How to make healthier food choices on Thanksgiving Day

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – On Thursday millions of Americans will gather around the table to share a meal with their loved ones.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis, 7NEWS spoke with a registered dietician on how to make healthier food choices this Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season.

For many, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a spread on the table including turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, mac and cheese, casseroles and don’t forget the pies.

Natalie Harris a registered dietician said you can make healthy adjustments without breaking tradition– starting with swapping some ingredients.

“Olive oil is a great heart-healthy fat, so that be a good alternative for butter.”

Natalie Harris Registered Dietician, Bon Secours St. Francis

If a casserole, or two, are on your menu– consider this simple change.

“Using a low sodium broth instead of those creamy soups. That can help reduce your sodium content, your fat, and your calories,” Harris said.

If mac and cheese is your favorite, good news, it’s not off-limits. However, Harris recommends preparing it this way. “Switching to whole grains, so sneaking in whole grains when you can, if you’re doing a mac and cheese, maybe going for a whole grain noodle,” Harris said.

We all know turkey is the main event, Harris said it’s a great, lean protein full of vitamins and minerals.

Light or dark meat, there’s not a whole lot of nutritional difference between the two.

“So it’s really kind of up to your preference. A little bit lower-calorie, in the sense, from a white meat standpoint, but again if you’re watching your portion size, not a huge difference,” Harris said.

But fried foods, including dropping the turkey in a deep fryer, while tasty, should be avoided.

“Going for more of a baking or broiling or roasting,” Harris said.

Harris said you may be tempted to fast all day, in preparation to feast, but it’s not a good idea to skip meals, even on Thanksgiving day.

“Go into that Thanksgiving day knowing you’re going to eat three meals a day, so that you don’t have to stuff all your calories in at one meal. That can be helpful to help you prevent overeating,” Harris said.

It’s okay to go back for seconds, just use a smaller plate.

And after you eat and your food settles– get moving.

“I know the holidays are busy but set some time aside to move with your family, whether you plan a walk or a hike or play a game of football or frisbee,” Harris said.

When it’s time for dessert, Harris said maybe consider splitting something sweet with someone at the table. If you’re the one doing the baking, use stevia or an artificial sweetener to reduce the sugar content.

To submit a health topic for our Ask the Expert series, click here.

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