With Thanksgiving approaching, many people are looking forward to enjoying the food typically served on the holiday, even if they won’t be able to have a large extended family gathering this year. HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital is encouraging community members to enjoy their holiday meal, but also maintain their health. The months of November and December can be a challenging time to make healthy choices and limit weight gain but eating well during the holidays is possible.  

“My, along with many others, favorite things about the holidays is the delicious food we get to eat during our celebrations,” said Hailey Williams, a clinical dietitian at St. Mary’s.  “I encourage people to enjoy all of their holiday favorites because one day will not ruin your health! Allow yourself to enjoy the foods you love, but monitor portions and to try to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. If you have a chronic illness that requires you be on a special diet, make sure to consider this when making food choices." 

St. Mary’s Hospital recommends the following six healthy food swaps that will allow you to still indulge while avoiding some high fat and high calories foods: 

  1. Swap dips made with sour cream and mayo with dips made from low-fat yogurt. When making the dip, replace the sour cream or mayo in the recipe with low-fat or nonfat plain Greek yogurt and you will get the same great taste with less calories. As a comparison, an ounce of sour cream has about 60 calories, while an ounce of nonfat plain Greek yogurt has only 15 to 20 calories.   
  2. Swap sweetened sweet potatoes with roasted sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet without adding extra sugar and extra calories to them. Roasting them brushed with a little canola or olive oil brings out their natural sweetness. 
  3. Swap dark meat turkey for white meat. Not all turkey parts are created equal. The dark meat on a turkey (legs, wings and thighs) has about twice the fat of turkey breast (white meat) and about 40% more calories. 
  4. Swap traditional gravy with a low-fat gravy. You can make a tasty healthier gravy with fat-free turkey broth, flour and seasonings to taste. If you still want to use the drippings from the roasting pan, remove the fat first with a fat-separator cup or by placing the drippings in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes and then skimming off the fat on top. 
  5. Swap the green bean casserole with fresh green beans. You don’t need condensed soup and French-fried onions to enjoy green beans. Try steaming fresh green beans and sprinkling them with slivered almonds to save on calories. Build a balanced plate by filling half the plate with vegetables and eating your vegetables first to fill up on these lower calories foods so you’ll be less likely to eat the higher calorie ones. 
  6. Swap pecan pie with pumpkin pie. Even with a dollop of whipped cream on your pumpkin pie, you’ll cut calories and sugar by at least a third by choosing pumpkin pie over pecan pie. A slice of pumpkin pie has about 300 calories while a slice of pecan pie has about 500 calories. If you miss having pecans, try skipping the pie and eating a handful of pecans sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. You can also save calories on any pie by not eating the crust as that is where most of the fat resides. 

Besides these healthy swaps, it is also helpful to eat a light, healthy breakfast so you don’t starve yourself before your Thanksgiving dinner and then overindulge. It is also important to try to work in some physical activity to help boost your metabolism and drink plenty of water before the meal to keep your stomach full and after the meal to promote healthy digestion. 

For more healthy eating tips for the holidays, visit cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/holidays-healthy-eating

Media Contact

Andrew Dilbeck


HSHS Illinois
Office: 217-464-5610
Andrew.Dilbeck@hshs.org

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