Holiday meals are often a source of stress because of the amount of work and planning involved, but also because temptation is everywhere. Bowls of snacks, sugary desserts, and butter-filled dishes are everywhere, but Terra’s Kitchen Director of Nutrition, Dr. Lisa Davis, PhD, PA-C, CNS, developed some strategies for navigating upcoming holiday meals, starting with traditional foods that you know will be on the table. With a mindful approach, you can still enjoy your favorites in moderation. Here are her recommendations for building a healthier Thanksgiving plate without missing out on the best dishes or completely sabotaging your progress.
Turkey is one of the most straightforward items on your Thanksgiving table when it comes to health and nutrition. Turkey (either white or dark meat) is a safe choice for people with diabetes because it is low glycemic, meaning it has minimal impact on blood sugar levels. White meat is the healthier choice because ounce per ounce it has fewer calories and less saturated fat than dark meat. Four ounces of dark meat provides 323 calories, whereas the same amount of white meat is only 180 calories. If you prefer dark meat, allow yourself to enjoy some, but mix it with white meat to decrease your overall calorie count.
Stuffing is a holiday favorite that is bound to show up in one form or another on your holiday table. Unfortunately, stuffing is usually made with high-fat, high-calorie ingredients like butter and sausage, which can add up to 380 calories per cup. Since Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without stuffing, Dr. Lisa suggests adjusting your traditional recipe to decrease the calorie count and add more healthy ingredients. By substituting olive oil for half of the butter required and kale for the sausage, you’ll shave off about 150 calories per serving and feel good knowing that all of the nutrients in superfood kale are balancing some of the other rich holiday foods on your plate . For some, forgoing the stuffing entirely may be the right choice because it is high in carbohydrates.
Don’t skip appetizers or starter courses. Appetizers can help to ensure you aren’t starving by the time the actual meal starts, but be careful not to overindulge. Choose one or two to try, and stay hydrated so you aren’t confusing hunger with thirst. Common holiday appetizers like shrimp with cocktail sauce, vegetable crudité and deviled eggs are all a safe bets, especially for people with diabetes. If a salad course is offered, don’t skip it! This is an opportunity to get some whole foods and nutrients into your diet for the day and can help fill your plate, especially if you are forgoing some of the other traditional fare.
When choosing side dishes, look for ones that use whole foods like squash, Brussels sprouts, or beets without adding unhealthy ingredients like marshmallows or brown sugar. (We recently shared four healthy sides that are easy to make and don’t sacrifice taste for nutrition.) If you are eating at someone else’s house, you may not be able to control the options available to you. If you are looking at a table of questionable choices, green beans (or green bean casserole) are always safe choices. Sweet potatoes can also be a good choice, but check how they were prepared. Try to avoid sweet potato casserole, which is high glycemic and packs in a whopping 624 calories per ¾ cup. Boiled and mashed sweet potatoes are low to medium glycemic index and provide just a fraction of the calories (250 calories per 1 cup).
Once you’ve made it through the main course, it is easy to blow it on dessert. Stick to your plan and aim for indulgences that still work for you. Offering to bring a dessert to your celebration is a great way to ensure that there is at least one healthy option on the table. Dr. Lisa worked with our Creative Culinary Director, Libbie Summers, to develop an alternative to pumpkin pie that is dairy free and gluten free. The pumpkin, coconut, and cinnamon in our Vegan Pumpkin & Coconut Mousse are low glycemic and heart-healthy.
We recently added new meals to our rotating menu of over 40 meals. All of our meals come with pre-chopped ingredients to ensure your time from start to table is always under 30 minutes. Order now to ensure your meals are taken care of once the leftovers are gone.