A group of researchers recently showed that a month of unhealthy lifestyle and weight gain made it tougher to lose weight later.
While taking time off from being healthy by overeating and not exercising can make ongoing weight loss more challenging, I believe that taking time to enjoy yourself on special holidays is part of being healthy. Thanksgiving is one of those days.
That said, I tell my patients that planning is the single most important factor in being healthy, and this is especially true on Thanksgiving. With just a bit of planning you can eat well, have a great holiday and be healthy.
Here are five simple Dr. Gourmet Thanksgiving guidelines:
1. Serve fresh snacks.
Put out bowls of popcorn: It's super easy to make and popcorn is full of fiber.
Fresh veggies and dip are especially easy now that most grocery stores sell bags or platters of pre-cut peppers, celery, carrots and cherry tomatoes. Making your own dips helps you control the calories, but you'll also avoid the added chemicals and salt in many prepared dips.
Nuts and trail mix made with dried fruit are a great party snack. While they are higher in calories, research has shown that eating nuts before a meal helps us feel fuller and makes us less likely to overeat. We also know that nuts and seeds help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.
2. Think about drinks.
Don't buy soda for your Thanksgiving day festivities. A can of regular soda contains a whopping 9 teaspoons of sugar.
Make fantastic iced tea or lemonade with only one or two teaspoons of sugar a glass. Delicious, refreshing, and each drink has 100 fewer calories than the same amount of soda (you probably can't get 9 teaspoons of sugar to dissolve in a glass of iced tea).
Alcohol can be a big source of excess calories and can also make you less inhibited and lead to eating more than you really want. Limit the number of drinks and alternate your alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic beverages, preferably water. (And encourage your visitors to have a designated driver!)
3. Eat real food.
More and more research is showing us that the more processed food is, the worse it is for you.
Soup is a great starter course. There's good research showing that people who have a soup course to start with eat fewer calories overall. Fall is a great season for soups -- they're so warm and satisfying.
For your main course, choose fresh turkeys that have not had any fat or sodium added. Many have had flavorings injected into the meat. Check the package if you purchase a frozen turkey: the ingredient list should list only turkey.
If you usually serve a ham, serve pork tenderloin or a pork loin roast instead. Good quality cuts of pork like these are lower in saturated fat than that spiral-cut ham and have no added salt.
Traditional Thanksgiving side dishes are some of the healthiest you can eat. It can help your diners a lot to serve only a single starch -- whether that's stuffing, yams or potatoes. It's best to choose baked yams or mashed sweet potatoes instead of stuffing or dressing, as they will have better quality nutrients and are generally higher in fiber.
If you are going to make stuffing, don't use a mix. The products on the market are full of salt, chemicals and often added fat. When making your own, use whole grain breads or cornbread. Both will have more fiber than the stuff you get out of a box.
Serve veggies, veggies and more veggies. Serve a wide variety of vegetables with your Thanksgiving spread.
Cranberry sauce can be great for you -- cranberries have tons of antioxidants. They are, however, tart and most pre-made sauces have a lot of added sugar. Check the package for a brand with the least added sugar (or make your own).
4. You don't have to have a second helping.
Stop and think about how great that food was before you head for the buffet table again. Sometimes that's all it takes for you to keep from overeating.
5. Serve a portion-controlled dessert.
Best of all, serve fruit. Go with something fancy like Poached Pears, or if you don't want to make the effort, serve cut fruit or berries with whipped cream (the real whipped cream from a can help you with portion control too).
Most of all, enjoy Thanksgiving. If you do overeat a bit, that's O.K.. The day after Thanksgiving is for shopping, so it'll be easy to get back on track!
Here are some delicious, healthy recipes for your Thanksgiving gathering:
Servings = 4 | Serving size = about 1 1/2 cups Cooking Time = 60 Minutes This recipe makes great leftovers. Serve with a 2-ounce whole wheat or gluten-free roll and 1 ounce semi-soft goat cheese. Ingredients: 2 cups water 2 lbs butternut squash 1/2 tsp salt fresh ground black pepper 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg 1 cup water Directions: Place the water in a large sauce pan fitted with a steamer basket over high heat. Put the cubed squash in the steamer basket. Steam until tender (20 - 30 minutes). Let the squash cool and then add it to the remaining steaming water in the bottom of the sauce pan. Using a stick blender or a blender puree the squash and water until smooth. Place the pan over low heat and add the salt, pepper, thyme leaves and ground nutmeg. Reheat the soup gently. Stir in the remaining water to the desired consistency. It may take as much as 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Nutrition Information: Dr. Gourmet
Servings = 8 | Serving size = 1 cup soup Cooking Time = 120 Minutes Serving Suggestions: Leftovers are good for about 3 days in the fridge. Serve with a 2 ounce whole wheat or gluten-free roll. Ingredients: 1 tsp unsalted butter 1 large carrot (peeled and diced) 1 small onion (diced) 1 29 ounce can pumpkin 4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth 1 cup water 5 whole cloves 1/4 tsp salt 3 Tbsp honey 1/2 cup non-fat sour cream 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp ground cloves 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds Directions: Melt the butter over medium heat in a large stock pot. Add the onions and carrots and cook very slowly until the onions are translucent. Add the pumpkin, chicken stock, water and whole cloves to the pot. Simmer over low to low-medium heat for about one hour until the carrots are soft. Stir frequently. While the soup is simmering preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the pumpkin seeds in a large non-stick skillet and roast for about 3 minutes in the oven. Remove the pan from the oven and stir the seeds. Return them to the oven and stir every three minutes until they are golden brown. Remove and let the seeds cool. Place the sour cream, ground cinnamon, ground cloves and ground nutmeg in a bowl and stir until well blended. When the carrots in the soup are soft add the honey and stir well. Remove the pot from the burner and let the soup cool for at least 20 minutes. Puree in a blender until smooth in two or three batches. Serve soup hot with a tablespoon of spiced sour cream and a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds. Nutrition Information: Dr. Gourmet
Servings = 8 | Serving size = 4 ounces turkey breast Cooking Time = 120 Minutes Ingredients: 1 3 lb. bone in turkey breast 3 sprigs (about 3 Tbsp.) fresh rosemary leaves Directions: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Rinse the whole turkey breast in cold water and pat dry. Starting at the peak of the turkey breast pull back the skin and slide a finger between the skin and the turkey breast on either side of the peak of the breast bone. This will form a small pocket. Insert half of the rosemary into each of the pockets made pushing it as far down as possible and working to distribute the rosemary leaves over the face of the breast meat between the breast meat and the skin. Place the turkey breast in a large roasting pan and place the pan inside the preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the roasting pan 180° in the oven once to make sure the turkey roasts evenly. At one hour cover the skin of the breast with aluminum foil. If the skin is not quite crispy, that’s OK. After about 90 - 105 minutes remove the aluminum foil and roast until the internal temperature of the breast meat is 160°F. Remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving. Nutrition Information: Dr.Gourmet
Servings = 6 | Serving size = 4 ounces pork Cooking Time = 90 Minutes Ingredients: 2 tsp grapeseed oil 2 1/2 lbs shitaki mushrooms (thinly sliced) 2 large shallots (minced) 1/2 cup dried cranberries 1/4 cup tawny port 1/2 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth 1/4 tsp salt fresh ground black pepper 1 Tbsp maple syrup 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves 1 1/5 lbs pork loin 1/4 cup tawny port 1/2 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth 1/2 cupwater 2 Tbsp cornstarch Directions: In a large skillet heat 1 teaspoon of the grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add the shiitaki mushrooms and, tossing frequently, sauté until they turn a dark roasted brown. While the mushrooms are cooking heat the other teaspoon of grapeseed oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the minced shallots and cook gently stirring frequently until they are soft and translucent. Add the cranberries, port, chicken stock, salt, pepper and maple syrup. Increase the heat slightly and cook until all but about 1 tablespoon of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. When the mushrooms are done fold them into the cranberry mixture. Add the rosemary and toss until well blended. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F. While the stuffing is cooling trim the pork tenderloin of all excess fat. Stuff the pork loin using about 3/4 of the cranberry/shiitaki mixture. Place a large non-stick skillet in the oven to heat. After about ten minutes lightly spray with olive oil and add the pork loin to sear. This will require turning about every 4 minutes for the first 15 so as to sear the outside well. While the pork is roasting place the remaining cranberry/shiitaki mixture in a non-reactive sauce pan with the tawny port and 1/4 cup chicken stock over medium heat. When the sauce is simmering reduce the heat to medium-low. As the sauce reduces ad the water about 2 tablespoons at a time. While the sauce is cooking place the 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in the remaining 1/4 cup chicken stock and stir well until blended. Set aside. The roast will take about 45 minutes to cook to an internal temperature of 160°F. Remove to a cutting board to rest for about 3 – 5 minutes. While the meat is resting increase the heat under the sauce to medium and add the cornstarch/chicken stock mixture. Stir well to blend and thicken the sauce. Cut the pork loin into 6 slices of equal thickness. These will be about 1 – 1 1/2 inches thick. Remove the trussing twine as you slice. Serve over Mashed Potatoes with the thickened sauce. For Nutrition Information: Dr. Gourmet
Servings = 4 | Serving size = 4 ounces pork with sauce Cooking Time = 30 Minutes Serving Suggestion: Serve the pork sliced and top with the sauce. Ingredients: 2 tsp olive oil 1 lb pork tenderloin 1 large shallot 1 tsp dried sage leaves 1/8 tsp dried tarragon 1 tsp honey 1 tsp white wine vinegar 1/4 tsp salt 2 tsp coarse ground dijon mustard 1/4 cup water fresh ground black pepper 2 tsp unsalted butter Directions: Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Add the pork tenderloin and cook for about 12 minutes searing on all sides. Add the shallots, sage, tarragon, honey, vinegar, salt, mustard and water. Add the fresh pepper. Cook the pork for about 12 minutes turning frequently. If the sauce becomes too thick, add water one tablespoon at a time. When the pork is done and the sauce is thickening whisk in the unsalted butter until the sauce is smooth. Nutrition Information: Dr. Gourmet
Servings = 4 | Serving size = about one cup Cooking Time = 30 Minutes Ingredients: 1 quart water 1 lb yams 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil 1 large shallot 1/4 tsp dried rosemary 1/4 tsp salt fresh ground black pepper 2 Tbsp light spread (like Promise Buttery Spread Light or Smart Balance Light) 1/4 cup non-fat buttermilk 2 Tbsp 2% milk Directions: Place the water in a large stock pot fitted with a steamer basket over high heat. Add the cubed yams to the steamer basket and steam until they break slightly with a fork. While the yams are cooking, place the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and rosemary and cook gently until the shallots are softened. Place the cooked yams together with the shallot and rosemary mixture in a bowl. Add the salt, pepper, spread and buttermilk and mash with a fork until smooth. Add the 2% milk slowly as the yams are mashed smooth. The mashed yams can be reheated gently in a microwave. Nutrition Information: Dr. Gourmet
Servings = 2 | Serving size = 1/2 squash Cooking Time = 30 Minutes Ingredients: 1 acorn squash (about 1 pound) 1 tsp butter 2 tsp brown sugar Directions: Preheat oven to 400°F. Halve the squash lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard them. Make shallow cuts in a grid pattern along the inside of the squash. Place 1/2 tsp. butter and 1/2 tsp. brown sugar in the cavity of each squash. Set the squash in the preheated oven and reduce the heat to 350°F. Roast for approximately 30 minutes. Using a spoon occasionally baste the top and inside of the squash with the sugar/butter mixture. Remove and serve after allowing to cool for about 5 minutes. Nutrition Information: Dr. Gourmet
Servings = 2 | Serving size =2 tomatoes Cooking Time = 60 Minutes Ingredients: spray olive oil 4 medium tomatoes Directions: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place a large skillet in the oven. When the oven is hot lightly spray the pan with olive oil and place the tomatoes in stem side down. Roast for 30 minutes and remove from the oven. Turn the tomatoes over so they are stem side up resting in the hot pan and let them cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Chill. After they are cold, use a very sharp paring knife to gently cut the stem and core from the tomato. Nutrition Information: Dr. Gourmet
Servings = 2 | Serving size = about 1 1/2 cups Cooking Time = 15 Minutes Ingredients: 1 tsp olive oil 1/2 small white onion (sliced) 16 ounces yellow squash (1/2 inch slices) 1/8 tsp salt fresh ground black pepper (to taste) Directions: Place the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes until it begins to soften. Add the yellow squash and cook, tossing frequently, for about 7 - 10 minutes. Cook the squash only until it just begins to soften and then add the salt and pepper. Toss for one minute more and serve. Nutrition Information: Dr. Gourmet
Servings = 6 | Serving size = 1 tart Cooking Time = 90 Minutes Ingredients: 18 ginger snaps 1 Tbsp light spread (like Promise Buttery Spread Light or Smart Balance Light) 3/4 cup Splenda 1/4 tsp salt 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp ground ginger 1/4 tsp ground cloves 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 1 cup pumpkin (no salt added) 1/2 cup 2% milk 4 ounces egg substitute Directions: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the ginger snaps in a food processor or blender and process to fine crumbs. Add the light spread and process until well blended. The mixture will have the consistency of slightly damp bread crumbs. Divide the mixture into 6 small tart pans. Lightly press into the bottom of the tins and then place the tarts pans in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. While the tart crusts are baking place the Splenda, salt, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, vanilla extract, canned pumpkin, 2% milk and egg substitute in the top of a double boiler. (A Pyrex or stainless bowl can be used and placed on top of a stock pot with two inches of boiling water in it.) Heat the double boiler on high and whisk the pie mixture until well blended. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken. (This is a good place to use an instant thermometer because heating the pie filling to above 140°F may curdle the custard.) Place the pie filling in the pre-baked tart crusts. Place the tart pans in the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes. Chill for at least 1 hour prior to serving. Nutrition Information: Dr. Gourmet
Servings = 4 | Serving size =1 custard Cooking Time = 120 Minutes Ingredients: 2 cups 2% milk 1/2 cup non-fat dry milk powder 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg 6 Tbsp Splenda 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (no salt added) 2 large egg yolks 1/8 tsp salt 8 tsp granulated sugar Directions: Place 2% milk, dry milk powder, vanilla extract and ground nutmeg in a medium sized non-reactive sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture reaches 180°F. (This is the temperature that the milk will just begin to boil and at a higher temperature it will boil over.) Stir continuously and do not allow to boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool at least a few hours (preferably overnight in the refrigerator). After the milk mixture is cool preheat the oven to 300°F. Fill a roasting pan with water to a level that will be about 3/4 of the way up a 1 cup ramekin. It is best to test this by placing the ramekins in the water bath to make sure it is not overfilled. Place the roasting pan in the oven until the water is hot (this should take at least 20 minutes). In a stainless bowl place the Splenda, canned pumpkin, egg yolks and salt. Cream together until smooth. Strain the milk mixture through a fine sieve into the egg mixture. Whisk until well blended. Divide the milk/egg mixture between four 1 cup ramekins. Place the ramekins in the water bath in the oven and cook for 60 minutes. Very carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and allow the custard to cool for 30 minutes while still in the water bath. Cover each custard with plastic wrap and chill overnight. Place 2 teaspoons sugar on the top of each custard. Using a blowtorch melt the sugar by carefully aiming the tip of the flame at the surface of the sugar. Tilt and rotate the ramekin so that the melted sugar covers the surface of the custard. Serve. Alternatively, the sugar can be melted under a broiler but the custard will need to cool again afterwards for about 10 minutes on the counter and another 20 minutes in the refrigerator. Nutrition Information: Dr. Gourmet
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
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