife. With a sharp knife, cut delicata in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard (you can save these and prepare them like pumpkin seeds if you wish).
- Cut each delicata half into 1/2 inch segments, creating moon-shaped pieces that have slight bumps around the curve. Arrange the pieces in a single layer in a metal baking pan and coat in 2 tbsp olive oil. (Too much oil can make the squash soggy.) Salt gently. It’s okay if the pieces are a little crowded, but try to maximize the surface area of the squash touching the pan. The browning only occurs where the squash and pan meet.
- Place in oven and roast 10 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the squash in the pan so that the light sides are now touching the pan and the brown sides are facing upward. Continue roasting, turning every 7-10 minutes until both sides of the squash pieces are golden brown and the texture is creamy to the teeth all the way through, about 25-30 minutes.
Replace Green Bean Casserole with Green Beans with Zesty Dressing
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Zest and juice of 3 clementines
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
- 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
In a blender, combine shallot, mustard, salt, and clementine juice and blend until smooth. Set aside. Steam beans until bright green and barely tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and drizzle with citrus dressing. Sprinkle with pecans and clementine zest to taste and serve.
** For more healthy thanksgiving recipe ideas that I’ve curated, please visit the Fitness By Patty Pinterest page!