How to Eat Well and Not Feel Deprived This Thanksgiving

You may be looking forward to Thanksgiving because of fun memories, the blessings of spending time with family and friends, and the pleasure of enjoying special food. Roast turkey, cornbread dressing, and mashed potatoes tend to be staples of most Thanksgiving menus!

However, if you’re trying to stay healthy, that means eating healthy meals; that can be challenging when the family recipes call for a lot of butter and starch!

For instance, macaroni and cheese, a family favorite, has upwards of 500 calories per serving, not to mention the 600-1200 mg of sodium it includes. All that gooey cheese and pasta may be delicious but it will blow any diet out of the water. What are some healthier alternatives?

An internet search will reveal a few good recipes that are only 200 calories per serving. You can improve the taste by using cheeses with bold flavors like Parmesan, Swiss and Cheddar. Add Dijon mustard instead of cream. With just a few creative changes like this to your favorite recipes, you’ll find that you can still satisfy those cravings for rich Thanksgiving delights while reducing the number of calories and ingredients that will sidetrack your efforts to stay healthy.

What happens when you set aside restraint

Because it’s only once a year, you may feel it’s OK to set aside restraint and eat whatever you want. Why not enjoy that pumpkin pie with whipped topping? Go for another helping of mashed potatoes and gravy too; they turned out so well this year! 

But once you start down that road, you’ll find that you can justify poor food choices from mid- November through mid-January. By the end of January, you’ll look in the mirror and see a much different person … someone who has gained twenty pounds and feels lethargic all the time.

This year, let me help you make a plan to get through the holidays without crashing your plans to remain healthy… and do it so you don’t feel deprived! Take one step at a time, making each food choice on its own merits. Then once you get to January you’ll find you haven’t really gained any weight and you still look and feel great. That’s an achievable goal!

Make minor adjustments to favorite recipes

A baked turkey doesn’t actually have that many calories on its own. It’s when you add gravy that it starts to become a problem. One way to cut the fat out of your gravy is to skim the fat off your turkey broth before using it. Let the broth cool until the fat rises to the top. Then take a wide ladle and skim the fat off the broth. Now your turkey stock can be used to make dressing and gravy that will still be delicious but without so many calories. Try my Turkey baked in a paper bag this year! 

Instead of mashed potatoes, try my mashed cauliflower recipe. This is a delicious replacement that’s wholesome and guilt-free. It’s easy to make as well.

Round out your special meal by replacing one of your sugary desserts with my Keto-Coconut Yogurt Berry Bowl. Fruits tend to be very high in sugar, so be careful how much you use. 

How’s your emotional health?

Now, let’s talk about your mental and emotional health. This is an area that people often skip over but it’s very important. Yes, you want to eat healthy and come out of the holidays still looking and feeling your best. But the holidays can be stressful for many people. This time of year is often fraught with emotional and mental issues.

Some of these issues may come from the burden you feel to make the holidays special for your family, and the sense that you have to do everything yourself. I encourage you to enlist the rest of your family to contribute in as many ways as they can. 

Based on what is age-appropriate, identify different “jobs”: working in the kitchen to cook and clean up, setting the table, putting away leftover food, putting out and cleaning up hors d'oeuvres, and entertaining small children. Put all the “jobs” on little pieces of paper and have everyone take one out of a hat when they arrive. Remember that the best conversations of the day usually happen when people are cleaning and drying the pots and pans together!

Spend time and money wisely!

This year, make up your mind NOT to spend more money than you can afford. And if there are certain people that you dislike spending time with, then avoid them. You’re under no obligation to spend the day with that mean old aunt who hates you.

As the holiday approaches, if you feel yourself getting a headache or bellyache, stop what you’re doing at once. Go outside, take some deep breaths, go for a walk. Do something you enjoy such as reading, gardening or painting. Try to get to bed earlier so you can get a good night’s sleep. You might enjoy a soothing Epsom salts bath right before bedtime. Get your journal out and write down your thoughts.

Take care of yourself

There are many ways to have an amazing Thanksgiving without spending too much money or eating unhealthy foods. All it takes is commitment and creativity. This year, spend more time doing things you enjoy. Don’t allow stress to side-track you. Stay on top of it. Look for great recipes that are wholesome, delicious and low fat. You’ll find quite a few on my website so I hope you’ll check that out.

Good mental and emotional health is just as essential as good physical health, so don’t neglect yourself this year. Take care of yourself through the choices you make, and you’ll be healthier and happier, and better able to take care of your family and friends as well. You’ll have lots of opportunities to create new great memories together!

Wishing you and your family the Best Thanksgiving ever!

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Dr. Anna Cabeca

Dr. Anna Cabeca

Certified OB/GYN, Anti-Aging and Integrative Medicine expert and founder of The Girlfriend Doctor. During Dr. Anna’s health journey, she turned to research to create products to help thousands of women through menopause, hormones, and sexual health. She is the author of best-selling The Hormone Fix, and Keto-Green 16 and MenuPause.

Learn more about my scientific advisory board.