With U.S. tables likely to be filled edge to edge with classic Turkey Day fare, nutritionists and other health care professionals stress the need to remember that what’s good for the soul isn’t always best for the heart on Thanksgiving Day.
Leading the nation in obesity and high blood pressure, according to American Heart Association statistics, African Americans are not unlike many Americans in that they celebrate with food.
And while Thanksgiving is usually the time most Americans pile on the fried, fatty foods and desserts with no shame, health officials say this is not the time to completely forget healthy eating tips, starting with portion control.
“Prepare small, lower-calorie meals during the day so you can eat celebration foods without overdoing your calorie intake for the day. Enjoy a small, low-calorie snack such as fruit or whole-grain toast before you head out the door to curb hunger and avoid overeating,” suggests the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in their tips for healthy eating around the holidays.
“Remember, conversation is calorie-free, and you may eat less if you settle into the festivities instead of heading straight to the buffet. Ask for sparkling water and lime, which doesn’t supply calories, and start mingling,” the nutrition experts said.
Aside from watching what goes into the stomach, the Academy also suggests balancing holiday meals with physical activity such as taking a walk after dinner, playing with youngsters gathered for the feasts, or simply using steps instead of escalators and elevators.
Vegetarian meals can also be considered instead of traditional foods such as turkey, and salt intake should be limited or nixed all together by use of herbs and spices. As with every meal, portion control is a must.
Consumers are also encouraged to use farmer’s markets for holiday meals, where turkey orders can be placed, and fresh produce, dairy, fruits and other foods are available at lower prices.
“When making desserts or eggnog, reduce the amount of sugar by half and enhance "sweetness" by adding a bit of citrus, more vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon,” suggests The Mayo Clinic, on holiday treats. “Try turbinado sugar, honey or molasses — their flavor means you can use less. If recipes call for sugary toppings like frosting, jams and syrup, use fresh or unsweetened frozen fruit instead.” Turbinado sugar is raw cane sugar that is spun in a turbine and results in a pale brown sugar that has a molasses flavor.
The Mayo Clinic encourages consumers swap salt for flavored vinegars, and condensed skim milk for whole milk in everything from drinks to fudge.
“For gravy, heat fat-free, low-sodium broth, or drippings with the fat removed. Mix flour into cold skim milk and pour slowly into broth, stir until thickened and season to your liking.”
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