Thanksgiving Dinner Smackdown: The Good, the Bad, and the ‘Oh Well, It’s A Holiday’

It’s a well-bemoaned fact that Thanksgiving is a nutritional minefield. In addition to the dinner itself, there’s the morning-after breakfast of pie and stuffing, not to mention Mom’s insistence on sending us home with a gargantuan bag of leftovers. This year, we’re going in prepared. We asked Chrissy Wellington M.S., C.N.S., L.D.N., C.P.T. and nutritionist at Canyon Ranch in Lenox for tips on enjoying the holiday without the extra helping of guilt.

Don't Save Your Appetite

You want to be hungry for the big feast—not starving. “Eat a protein-rich breakfast and snack lightly until dinner,” says Wellington. “Eating every four hours can control your blood sugar so that you don’t overeat later in the day.”

Choose Your Protein Carefully

White meat turkey is your best choice, but be selective. “Choose certified organic, pasture-raised turkey,” Wellington says. “This will help you avoid unwanted contaminants and ensure that you have a healthy turkey rich in omega 3 fats.”

Rethink The Classics

When creating side dishes, develop strong flavors by using fresh herbs, ginger, and seasonal fruit instead of cream, butter, and salt. “Stuffing is traditionally white bread soaked in butter,” Wellington says. “Try replacing some butter with chicken stock or creating a new recipe with quinoa, apples, nuts, and spices. In my family, we’ve even used polenta.”

About Those Mashed Potatoes

Instead of white potatoes drowning in butter, Wellington recommends mashed sweet potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, or roasted root vegetables with nuts. All of these are naturally sweet, but are low in glycemic values and high in fiber.

Say Yes To Pie

What if Aunt Tina’s caramel crunch pumpkin pie is your favorite dessert ever? Go for it. “Indulgence is normal, and food should be celebratory,” Wellington says. “If you want to indulge a little it’s fine, just plan ahead—maybe a Turkey Trot race before dinner or a nice family walk after to help burn a few more calories.”

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