Dig In and Enjoy a Healthy Holiday Feast

Thanksgiving has secured a place in the U.S. culture in part because it inspires people to spend time with family and friends, to reflect on the origins of the country and to feast on comfort food on a beautifully decorated table.

Unfortunately, most of that comfort food is packed with too much fat, sugar and salt.

We all know the health consequences of too much food and too little exercise, so let me challenge your family to get a jump start on living a healthier lifestyle by initiating some healthy dinner traditions during the holiday season.

For starters, consider substituting some of the unhealthy items on your Thanksgiving menu with healthier choices.

Healthy substitutions not only reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt in your recipes, but they also increase the nutritional content.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Use whole wheat pasta for increased fiber and fewer calories.
  • Use fat-free milk instead of whole milk.
  • Use less meat and add more vegetables to casseroles to get additional vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  • Eliminate or reduce the amount of cheese used in recipes. You could also use reduced fat cheese.
  • Reduce the amount of toppings such as frosting, coconut or whipped cream to desserts.
  • Substitute unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana or prune puree for half the amount of butter, shortening or oil in recipes.
  • Reduce sugar by half and substitute it with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, or vanilla or almond extract.
  • Eliminate or reduce by half the salt you add to main dishes, soups and salads.
  • Refrigerate gravy and skim the fat off before warming it up to serve.
  • Include a fruit platter and/or salad.
  • Serve iced tea and water instead of soda and juices.
  •  Top casseroles with almonds instead of fried onion rings or bread crumbs.

In addition to making healthier food, serve smaller portions and slow down while you eat.

Eating at a slower pace allows your body to know that you are full before you dig in for seconds.

Making a few small changes can help your family enjoy a healthier holiday.

It may take time and dedication to start new holiday traditions, but the payoff will be worth the effort.