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Healthy Thanksgiving at Home

Does the idea of the upcoming holiday season cause you to feel stressed, worried, or frustrated due to the nature of this season during the current pandemic? You are not alone. Here are some ways to adjust to this holiday season to improve your safety, allow you to enjoy a delicious, healthy Thanksgiving meal, and keep your health in consideration.

COVID-19 and the Holidays

As we think of Thanksgiving, most people think of family and friends coming together from all over the country to spend a few days together eating, watching T.V., and catching up on all the gossip.

Like so many things, the holidays are going to be different this year. The CDC is recommending not to travel and stay home with your immediate family to decrease your risk and stop the spread. If you do have a small get together with immediate family and neighbors, they recommend you have plenty of ventilation if inside or host outside, wash your hands, maintain social distance, and wear a mask. Other tips from the CDC include minimizing how many people are around food that is being prepared, having one person serve the food to minimize touching utensils, or have everyone bring their own food and drink.

Following these recommendations will reduce the number of people you are entertaining and the amount of food you need to prepare. The question then becomes how do I make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for less people? How can we make this meal both nutritious and delicious?

Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

We previously discussed malnutrition and the importance of nutrition, especially during the time of coronavirus. Remember to keep this in mind as we move into the holiday season.

  1. If you already have the recipes for larger gatherings, cut them in half or quarter them to suit your current needs.
  2. Instead of purchasing an entire turkey, consider getting turkey breasts or drumsticks, or try a small roasting chicken.
  3. Lighten your dips with substitutions such as using sour cream instead of greek yogurt. This substitution helps you maintain flavor but reduces the amount of fat and calories.
  4. Watch your carbs by substituting whole grains for white flour items. You can pick up whole grain dinner rolls and breads. You can also replace white flour with almond flour or coconut flour in your recipes.
  5. Be mindful of your portion sizes. It is okay to indulge for the holiday, but it is important not to overindulge.
  6. Looking up recipes online is a great resource. Some tips include: go for the ones with fewer ingredients, lower fat/salt content, be considerate of how the item is prepared, and always look at the serving size.

A Healthy Thanksgiving Meal

Here is an example of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that keeps in mind nutrition, but maintains all the great flavor:

  • Small roasting chicken – seasoned to preference, limit use of salt
  • Stuffing – using whole wheat or whole grain bread and low sodium items
  • Mashed cauliflower – preferably without the use of butter, but unsalted butter can be used sparingly
  • Gravy – homemade with the juice from the chicken and a small amount of flour or cornstarch. You can use a packet to make gravy, but be mindful of sodium content and try to get the ones that are listed as low sodium
  • Green bean casserole – making this from scratch instead of using a can of cream of mushroom will help you control the sodium and fat content of this dish
  • Substitute out heavy cream for either half and half or even a small amount of low fat cream cheese (½ the amount you would use of milk)
  • Whole grain dinner rolls. Try with a small amount of fruit spread which has no added sugar
  • Pumpkin pie – use natural sweeteners and use canned whipped topping over frozen to avoid trans fats
  • Single serve desserts are also a great choice to avoid overeating

In the end, if you love cooking or just don’t feel like cutting your dinner in half, prepare it hygienically and share it with your neighbors or the elderly in your area so they can enjoy a traditional thanksgiving meal during these tough times that may keep them from being with their families. Stay safe, stay healthy during this holiday season.