12 Tricks to a Healthier, Happier Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving celebration word cloudThanksgiving is a spectacular celebration of family, friends and FOOD! Believe it or not, there are ways to have a healthier Thanksgiving and have the guest and the host still enjoy their day.

Tips for Everyone:

1) Savor every bite. Taste each morsel mindfully and enjoy it as you chew it slowly and savor the flavor. Chew each bite completely before swallowing. You may be surprised that you don’t normally do that!

2) Listen to your your body. When you feel full, stop eating for a while. You can always save the leftovers on your plate for later–even the next day. Everyone there will appreciate your efforts and the cook will love that you are enjoying each morsel.

3) Choose 3 favorites to eat. Dish up a bite or two of all the thing you want to try. After thoughtfully deciding upon your favorites, choose up to three foods and serve yourself more of those choices.

4) Dish up less. No matter how much we dish up, research indicates we eat about 94% of it, so don’t go crazy dishing up your three favorites (see #3). You serve yourself more later if you still want more. Remember to take your time and continue to savor every mouthful. Stop when you start to feel uncomfortable.

5) Be active. Encourage everyone to help with the dishes and to take a walk or do something active while you’re visiting.

6) Drink water throughout the day. Research is finding that that drinking water with food is critical to burning the calories in the food up more efficiently. Caloric drinks and even diet sodas negate this calorie burning effect.

7) Find the goodness in others. Look for the good in everyone with you at Thanksgiving. Let other people’s issues and idiosyncrasies go and choose not to worry about them, at least for the day. As you look for the positive in people, you might even verbalize it if you deem it to be appropriate. In other words, be free with your honest compliments. Isn’t that what we want others to do for us? We appreciate it when others look for our strengths and give us a break for our weaknesses!

Hosting/Cooking Tips:

8) Provide lots of vegetables. Roast your vegetables and have lots of options for your guests to choose from. Have raw vegetables out on the table for people to graze on in between the main meal and dessert. Serve tastier green beans and trade in the traditional green bean casserole for something better, like steamed green beans mixed with sautéed shallots and slivered almonds. They are made on the stove top, freeing up oven space.

9) Provide fun water. Serve water plain or infused with interesting ingredients like lemon, mint or cucumber. There is  good evidence that water, unlike caloric beverages and diet soda, helps you burn the calories that you are eating more efficiently.

10) Make mashed potatoes with a twist. Add plain Greek yogurt and a little potato water from cooking the potatoes to them as you mash them. Like sourdough bread, the potatoes will have a lower glycemic index, or in other words, a slower sugar rush, with the active cultures in the mix. Add butter, salt and pepper judiciously. You can go a step farther and mash some cooked cauliflower in with your potatoes. No one will know why your mashed potatoes taste so delicious!

11) Go easy on the butter and sugar. Use less butter and add it at the end. Substitute real maple syrup or raw, unfiltered honey (not for babies) for some of the sugar in your recipes like the cranberry sauce. In fact, add frozen or fresh fruit to your cranberry sauce to help sweeten it and make it more interesting.

Thanksgiving Desserts12) Serve healthier, yet delicious traditional desserts. Offer your guests fruit crisps made with whole wheat flour, almond flour, and/or rolled oats. It’s easy to make fruit crisp and crumbles healthy and gluten-free while still providing classic Thanksgiving tastes. Substitute pears or apples for the fruits in my Raspberry Peach Crumble. Use my easy, delicious pie crust made with coconut oil instead of butter for your fruit and pumpkin pies.