With Thanksgiving less than a week away, it’s time to start preparing. And that doesn’t just mean food. This is a great opportunity to come up with mindful strategies on how to avoid the overindulgence of those oh-so-good but oh-so-unhealthy foods. While it is important to enjoy ourselves and our families, it doesn’t have to mean we throw away all of our good habits.
To bring awareness into the holiday, I have come up with a few simple strategies. Some are tips to cook healthier. Others are just easy ways to not overdo it. Even if you can’t nail every one, choose what that will work for you. And remember, every little bit helps. Do your best and make sure to enjoy the celebration of gratitude!
Here are 14 ways to enjoy Thanksgiving while doing the least amount of damage:
1 – Eat real food. Unfortunately, many processed and canned foods are staples in traditional dishes, such as marshmallows and cream of mushroom soup. To save yourself preservatives, food coloring, excess sodium and high fructose corn syrup, just eat real food.
2 – Shop at local farmers markets. Farmers markets carry the most local, nutritious, seasonal, fresh and many times, organic produce. Use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen as a guide to avoid heavy exposure to pesticides residues.
3 – Get quality protein. If your relatives aren’t a fan of tofuturkey, then make sure you buy free-range, organic or heritage breed turkey. Naturally raised birds are not given antibiotics or hormones and have superior taste and nutrition.
4 – Choose healthy cooking oil. Heating certain oils can destroy anti-inflammatory nutrients and cause oxidative stress to the body. So for higher-heat cooking, your best choice is coconut oil because it has a high smoke point and superior nutritional profile. Extra virgin organic olive oil is best used for salad dressings or drizzled over already cooked food for extra flavor and healthy boost of fats. Avoid cooking with soybean, safflower, sunflower, corn and grapeseed oils.
5 – Upgrade traditional recipes. Change up your favorite holiday meals with healthy Thanksgiving alternatives. For example, instead of stuffing, try quinoa or sprouted grains. Quinoa is both rich in protein and fiber and is a big favorite among veggie guests. Instead of candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows, try baked sweet potatoes with coconut oil and cinnamon. A twist on a family favorite can be creative, inspiring and fun.
6 – Make some swaps. If your heart is set on traditional dishes, then try some easy substitutions that will improve the quality and nutrition of your meal. Use coconut oil orEarth Balance Natural Spread instead of butter. Swap cow’s milk for hemp, rice, almond or coconut milk. Make stuffing vegetarian-friendly by using low sodium vegetable broth instead of a meat-based broth. Try maple syrup or conscious agave instead of white sugar. You can even blend soaked cashews in water for a heavy cream replacement. The possibilities are endless!
7 – Pre-dinner Sweat. One of the best strategies to prepare for the holiday is to move before your big meal. My favorite is a strong Vinyasa yoga class but any movement of your choice will work. Go for a run in the park, do a strength training workout or take a brisk walk with your family. By working the body, you create space for small indulgences. Make sure to sweat and get the heart pumping!
8 – Eat before dinner. While it may be enticing to skip meals before the big Thanksgiving dinner, it is better eat a small breakfast in the morning. By doing so, you have better control over your appetite and won’t be ravenous by the time you sit down to eat. By eating a small meal beforehand, you are much less likely to overeat.
9 – Go Slow! Enjoy Thanksgiving’s bountiful meal by eating slowly, putting your fork down between bites and chewing thoroughly. This mindful practice is a simple way to feel satisfied and allows your brain to register that you are full. So savor your food and be thankful for each bite!
10 – Hydrate with water, not alcohol. Water helps curb appetite and makes you feel full faster and longer. While it’s ok to enjoy alcohol, make sure to have water between drinks to stay hydrated. Keep in mind that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which can lead to possible poor judgements about a second (or third) helping of pumpkin pie 🙂
11 – Stop When You’re Full. It sounds obvious and simple, but stopping when you’re full can be challenging, especially if there is plenty more food. But remember, if you go slow, drink water, pay attention to how you feel and enjoy every bite, you will have a much easier time stopping when you’ve had enough.
12 – Eat the good stuff. Some dishes are best than others. For example, white turkey meat, plain vegetables, salad, roasted sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie tend to be the best options at a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Enjoy small portions of special holiday indulgences but make sure you get some of the good stuff too.
13 – Save the leftovers! Avoid waste and eat any remaining food next day lunch or dinner. Use glass instead of plastic when storing and heating up. Ceramic and glass containers are much safer and do not leach harmful chemicals into your food.
14 – Practice gratitude. We are all really fortunate to have an abundance of food and family on this holiday. So take a moment to reflect for all the blessings you have in your life. It is a day to express that gratitude and share it with others. That’s better than anything else.
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots of love and thankfulness!