Thursday, November 18, 2010

How To Have A Guilt-Free Thanksgiving

Well, it's about that time of the year again, folks, my favorite holiday: THANKSGIVING!!! A time to give thanks and have fun with family & friends. It's also around that time of the year where most people's healthy eating habits take a major nose dive. Don't feel too bad, it's totally understandable, one of my favorite parts about Thanksgiving is the food! What other time of the year are you not only allowed but expected to stuff yourself with turkey, ham, macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes & gravy, pumpkin and pecan pies... the list goes on and on! With all those temptations, gaining weight over the holidays is inevitable, right? WRONG! I can proudly say that for the last 2 years I've not only maintained my weight but have even managed to lose a couple of pounds. How? Well, first, I maintain my exercise routine. I can't stress enough how important exercise is to losing and maintaining weight. A lot of people fall into the trick of thinking that once they've met their weight loss goal, they can now stop exercising but you've gotta' keep burning those calories! Not only for maintenance but for your overall health. And if you've been lucky enough to find your soul-mate workout (Team Turbo all the way, baby! :) ) you should have little to no problem in that area. Secondly, the real key to having a guilt-free Thanksgiving is realizing that a lot of those wonderful foods that you love around this time of year are still within your reach, it's knowing which ones are good for you and which ones aren't, and also, having healthy recipes and alternatives.

10 Surprisingly Healthy Holiday Foods

Turkey is a dynamite healthy protein source – that is, unless it's deep fried and slathered with gravy. A serving of turkey provides almost half of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid and is a good source of vitamin B, zinc, and potassium. These nutrients have been found to keep blood cholesterol down, protect against cancer and heart disease, and boost the immune system. A normal portion size is usually 3 to 4 ounces -- and if you stick to white meat and peel the skin off, you'll literally save hundreds of calories at the Thanksgiving table. Fortunately, turkey is one of those dieter's dream foods that will fill you up when you eat just a little.

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are among the healthiest vegetables around, just as long as you don't douse them with butter, marshmallows, or some other high-calorie holiday sabotage. If roasted, which keeps the flavor very intense without adding fat, sweet potatoes burst with fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and phytochemicals, which stave off aging, cancer, and arthritis. Plus, they're very filling, so you don't have to overload your plate with them.

Few people realize that cranberries are loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants and their fiber content helps to lower "bad" cholesterol levels. However, because these beautiful berries are naturally low in sugar, many recipes call for large doses of added sweetener. Steer clear of all that sugar and instead try adding a sugar substitute like Splenda to keep this side dish healthy.

Power to the pomegranate! This gorgeous fruit is proving its worth as one of the richest sources of antioxidants around, and it's popping up more and more in holiday dishes. You can indulge in the pomegranate's benefits by simply buying a bottle of its juice to add to your favorite recipe, or sprinkling the seeds over a salad.

Talk about a healthy food in need of a name change. This fluffy side is often regarded as one of the most fattening holiday dishes, but with only a few minor adjustments it can actually be a healthy standout. Pack it with nuts, dried fruits, carrots, and celery, and you'll benefit from fiber and a range of vitamins, recommends Krieger. Also, and this is crucial: Use low sodium chicken broth instead of butter to keep the dish moist and low in fat.

For me, it's not Thanksgiving without a slice of pumpkin pie and luckily this veggie is packed with heart-healthy fiber and vitamin A! Plus, pumpkin is very moist, you don't have to add lots of unhealthy ingredients to make it taste flavorful yet still be low-fat (sub in skim and egg substitutes to make any recipe healthier). A guaranteed way to avoid accidentally gorging on a high-fat dessert? Bring your own pie, so you know what's in it.

Prefer pecans to pumpkin? Instead of plunging into a heap of high-fat pie, try sprinkling this star nut over salads, add it to your stuffing, or snack on a few as a precursor to the meal. Pecans are a great source of vitamin E and magnesium, which supports muscle strength. Plus, they're packed with protein, fiber, and the same "good" fats as olive oil.

Collard Greens
Collards are ultra-healthy – except when sabotaged by greasy fat sources like pork, a popular additive in many holiday recipes, which I know I'm guilty of. If you just can't give up flavoring your greens, like me, use turkey bacon or saute the veggie in olive oil. Also, by preparing these leafy greens in a steamer, you'll leave out the unnecessary calories and gain a ton of vitamins and antioxidants.

Nutmeg and Cinnamon
More and more research is being conducted on the health benefits of spices. Nutmeg, with its nutty, earthy flavor, and cinnamon, which shines with its sweetness, can do a whole lot more than garnish eggnog. Mixing these spices into fruit or vegetable sides can help you lower your cholesterol and maintain insulin levels in the blood. So I say, load up!

Red Wine
While wine and cocktails can add needless calories to an already over-the-top meal, wine delivers heart-healthy properties in exchange for its calorie count (about 100 calories per 5-ounce serving). All wine is naturally heart-healthy, but red wines will provide the most antioxidant bang for your calorie buck. And take note: the dryer the wine, the higher the concentration of those disease-fighting properties. To keep your calorie count to a minimum, ask your host for a spritzer -- half wine, half calorie-free seltzer water.

I hope this list of healthy foods and tips helps you out through the Thanksgiving holiday! Have A Happy Guilt-Free Thanksgiving! 

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