Eat Right Around Chicago

Prep for a Healthy T-Day

Thanksgiving requires a fair amount of planning.  Each year, it's like Top Chef restaurant wars for millions of households across the country.  To help you with your annual opening day, I wanted to hear from the experts that work with people at their point of purchase - the supermarket.  How can we plan for a healthy holiday feast?  Here's what they had to say... 

1.  Safety first.  Joanie Taylor, Director, Consumer Affairs & Community Relations for Schnuck Markets, Inc. says that "a food-safe holiday is a healthy holiday".  She directs her customers to the Holiday Food Safety Success Kit website for a wealth of ideas, lists, tips, menus, fun activities for kids, etc. 

2.  Pick your recipes.  Mandy Rother, RD, LDN from Weis Markets, Inc. gives these suggestions for picking your Thanksgiving menu: 

  • Think about color as you are selecting recipes!  For example, bright bell peppers brighten up the traditional corn casserole and vibrant red cranberries pop against the yellows and oranges of squash and pumpkin.  
  • Get creative with new and unconventional recipes for a Thanksgiving spread your guests are sure to remember.  Be sure to keep some comforting traditional favorites in there too!
  • Create your own punch recipe!  For example, try mixing 100% pomegranate juice, pomegranate seeds, sparkling water, apple wedges and a variety of citrus fruits.
3.  Modify your recipes.  Heather Leets, RD, LD from Spartan Stores Dietitian notes that making simple adjustments to your cooking can make a huge difference. Here are her suggestions:   

Vegetables:  toss with low sodium chicken broth and choose fresh herbs such as dill, basil, oregano, thyme, chives, lemon grass and rosemary.  (Just one of these herbs will add great flavor to your vegetables.) 

Toss steamed vegetables such as green beans, asparagus or broccoli with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

Winter Squash: sweeten with apple juice concentrate, light syrup, all fruit preserves or maple syrup.  Top off with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. 

Mashed Potatoes: mash the potatoes with low sodium chicken broth, canned evaporated skim milk, and fresh herbs such as fresh basil, instead of whole milk and butter. Add horseradish, garlic or even butter buds.

4.  Going to market.  In preparation for a trip to the supermarket, Leah McGrath, RD, LDN from Ingles Supermarkets give this advice:   

  • Consider your menu and all recipes (helps to visualize what you will serve and have on the plate) and start making up your shopping list.  Be sure and check your cabinets/fridge/freezer so you don't waste time and money buying duplicates.  Also think about non-food items you might need like dishwasher detergent or dish soap, paper towels, freezer bags and containers for leftovers, and even kitchen sponges. 
  • Try and get an early start.  Most supermarkets will have deliveries coming in constantly to make sure produce and dairy are kept well stocked for this busy shopping time.  
  • Fill your buggy with grocery and items that don't need to be refrigerated first, produce next, frozen and then dairy last.
  • Wrap meats/poultry in plastic bags to prevent contaminating fresh foods. 
  • Pack groceries in reusable shopping bags and get things into your fridge or freezer within 2 hrs.
  • Leave plenty of time to thaw a frozen turkey.  It can take 3-4 days to thaw a turkey in the fridge.  [Taylor adds that you can "plan on 24 hours for each 4-1/2 pounds of whole turkey. A fresh turkey should only be picked up one or two days in advance."]
5.  Build your plate rightTammi Linnebur, MS, RD, LD, Raytown Hy-Vee Dietitian recommends that you build a better plate this holiday season.  "Imagine your plate split in half.  Fill half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables at the buffet table.  One-fourth of your plate should be a lean protein, like turkey breast.  The other fourth of your plate should be your favorite starch item at the meal.  This can be a roll, mashed potatoes or cornbread."

6.  The meal that keeps giving.  They all agree, plan to have and give away leftovers.  Judy Dodd, MS, RD, LDN, Giant Eagle Corporate Nutritionist says, "buy for planned overs....that slightly larger than usual turkey is a good price and you have the beginnings of a turkey hash, stir-fry, salads, wraps, soup...saving money and time."  Dodd adds that you should take the time Thanksgiving day to separate cooked turkey into slices, chunks and bits, place them in freezer bags/containers, mark and freeze. You have the ingredients ready for other meals and quality.

7.  Know when to say when.  The last bit of advice that the nutrition experts have been giving is to know when to call it quits.  Diane Welland, MS, RD, author of the soon-to-be released, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Clean, recommends that you "walk away from the table."  Too many people like to linger around the food table instead of socializing.  Get out there and chat, "you'll eat less and may be surprised at who you might meet!". 

Avoid the pitfalls of mindless eating...check out what Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD of Go Wellness, in Huntington Beach, CA has to say about avoiding these oh-too-common pitfalls on her Nutrition and Wellness Bytes.

Finally, because it's worth repeating,  Hope Warshaw, RD, author of Eat Out, Eat Right says to incorporate activity.  "Burn more calories to balance excess calories - a walk after that TG meal burns calories, helps you digest your food and feel less like a stuffed turkey."






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