How to prepare for healthy holiday eating

Sunrise Senior Living  |  November 14, 2016

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

Which means it's almost time to sit around the table with family and friends and share some delicious meals. Most people prepare to indulge a bit, but did you know that the average American consumes over 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving between snacks, drinks and dinner?

The holiday splurging can really add up and break your normal healthy eating habits, but it doesn't have to. Just keep these tips in mind before you load up your plate:

1. Prepare healthier choices for the family
Sure, your family is probably expecting turkey on the table, but why not accompany it with healthier side dishes? Instead of the traditional green bean casserole, you can make a better alternative. Same goes for mashed potatoes – why not fool them with a cauliflower mock up that tastes just like the original dish? These are simple choices that will make the meal healthier without taking away from the flavor.

2. Don't skip breakfast and lunch
Many people skip breakfast and lunch to prepare their stomachs for a large dinner, but that can slow down your metabolism. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who eat breakfast in the morning avoid loading up on the calories for dinner. Fill yourself up on Thanksgiving morning with high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains so you aren't tempted to go overboard during dinner.

Start your Thanksgiving day with a balanced breakfast.Start your Thanksgiving day with a balanced breakfast.

3. Drink in moderation
It's OK to have an alcoholic beverage or two during the holidays, but do your best to drink in moderation. Holiday cocktails are loaded with sugar from the alcohol content and mixers, and the calories can add up quickly when you overindulge. The American Diabetes Association suggested sticking to no more than one drink for women and two drinks for men. 

Remember: a single serving of alcohol is equal to a glass of wine, a pint of beer or a shot of liquor.

4. Start off with a salad
Once you're ready to hit the buffet table, consider starting yourself off with a hearty salad. This ensures you're getting your leafy greens in for dinner and can also fill you up enough to keep you from overindulging later.

"Don't eat until you're as stuffed as the turkey."

5. Eat until your satisfied
You shouldn't eat until you're as stuffed as the Thanksgiving turkey. Make sure your portions are reasonable and stop eating before you're satisfied, then go back for seconds if you're still hungry 20 minutes later.

6. Bake a healthy dessert
Thanksgiving is nothing without dessert. But that doesn't mean you have to make poor decisions to satisfy a craving for sweets. Just consider baking a healthy pumpkin recipe to end the holiday on a high, guilt-free note. 

It's easy to overdo it around the holidays, but try your best to keep your health in mind. Don't feel defeated if you think you ate too much. Just focus on getting back to your healthy habits the following day. And the holidays will soon give you another chance to apply moderation: The tips above work just as well for Christmas and other winter celebrations.