Thanksgiving: Healthy Strategies & Last Minute Recipes



Oh, the joys of Thanksgiving!   Our family is looking forward to a nice, intimate family meal with my sister-in-law and her family as well as my father-in-law.   It will be a team effort with all parties contributing dishes to the meal.   I love potlucks because it allows us to share different recipes, tastes and flavors with each other.    I hope you are looking forward to the special time you plan to spend with loved ones as much as we are.

Thanksgiving is usually the official start of the holiday season; that which is filled with shopping, parties, travelling and time spent with extended family.   This is a wonderful time to build memories that last a lifetime, but it is also a high risk time of poor eating habits and weight gain for the average American.   Stress, decreased physical activity and excessive calorie intake are some of the main culprits.   Research suggests that holiday weight gain can be the type of weight gain that stays around for years.

Some of my adult weight loss clients are nervous about the upcoming holidays.   They have made positive lifestyle changes and as a result, have lost weight, improved blood sugar levels and/or have lowered their cholesterol and blood pressure.   Holidays can have a way of throwing all of us off our healthy lifestyle track.   The good news is that this does not need to happen.   There are many things you can do that will allow you to enjoy some of the pleasures that the Holidays bring while also maintaining a balanced approach to your healthy lifestyle.   Here are some survival strategies to help you stay on track through the holiday season:

Avoid starving yourself in preparation for a party or get together.   This is a very common approach, but it is a guaranteed way to take in too many calories.   Instead, strategize a plan so you can enjoy calorie-rich foods in moderation.   Eat a good, hearty breakfast to start your day.

Maximize the veggie tray.   Most parties do have some lower calorie fare such as vegetable trays and salads.   Load your plate with larger portions of these foods to keep your total calories in check.

Contribute the healthier dish.   If you need to bring a dish to a potluck party, bring a healthy dish to balance out the higher calorie choices.   Most people that have healthy mindsets are very thankful for these type of dishes.   This also ensures that you have some low calorie choices to include with the higher calorie foods you plan to eat.

Be mindful of mindless eating and grazing.   Many people tend to eat in the absence of hunger during social situations because the food is simply there.   Try and be extra conscious about why you are eating.   It sounds obvious, but make sure you only eat when you are hungry and not just because the food is merely there in front of you.   Go back to the basics.

Increase physical activity.   Who says time spent with family during the holidays has to only involve eating and sedentary activities?   Be the encourager of your family by suggesting a refreshing morning walk or even an after dinner game of hoops at a local park.   Be creatively deliberate about staying active, which is sure to help avoid holiday weight gain.   Our family likes to take the opportunity of extra time off that holidays allow to do some fun activities together.

Great, Healthy Homestyle Recipes

If you are still looking for that special dish to complete the Thanksgiving feast, I have a cookbook that has not failed me one time.   Every time I make a dish out of this cookbook, my guests love them.   The cookbook is More Healthy Homestyle Cooking: Family Favorites You’ll Make Againand Again by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD.   She has the original Healthy Homestyle Cooking and the Healthy Homestyle Dessertscookbooks that I keep meaning to get – and this blog post has gotten me to finally purchase them.   Unfortunately, I couldn’t find new books, as Amazon only could find me gently used versions and I was unable to get a hold of Evelyn before this post published.   But I am sure the recipes in the first one are as good as the second, but I will be sure to report back to you with my thoughts.  

What I like about Evelyn’s More Healthy Homestyle Cooking cookbook is that she makes several excellent suggestions to make a homestyle recipe healthier while at the same time, minimizing the loss of good taste and flavors.   That’s the key right there.   Living in Texas, many people I know are always on the lookout for good homestyle recipes that are also healthy.   If this is you, consider Evelyn’s cookbooks.

Here are a couple of her recipes:

Barley Risotto

1 onion, chopped
4 cups fat-free chicken broth
1 cup quick-cooking barley
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

Coat a large saucepan with nonstick spray and warm over medium heat.   Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until tender.   Add 3 cups of the broth and the barley.   Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.   Uncover and gradually add the remaining 1 cup broth, about ¼ cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next (a total of about 15 minutes).  Stir in the pecans, parsley and lemon peel.   Serve immediately.  Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 176 calories, 7g protein, 29g carbohydrates, 4g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 533mg sodium, 5g fiber.

Homestyle Hint:   To toast pecans, place them in a dry skillet over medium heat.   Cook, shaking the pan often, for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant.

Roasted Tarragon-Vegetable Medley

3 carrots, halved lengthwise, then quartered
2 medium crookneck or yellow summer squash, cut diagonally into ½”-thick slices
2 portobello mushrooms, each cut into sixths

2 T fat-free chicken broth
1 T dry white wine or fat-free chicken broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 T chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

TO MAKE THE VEGETABLES: Position one rack in the top third and another in the bottom third of the oven.   Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.   Line 2 baking sheets or roasting pans with foil and lightly coat with nonstick spray.

Arrange the carrots, squash zucchini, mushrooms, and peppers on both baking sheets or pans in single layers.   Place the mushrooms with their gills facing up.

TO MAKE THE GLAZE:   In a small cup, combine the broth, wine or broth, oil tarragon, and garlic.   Drizzle evenly over the vegetables.

Roast for 20 minutes.   Reverse the position of the baking sheets so that the top sheet is on the bottom and vice versa.   Roast for 15 minutes longer, or until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned.  Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 69 calories, 3g protein, 11g carbohydrates, 2g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 30mg sodium, 5g fiber.

From my family to yours, I wish you a very blessed, happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

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