Let’s Talk Turkey – Food Planning Tips for Healthy Eating

Did you know that the average Thanksgiving dinner has over 2,000 calories? Although Thanksgiving is a special time of year for family and friends to reunite and appreciate what we’re grateful for, it can also be stressful. With so much emphasis on food preparation and eating, it can be a challenge to maintain good nutrition, manage calories, and stay active. Luckily there’s quite a bit you can do to help your Thanksgiving party, and yourself, enjoy a healthier, less stressful holiday.

Preparing beforehand (if you’re in charge of dinner):

  • Create an attack plan – Planning your meal far in advance can help you save time and stress. Simplifying your menu also means fewer plates to prepare and clean up.
  • Do your homework – Make a shopping list and stick to it. Look for bargains on nonperishable foods far in advance. Prepare some foods in advance, such as appetizers and desserts. This will reduce your “to do list” as you get closer to the day.
  • Plan time for what’s important – Be sure to allow for time to rest, have fun with the family, and be active—even if you have to schedule those activities. 1

On the day:

  • Don’t go to dinner hungry – We tend to eat faster and more when we are hungry. Eat a wholesome breakfast and lunch on Thanksgiving Day, and avoid overeating at dinnertime.
  • Don’t treat Thanksgiving dinner as an all-you-can-eat buffet – Fill your plate half with vegetables, one quarter with lean meat, and the rest with a starch of your choice. Eat slowly and stop when you are full.
  • Go skinless – Choose a turkey portion that is skinless to save on some of the fat and cholesterol. Save your appetite for side dishes and desserts.
  • Keep an eye on those portions – Go for smaller servings. This way you can sample all the different foods. Keep everything in moderation.
  • Avoid the fat – High-fat food items are often fried, and in creamy dishes. If you can’t control the ingredients that go into a dish, simply limit yourself to smaller helpings.
  • Drink plenty of water – Alcohol and coffee can dehydrate your body. Drink water to help fill up your stomach and keep you hydrated. 2

Here are a few recipes that might help as well:

Steamed Carrots with Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette

These are knife-and-fork carrots for your next gathering. Steaming them whole retains their carroty essence. Tossing them with lemon-dill vinaigrette while they are still warm allows them to absorb lots of flavor.

Total Time: 25 min Prep: 10 min Inactive: 5 min Cook: 10 min

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients: Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar 1 teaspoon honey 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill Kosher salt 3 pounds carrots with greens trimmed to 1-inch Directions: Whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, vinegar and honey in a medium bowl until combined. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, until the vinaigrette is smooth and thickened. Stir in the chopped dill, lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Fill a medium wide-mouthed pot with 2 inches of water. Set a collapsible steamer basket insert into the pot, then bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Put the carrots in the steamer basket and cook, covered, until tender when pierced with a knife, about 8 minutes. Gently toss the warm carrots with the dressing in a large shallow serving dish. Allow the dressing to absorb into the carrots for 5 minutes before serving.3

Kids’ DIY Turkey Muffins

Use store-bought pumpkin muffins and let your kids have fun transforming them into these fun and healthy snacks.

What you need:

  • Pumpkin muffins
  • Red apple
  • Green apple
  • Green grapes
  • Sliver of carrot
  • Squeezable icing for the eyes
Directions Cut a slice from the side of each apple. Set flat and cut squared-off, tapered feathers. Cut a small beak from a thin slice of carrot. Make a slit in the end of a green grape and dab off excess moisture. Insert beak into grape. Poke small ends of feathers into muffin and set head on muffin, resting on the muffin paper. Once assembled, add tiny dot eyes with icing.4


1 http://www.nourishinteractive.com/healthy-living/free-nutrition-articles/26-tips-healthy-eating-foods-kids-cooking

2 http://www.healthcastle.com/holiday-eating-healthy-thanksgiving.shtml

3 http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/steamed-carrots-with-lemon-dill-vinaigrette.html

4 http://www.parenting.com/article/pumpkin-turkey-muffins

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