Celebrate Thanksgiving the Healthy Way

November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Day is almost here and many Georgians are planning to prepare their favorite comfort foods cooked exclusively for holiday celebrations.  Resisting appetizing holiday dishes can be challenging, but health experts from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) are reminding citizens how they can enjoy staple Thanksgiving meals without sacrificing flavor or their healthy lifestyle.

Eating right during the holiday doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task, according to Lindsey Regallis, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutritionist in Chatham County.  She believes that with a little advance planning, families can enjoy their holiday meals and possibly create healthier versions of their favorite recipes.

“Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season and all the temptations of delicious foods,” said Regallis. “We want people to still enjoy their holiday meals by making healthy food choices such as choosing white meat over dark and bringing a vegetable tray to snack on before meal time.”

With so many complex ingredients required to make staple Thanksgiving meals, there are vast opportunities to eat more than your daily allowance of sodium, sugar, carbohydrates and other micronutrients.  Following simple steps such as swapping out canned goods for fresh produce can greatly reduce your salt and sugar consumption.  Another easy solution is trading ingredients such as milk, cheese and oils for lower-calorie counterparts.

Utilizing creative cooking methods in the kitchen will also help you achieve your desired cooking results by incorporating alternative and health-conscious ingredients.  Popular food substitutions include using whole-wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, applesauce instead of butter, and whipped egg whites in place of full fat eggs.  

Regallis advises that making healthy food choices during the holiday are important, but are only effective when proper portion sizes are also followed on a regular basis.

“Maintain a healthy spread on your plate by making half of your plate fruits or vegetables, a quarter grains, and a quarter proteins,” she said.  “Not only does this provide an easy guide for healthy eating, but it also helps you remember to enjoy your foods in moderation.”   

Eating healthy and following your dietary plan during the holiday is important, but maintaining a proper physical activity regime is another vital component to enjoying a healthier holiday season.  Regallis encourages citizens to find fun ways to take holiday gatherings beyond the dinner table to help everyone fulfill their daily physical activity goals.

“Physical exercise is always an important part of your daily life,” she said. “I encourage people to stay active during the holiday season by taking a walk or planning a fun outing that gets everyone moving. These are great ways to burn calories and find additional bonding time with your friends and loved ones.” 

Maintaining your health and wellness practices during the holiday season can prove to be an enjoyable experience with the right outlook and proper planning.  In Regallis’ opinion, these small steps are crucial to learning how to follow healthy eating and exercising practices throughout the entire year.

“Making small changes during this time of year can help you continue down a path to health and wellness beyond the holiday season,” she said. “It’s all about taking it one day at a time and one healthy decision at a time. Combined, these choices add up to a healthier and happier life 365 days a year.”

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