Easy-to-implement tips and tricks for a healthier Thanksgiving

Easy-to-implement tips and tricks for a healthier Thanksgiving

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Anyone who watches their weight knows their kryptonite is just around the corner: Thanksgiving.

Eid day can leave people feeling exhausted, tired and unhealthy. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We spoke with Kim Shapira, a registered dietitian in Los Angeles, and April Thompson, a chef, businesswoman, and author in Greater Cleveland, about smart, easy-to-follow approaches when it comes to cooking and eating during the holidays.

They offer several things to consider, and we’ll offer some suggestions to help:

Don’t go hungry!

Some people will think they’ve beaten their diet by starving themselves and wearing sweatpants so they can feel comfortable eating another pile of mashed potatoes or a second slice of pie. This is not a good approach, Shapira said.

“I think people get so caught up in celebrations and holidays and often narrowly focused on the food they’re going to have, but they forget that their bodies really thrive on consistency,” said Shapira, who wrote What You’re Really Hungry for: Six Simple Rules for Transforming Your Relationship with Food to more healthy.

She suggests treating Thanksgiving like a Thursday, rather than a holiday, so to speak. The body, which thrives on blood sugar and consistency, needs nourishment every two and a half to three hours.

“Eat when you’re hungry, small and often, and don’t undereat,” Shapira said. Undereating sends a signal to your brain that your body is “starving.” She added that even if you eat something considered “healthy,” your body will store it as fat if you’re really hungry.

“The word ‘healthy’ is a very individual word,” she said. “Everyone at the meal is going to have different factors in their body that trigger inflammatory responses (to certain foods).”

She suggested an overview of the meal, asking, “How does my body respond to this?”

Shapira said that eating when you are not hungry (at the table) is not good.

“I would like to point everyone to the word ‘healthy’ in prices and natural eating,” she said. “Sometimes I eat pumpkin pie, but I generally don’t eat pumpkin pie for two or three days in a row. If I do, I’m in a habit.”

Suggestion: If you love pie, think about whether or not you really need to make it trendy.

Green bean casserole anyone?

Keep health preparedness in mind

For turkey, there are many ways you can stay on the healthy side, said Thompson, who was in the middle of preparing a big menu for her holiday meal. Avoid dark meat and fried turkey. And forget butter injections.

Instead, consider braising the turkey, which roasts the bird more evenly. She said you can soak them in salted water ahead of time and grill them. A turkey you harvest in the fall will have delicious toppings of dried cranberries, apples, oranges, onions and celery, which can be roasted.

Thompson, who works in heart health programs with the Cleveland Clinic, said she also has a unique vegetable suggestion: Cut a potato in half and mix it with butternut squash.

“The butternut squash will take on the same flavors if you season it the same way, roast it the same way and mix it with the sweet potatoes. You get half the density of a potato and half the calories. Then, when you get sick of it, you can put it in a blender or a Vitamix or something and make a soup.” Delicious. (Recipe below.)

For a traditional green bean dish, make your own crispy onions, she said.

“Just crispy, floured onions with heavy cream and sautéed mushrooms instead of having cream of mushroom soup, which may be faster but you have more control over your calories when you do it yourself,” Thompson said. “So by using some Parmesan cheese, heavy cream and sautéed mushrooms, you’re missing all the preservatives. You know the cream is going in as full fat and you’re going to be cutting out all the fat instead of the preservatives that are in the (canned) soup.”

Also, find a local farmers market and roast fresh vegetables with herbs in a skillet, she said.

“Small changes will help everyone have the happiest holidays ever,” she said.

Shapira focuses less on recipes and more on the long-term effects of maintaining health while introducing positive habits. It focuses on why people eat and what changes they need to make.

“Everyone knows kale is healthy, but they drink milkshakes after kale,” she said, adding that “deep frying is probably not good for someone with high cholesterol.”

Suggestion: If you are cooking, ask yourself if you need this much salt or sugar in the dish.

Portion control is key.

How much is too much?

Both Shapira and Thompson focus on portion control.

“Take your normal portion, cut it in half, and wait 15 minutes to see if you need more food,” Shapira said, saying it helps to be mindful while eating. Going slow can avoid digestive stress, prevent overeating and avoid weight gain.

“The fatigue we feel afterwards is from the size of the meal. It causes a lot of distress, and our body goes to overtime to process and break down all those nutrients.

Thompson agrees.

“Eat several small portions,” she said. “Don’t make that giant plate of everything. Eat all day, but pace yourself. Give yourself breaks in between. Eat smaller meals. It’s all about portion control. If you know you want to eat dessert, you probably won’t have a pile.” Huge amount of macaroni and cheese.

Suggestion: Do you need that extra roll with a dollop of butter when you’re eating filling in addition to macaroni and cheese?

Serving raw nuts is a healthy alternative during the holidays in place of dessert dishes.

Avoid bad snacks

It’s really easy to pour the candy into a festive bowl and set it on the counter. “Put a pitcher of water in a really nice glass on the counter,” suggests Shapira. Every time you walk into the kitchen, you form a habit of pouring yourself some water. This will help you get a short pause or space between the thought of eating and the action of eating.

“Do you remember when we were kids?” Thompson offers. Our parents had nuts and nutcrackers. Raw nuts are very good for us. Get dried fruits. Put out things like that. Prepare small appetizers for people to snack on so they aren’t tempted to reach for dessert. Prepare a batch of healthy snacks and you can snack throughout the day — especially for people who meal prep. Where there used to be M&Ms, there are now candy mixes and quinoa bites and things like that.

Suggestion: A few raw almonds daily can help improve good cholesterol. Squeezing a lemon or two into a pitcher of water can add flavor without the calories. And think air-popped popcorn.

finally …

what should be done: Plan family activities, Thompson He said. Play games or go for a walk “so you don’t spend all day gorging.”

What not to do: Shapira says avoid the scale. “Give yourself some grace if you eat low salt or starchy foods,” she said. “Return to eating well constantly. You will not be disgraced or persecuted.”

“Don’t forget that mindfulness has its place,” Shapira added.

“You better take your eyes off the food and see the people you’re with. This should be Thanksgiving,” she said.

Suggestions: You don’t have to be like the Kennedys and play soccer, but walking around the neighborhood isn’t a bad idea. If you decide to watch any of the NFL games for the day, know that the day is long, so keep an eye on your alcohol level. Also remember that your dinner and side dishes will probably have leftovers, so you don’t have to try to conquer everything on the table in one sitting.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes by April Thompson


1-2 squash, peeled and cut into cubes

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

1 medium-sized onion, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 stalk fresh rosemary (leaves removed and finely chopped).

Half a cup of monk fruit sweetener

1 tablespoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon cinnamon


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil.

2. Peel and chop all the vegetables, then put them in a large bowl.

3. After putting the vegetables, onions and garlic in a bowl, pour in the extra virgin olive oil.

4. Add the spices and stir. Place on the lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip the vegetables and bake for another 20 minutes.

time: It usually takes 35 to 50 minutes. Stick a fork into the vegetables to test for doneness. It should be soft but not mushy.

I’m on cleveland.comThe s Life & Culture team covers food, beer, wine and sports-related topics. As for my latest stories Here’s a guide on cleveland.com. WTAM-1100’s Bill Wells and I talk about food and drink usually at 8:20 a.m. on Thursdays. Twitter: @mbona30. My latest book, co-authored with Dan Murphy, is “Joe Thomas: Not Your Average Joe” by Gray and Company.

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