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3 Tips For a Healthier Thanksgiving

Updated October 2020. Looking forward to seeing family and friends for the holiday? Here are some health tips to keep in mind as you enjoy a Thanksgiving feast....
3 Tips For a Healthier Thanksgiving
Written By: Cassandra Aviles on November 22, 2013

Updated October 2020. 

Looking forward to seeing family and friends for the holiday? Here are some health tips to keep in mind as you enjoy a Thanksgiving feast. 

1. Avoid food poisoning

If you’re involved with food preparations this year, take note. Many of the meats that we eat on Thanksgiving such as turkey, or duck, we might only prepare a few times a year. Therefore, there’s a higher risk of food poisoning, especially if food is left out for hours before eating. 

  • When you pick your meat from the freezer case at the supermarket, don’t take the one on top. It has probably already defrosted and may be unfit for consumption.
  • Choose lean meats with no added injections.
  • Store the meat properly in a refrigerator for no more than two days.
  • Allow enough time to defrost – The Washington Post recommends 24 hours for every five pounds of meat.
  • Use a meat thermometer to determine when the food is fully cooked. Although you may think you can tell when it’s done just by looking at color and texture, it's good to double-check. 
  • Try not to leave food out for too long before eating, even if you're talking and chatting. Click here to read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines

2. Cut calories

Do you know that a typical Thanksgiving meal is comprised of approximately 2,300 calories (not counting alcohol and the second helping that you take a couple of hours later)? That’s more than a day’s calorie intake in one meal for those who consume an average of 2,000 calories per day. Here are some ideas for making healthier swaps if you want to cut calories: 

  • Choose a piece of meat the size of the palm of your hand. Wait to see if you're full before going for second helpings. 
  • Go for cooked sweet potatoes instead of the whipped ones with marshmallows. We know that they are good, but wouldn’t you rather save the sugar for dessert?
  • Take half a scoop of mashed potatoes, instead of your normal serving. You can still enjoy them without filling up on the starch.
  • When it comes to dessert, eat your pie with frozen yogurt. It’s a little less creamy than your normal ice cream, but chances are you won’t even notice because the pie is so good.

3. Prep for special dietary needs

It can be tough to arrive to a Thanksgiving celebration and not be able to eat any of the items. The New York Times Wellness Blog offers up a great resource of Thanksgiving recipes for dishes that work. Here’s a sample:

  • Gluten-free: Pumpkin soup, greens quiche, and cranberry-pomegranate sauce
  • Vegan: Pecan pie truffles, chocolate chip banana cake, apple and berry pie
  • Vegetarian: Harvest-stuffed Portobello mushrooms, country “meatloaf” with golden gravy