Thanksgiving dinner: 9 tips for healthy holiday eating

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Ways to keep Thanksgiving dinner healthy
WATCH: Here are some expert tips on how to keep the calories down and nutrition up on a weekend filled with indulgence – Oct 7, 2017

TORONTO — So there’s the turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, some cranberry sauce and stuffing and a slice of pumpkin pie. How bad could Thanksgiving dinner be?

According to some estimates, that traditional October meal can set diners back up to 3,000 calories — easily more than a day’s total caloric intake in one sitting, says Carrie Regan, a registered nutritionist at Oshawa, Ont.’s Lakeridge Health.

As delicious as it is, Thanksgiving — like other holidays — is a stressful time of year when it comes to healthy eating.

“A lot of people find this anxiety-inducing because they know they tend to gain weight. There’s social situations, holiday parties and other festivities,” Regan said.

Regan and Carol Dombrow, a registered dietician with over 25 years of experience at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, offer these tips to navigate an indulgent long weekend.

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Read more: Top 5 healthy fast food swaps

With these tips in mind, Regan says diners could keep their dinner at under 1,000 calories.

This is what your plate should look like: Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables, a portion of turkey should cover about a quarter — or about the size of a deck of cards — of the plate, and the last quarter can be used for half of a cup of potatoes and half of a cup of stuffing. To make your plate healthier, reach for the colourful vegetables — broccoli, red peppers and beets for example.

The most dangerous things on the table are the vegetables cooked in creamy sauces: You know the candied sweet potatoes and the broccoli topped with cheese sauce aren’t good for you. No, you can’t coat your peas and carrots in melted butter either. Reach for steamed vegetables or flavor them with olive oil, lemon and herbs and you’ll save about 150 calories per serving, Regan estimates.

White meat turkey is your best bet: Stacked next to ham, roast or beef, the traditional turkey dinner is your best bet. Choose white meat over the dark and try to avoid the skin. The white meat over the turkey leg has a third less calories, and half the fat, according to Dombrow.

Don’t skip breakfast and lunch: Your strategy may have been to save your calories for dinner but Dombrow says that’s a bad idea. “You will more than make them up by gobbling everything on the table at dinnertime,” she said. Start your day with a good breakfast and don’t miss lunch.

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Read more: What Canadians want to know about what’s in fast food meals

Go for a small plate and skip seconds: This tip is all about portion sizes – you can still fill up your plate, but eat slowly and savour what’s on there.

A slice of pumpkin pie is okay: If you’re only giving yourself a taste of the mashed potatoes and turkey and aren’t going back for seconds, you may have saved enough room for dessert. Pumpkin pie has fewer calories and sugar than apple pie or the pumpkin cheesecakes. Try to avoid adding ice cream or whipped cream — those toppings are an easy 100 to 200 calories.

Try not to drink away your calories: This means staying away from soda, juice, and alcohol. Regan suggests limiting yourself to a glass of wine, or a wine spritzer.

Read more: Measuring meals by exercise, not calories helps consumers eat healthy: study

When cooking, make small swaps: For potatoes, that means using skim milk and garlic instead of butter and salt. For baking, that means a whole-wheat crust and low fat or skim milk instead of evaporated milk. And for appetizers, cheesy nachos can be swapped for a butternut squash soup or other pureed vegetables.

Take a hike: So you couldn’t stop yourself. That’s okay, Regan says. “Try not to let your guilt fester. Stay active instead,” she suggested. Add some exercise time to your schedule or take a walk with your family. “The most important thing is don’t let it be a downward spiral. The next day is a new day,” she told Global News.

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