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Ways to Eat Smarter at Thanksgiving Dinner


from the desk of Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney

Ridgewood NJ, Thanksgiving is a time for us to be grateful for everything we have, but it has also earned the connotation as the holiday for gigantic meals and over-eating. For those of you who are watching what they eat or are health-conscious, you may be concerned you’ll have too much on your plate this holiday! ConsumerReports recommends these tips to help you eat smarter and find the sweet spot between treating yourself and overindulging.

Don’t Fast Before Dinner: This classic holiday strategy will likely backfire—Keating says that starving yourself in the morning can lead to overeating later in the day. Instead of fasting, have a sensible breakfast and grab some small, low-calorie snacks beforehand. You can arrive hungry without being completely ravenous.

Freeze the Goodies: Guest often arrive with gifts of sweets. Unless it was their job to bring the dessert, don’t feel obligated to put everything out. “The more food that’s available, the more you’ll eat.” Cookies, brownies, and even fruit pies lend themselves well to freezing, so stash them to enjoy throughout the holiday season.

For Appetizers, Think Fresh: Boiled shrimp with lemon or cocktail sauce is a smarter pick than fried hors d’oeuvres. Other healthful starters include stuffed mushrooms, sliced low-fat cheese, and raw veggies with hummus.

Make a Spritzer: Mix half red or white wine and half seltzer in a wine glass, add a slice of lime, and you have a festive drink with half the calories and alcohol content. Or have a glass of seltzer in between each drink: It will act as a palate cleanser that will help slow your intake.

Relearn Buffet Eating: You would not order one of everything from a menu, so scan the table and make your choices before you load up a plate. And if you do want to try everything, and if you do, simply cut down on portion size. And remember that “Often getting just a taste will be enough.”

Concentrate on Your Meal: Mindfulness can be the key to maximizing your mealtime pleasure—so pay attention to the flavor and texture of each bite. It will make you appreciate each dish more, but that’s not all. Research shows that eating while distracted can lead you to consume more mindless calories. (No, this is not a good excuse to avoid chatting with relatives.)

Take a Walk Between Dinner and Dessert: For some families, this one is an annual tradition. But it’s more than just a way of bonding with relatives and staying active. We know that your satiety can lag somewhat so, if you go straight from the meal to dessert, you may not realize how full you actually are. Just think about it—you’ll probably enjoy dessert more if you aren’t completely stuffed.

Hydrate: This advice is useful on your average day, of course, but it’s especially helpful on Thanksgiving. Studies have shown that some eaters confuse thirst with hunger, so drinking plenty of water throughout the day will keep you from gorging when you really just need a glass of water.

Put It Away: Don’t put out a lot of items for mindless eating (bags of chips, bowls of candy, trays of cookies) once the meal is officially complete. Enjoy the meal and dessert, then clean up!
Eat Better on Friday: Plan to eat healthier tomorrow so you can feel better about indulging today. Thanksgiving is only one day per year; you have 364 more days to eat well!

If you do over-eat this Thanksgiving, don’t worry too much. According to registered dietitian Keri Gans, MS, author of The Small Change Diet, it’s okay to over-eat a little bit. “You should never beat yourself up over food,” Gans says. “If you want to indulge at a meal, do it mindfully… The key is to do it only on the actual holidays, not throughout the entire holiday season.”

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