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How to have a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

November 23rd, 2016

West Islip, NY— As you prepare for a Thanksgiving feast filled with mashed potatoes, stuffing and turkey, you should also prepare for a giant serving of calories! 

According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories and 299 grams of fat during a typical holiday gathering. According to Lauren Hughes, MS, RD, CDN, a Registered Dietitian at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, you can still enjoy some of your favorite foods this holiday. 

“There are ways to modify recipes,” says Hughes.  “They can still taste good and be enjoyable, but have a little bit less fat and calories.” 

Hughes believes the first step for a healthy holiday happens the day before when you’re shopping for the big meal. She encourages her patients to incorporate lean meats, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables into their meal, while also making some healthy substitutions.   

“You can use low-fat or skim for whole milk in a mashed potato dish, sub egg whites instead of whole eggs and try adding fresh fruit toppings to cakes and pies instead of the sugary sauces you might make.”

Although you may not eat until later in the afternoon, Hughes says avoiding food in the morning to “save room” for the big meal is a big mistake.  She recommends eating breakfast and possibly even having a light snack, depending on how far you’ll be traveling and/or when you’ll be eating dinner. 

Once you’re at the table, pay attention to the size of the plates where you’re putting your food.

“The bowls, glasses and dishes have grown over the years,” says Hughes. “Research shows eating on a smaller plate will help to make you feel full, while still enjoying healthy portions of your favorite foods.”

The biggest calorie culprit, according to Hughes, comes after the meal when the food is still sitting on the table. 

“The tendency is to continue to graze and pick at things even though you’re not hungry and you say, ‘hey, I’m going to eat a little more of this,’ that’s where you can get yourself into trouble.”

Ultimately, Hughes says managing your calories is all about portion control. You can eat what you want on Thanksgiving, just try to use small, healthy portions. She knows it’ll be tough, but she plans to put her advice to the test with her favorite Thanksgiving tradition – candied sweet potatoes!

From all of us at Good Samaritan, we hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!