Diet Detective: Thanksgiving eating tips

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Thanksgiving is coming and food will be everywhere. It marks the start of a six-week downward spiral for dieters that generally ends with, at the very least, one extra pound. This may not seem like much, but if you do it every year for 25 years – well, that’s 25 extra pounds.

There are, however some specific foods that tend to “tip the scale” the wrong way on Thanksgiving, when we can often eat more than 2,500 calories. If you’re trying to eat healthy, now is probably not the time to test yourself, but there are a few tips that could change your weight-gain fate.

Here are a few Thanksgiving foods that can sneak up on you, and what it would take to burn off those calories:

HANDFUL OF MIXED NUTS = 36 MINUTES OF STANDING IN LINE TO SEE SANTA WITH THREE RAMBUNCTIOUS KIDS (mild calisthenics)

Fit Tip: Nuts are healthy, but they’re high in calories (1 ounce is 170 calories)

ONE CRACKER WITH CHEESE = 30 MINUTES OF PREPARING AND SERVING THANKSGIVING DINNER

Fit Tip: Try low fat cheese and 100 percent whole wheat crackers

ONE LARGE SCOOP OF BREAD STUFFING WITH SAUSAGE = DANCING THE NUTCRACKER FOR 65 MINUTES

Fit Tip:  Try preparing the stuffing with whole wheat croutons, chopped apple, celery and onion, and moistening it with chicken broth.

A HALF CUP OF CRANBERRY SAUCE = 22 MINUTES DANCING AS A ROCKETTE AT RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL.

Fit Tip: Watch how much you use, traditional turkey gravy is actually lower in calories than cranberry sauce.

ONE CUP CANDIED SWEET POTATOES = 154 MINUTES OF BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING

Fit Tip: Sweet potatoes are generally healthy; however, candied sweet potatoes also contain butter. brown sugar, and sometimes even marmalade, honey, maple syrup, marshmallows and/or pecans, which can add up to more than 450 calories for a one-cup portion. Instead, put the sweet potato in the microwave until it’s soft, then mash it up with some margarine spray and salt; you’ll be more than satisfied at about one-third the calories

2 SERVINGS OF DARK MEAT TURKEY (W/SKIN) = 104 MINUTES OF DECORATING THE TREE

Fit Tip: The dark meat has about 15 percent more calories than white meat. A 3.5-ounce serving of turkey breast with skin has about 153 calories; dark meat with skin has about 182 calories. To save calories, remove the skin, but not until after the turkey is cooked (otherwise the meat will dry out during the long cooking time). White meat without skin: 135 calories; dark meat without skin: 162 calories. Also, roast the turkey on a rack so that it is not sitting in its own juices (i.e., fat). Baste it with apple juice or low-fat chicken broth instead of its own juices.

2 CUPS OF BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP = 55 MINUTES SHOVELING SNOW

Fit Tip: Limit the butter, oil or cream used in the preparation. Try nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream or heavy cream as your thickener which add up to 390 calories)

1 SLICE OF PECAN PIE = 52 MINUTES OF PLAYING NONSTOP PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL ON THANKSGIVING DAY 

Fit Tip: Skip the whipped cream, which adds an extra 80 to 100 calories per serving. And skip the Pie à la Mode (and save 270 calories)

A FEW OTHER TIPS

  • Eat First: Don’t arrive with your stomach rumbling
  • Forget the All or Nothing Mindset: “I’ve already ruined my diet, so it doesn’t matter what I eat now.”  It matters!  Don’t give up just because you have a few unhealthy foods.
  • Strategize: Think ahead about what your indulgences are going to be. Eat the things you really love – maybe a small serving of mashed sweet potatoes, a sliver of pecan pie – and ignore the not-so-thrilling stuff.
  • Watch Out For Food Pushers: Mentally rehearse a few key phrases like, “Oh, no thanks. I couldn’t eat another thing.”
  • Recruit Your Friends and Family: Talk to them about the healthy changes you’re making and enlist their help.
  • Balance It Out: Try consuming fewer calories the days before and after the holiday.
  • Trade-Off: If there was ever a time to increase your exercise, it’s now. Double your exercise Thanksgiving week. You can even hire a personal trainer for the day before, and the day after.
  • Go Easy on the Alcohol: It’s a double whammy. Alcohol is high in calories and lowers your inhibition so you eat more.
  • Hire a personal trainer three days a week for the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Look for someone who is certified by one or more of the following organizations: American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM) or National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). See if you can work a deal that gives you 20 sessions for $1,000. This could be the best holiday gift you ever gave yourself. Plus, if you prepay the trainer you’ll be less likely to cancel the sessions. There’s nothing like money to get us motivated.
  • Be Generous. Give away every food gift you receive. Donate them to friends or co-workers.

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CHARLES PLATKIN, PhD is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com, and the Director of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College. Copyright 2016 by Charles Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at www.DietDetective.com