Balancing Thanksgiving's Guilt and Enjoyment

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with family and friends and, frankly, it is a time to enjoy food. Depriving oneself is not fun and will likely lead to post-celebration binge session while packing up the leftovers.
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My clients (all types of women, from celebrities to Manhattanite moms) tend to get anxious in the days approaching the last Thursday in November. Without fail, my appointment book fills to the brim with clients who want to know what and what not to eat or serve and how they should plan to quickly shed the pounds after the fact in case they find themselves over-served on Thanksgiving. Let me start by saying that what I do not recommend is self-deprivation.

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate with family and friends and, frankly, it is a time to enjoy food. Depriving oneself is not fun and will likely lead to a post-celebration binge session while packing up the leftovers.

What I do recommend is a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory menu because, I promise you, healthy can still be delicious. I am offering you tips that I give to my clients when they ask what to indulge in, what to avoid and what to include in their Thanksgiving menus.

It is a far too widespread myth these days that to be healthy you must turn vegan. Turkey is a lean, healthy meat and a great source of protein. I always recommend white meat turkey to my clients over dark meat. If you are planning on having turkey at your Thanksgiving table (and hopefully you are because, really, what is a Thanksgiving without turkey?) purchase an organic turkey because they are free of antibiotics and hormones, which we are all better off without.

Of all of the Thanksgiving dishes, it is the side dishes that my clients always describe as the most luring and evil. The most popular side dishes tend to be stuffing, mashed potatoes, casseroles and cranberry sauce, all of which are generally of the upper-hundred calorie range. Instead of counting calories, it is important to pick foods that are packed with the most vitamins and minerals. Choose cranberry sauce over stuffing because cranberries are rich in antioxidants, stocked with fiber and have high levels of Vitamin C. Or, choose the green bean casserole over the potato casserole because green beans are packed with vitamins and low in calories, while the sweet potato casserole is generally full of butter and marshmallows. Decide on a couple sides you are craving and cover the rest of your plate with guilt-free roasted veggies to fill up on nutrients and prevent yourself from going back for less healthy options. I personally love brussel sprouts roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper.

If you are in charge of the menu, break tradition and substitute fattening ingredients with healthier ones. Most cranberry sauce recipes require tons of sugar. Use Stevia (my favorite sugar substitute) instead; your guests won't know the difference. Adding a cup of pomegranate juice and a hint of pepper to your cranberry sauce will add even more dimension and spice. I also recommend using a quinoa with sautéed mushrooms and onions in your stuffing instead of flour or vegetable broth as the base of your gravy.

I had a client tell me she truly dreads this holiday because she has such a hard time resisting the pie. Luckily, you don't have to skip the pie; just choose to make an apple, cherry or pumpkin pie over a pecan one. These pies are much lower in calories and a greater source of fiber. You can also make any pie wheat- and sugar-free, by using whole rolled oats and Stevia as substitutes.

Decide that one dessert is enough, though. Pistachios are my favorite snack and they are very rich in antioxidants. If you are entertaining, put out a couple of bowls of the nut and if you're not, stash some away in your bag to bring along with you.

I wish you all a happy, healthy Thanksgiving. Remember: this holiday should not be a source of anxiety. Be confident about food. If you eat when you're hungry and in moderation, you should have no problem fitting into your favorite skinny jeans on November 26th.

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