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Celebrating a heart-healthy Thanksgiving
03/29/2006
How many times have you vowed not to overeat at Thanksgiving dinner? And you tried to “be healthy” by skipping dessert, too. Later on you found yourself taking seconds on the stuffing—and the sweet potato pie.

Palmetto Health Heart Hospital cardiovascular dietitian Robert Jupp knows all too well about trying to keep those promises. “To avoid overeating and have a heart healthy Thanksgiving, I try to prepare a regular-sized meal, with one or two additional special items, such as sparkling grape juice and a casserole,” says Jupp.

You don’t have to abandon your family traditions in order to eat healthy this Thanksgiving. You can still prepare a hearty meal by looking for new heart healthy recipes in cookbooks and popular magazines or by modifying traditional Thanksgiving dishes to make them lower in fat and sugar.

Jupp suggests using these substitutes in your traditional Thanksgiving recipes:
• Whole-grain breads for stuffing
• Low-fat soups or broths in casseroles
• Fat-free spray margarine on vegetables
• Low-fat sour cream, cheeses and milk
• Fat-free, low-sodium broth or wine, instead of oil or fat
• If oil is needed, use small amounts of canola and/or olive oil
• Egg substitutes or egg whites. Avoid egg yolks.

When preparing turkey or ham, be sure to bake or broil instead of frying. Steam vegetables. To keep from overeating, “Have a good breakfast and a light lunch, and drink plenty of water to help curb your appetite later in the day,” says Jupp.

“During the meal, serve smaller amounts of food. If there are 16 options on the table, most folks think they have to have some of everything. Instead, offer a meat or meat substitute, a starch, a salad, and two or three vegetables, along with one dessert. With fewer choices, you and your guests will be less likely to overeat” says Jupp.

Portion control is another good strategy. For example, take “tennis-ball” sized portions. “Remember to tell yourself that you can have more later if you are still hungry. And eat slowly,” Jupp says.

“Immediately after your meal, brush and floss your teeth. Put leftovers in the fridge so they are out of sight. Then get your family and friends to take a walk.”

Then there’s the issue of leftovers. Jupp recommends ‘recycling’ them into soups, stews, casseroles or sandwiches, using the same low-fat, low-sodium, and whole grain substitutes.

With healthier versions of the recipes you love and scaling back on dishes and portions, you can have a heart healthy Thanksgiving. Your body will thank you.