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Healthy Thanksgiving: Healthy Alternatives

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Research has found that overindulgence during the holidays leads many Americans to gain between 1-2 pounds by New Year’s Day. The average Thanksgiving dinner is about 3,000 calories, and if you include appetizers and drinks, it can add up to over 4,500 calories. However, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean weight gain or strict restraint; there is a way to keep this holiday enjoyable and healthy.

It helps to plan out what you intend to eat for Thanksgiving dinner beforehand and to eat regular meals during the rest of the day. Starving yourself will only encourage you to eat more since you’ll arrive at dinner hungry and focused on little other than the food. Save your appetite for the special dishes that you don’t normally eat, like stuffing, and focus on portion size. Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy family and friends. It’s okay to indulge in some of your favorite foods, but be mindful of how much of each item you eat. Try to minimize the number of calories you consume by choosing low-calorie drinks like water or sparkling water. When you’re filling your plate, make sure to incorporate some non-starchy vegetables and salad to balance your meal.

If you have the opportunity to bring a dish, there are plenty of healthy options to choose from! Pick a low-calorie version of a favorite dish, such as:

  • Baked and sliced sweet potatoes, drizzled with olive oil. You can serve them with brown sugar topping on the side for those that want it.
  • Roasted Brussel sprouts
  • Roasted root vegetables (red potatoes, turnips, parsnips, and beets) with olive and seasoning
  • Roasted or sautéed green beans or broccoli
  • A green, leafy salad with toasted nuts or dried cranberries
  • Fruit salad

Throughout the holiday season, it’s also important to incorporate exercise. Even something as simple as going for a walk can go a long way, especially after a big meal. Walking gives you the opportunity to get some fresh air and gets your metabolism moving to help digest your food.

Our area is fortunate as the team of registered dietitians and diabetes educators at Cone Health’s Nutrition and Diabetes Services are dedicated to educating families in the community on making nutritional choices and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Physician Background:

Margaret “Maggie” May is the diabetes coordinator at Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Management Center.  Maggie is a registered dietician nurse, and Certified Diabetes Educator.  She earned a Master of Science in nursing in 1982 and a Master of Science in nutrition in 1998 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.