Local dietitian shares easy tips for a healthy Thanksgiving

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- If you’re like most Americans, you’ll take in an extra 3,000 to 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving.

Registered Dietitian with Kaleida Health, Katie Manis told News 4 most of those calories come from the salt, fat, sugar, and carbs in Thanksgiving staples like mashed potatoes lathered in butter.

“If you’re a diabetic or someone who is trying to decrease your carb intake, you would want to avoid the mashed potatoes,” Manis said of the favorite whipped side dish.

But there is an easy, cheap alternative. Mashed cauliflower has a similar consistency and tastes a lot like mashed potatoes.

“You roast the cauliflower or you boil it as you normally would, and you mash it just as you would a sweet potato. It makes a really good product, it’s very tasty,” Manis said.

If you’re a purist and you want the real thing, opt for sweet potatoes instead of classic yellow or white potatoes; but be sure you know what’s added to them.

“The actual sweet potato itself has more fiber, more vitamin A, more zinc than your traditional white potato. The problem with sweet potatoes is that we either add butter to them or we add sugar to them.”

Ditching the sugar, butter, and marshmallows while leaving the skin on, will limit fat and add fiber to your meal.

Choosing homemade stuffing saves calories and salt.

“Anything out of a box has extra sodium added to it. So making it yourself, you can also do things like whole grain bread crumbs so then you’re actually increasing your fiber, increasing your B vitamins, decreasing your sodium.”

Adding fruits to stuffing can boost fiber too. Manis suggested apples or cranberries.

A favorite side at the Thanksgiving table often poses the biggest threat to our health; the beloved green bean casserole.

“There is green beans, which is a vegetable, however it comes out of a can so it has more sodium than if you were to use a frozen or a fresh version. The other issue is the cream of mushroom or the cream of chicken, whatever you’re using for it, it tends to be higher in fat. It’s definitely in a can so that increases the sodium as well.”

Favorites like green bean casserole are some of the saltiest dishes on the table.
Favorites like green bean casserole are some of the saltiest dishes on the table.

Add into the mix french fried onions, and you’re in one serving territory. If you plan on wanting more, consider using fresh green beans, and a lower sodium soup. You could also ditch the french fried onions for sliced almonds.

“Cranberries are actually great for you. They’re high in fiber, they’re high in tons of different antioxidants, a lot of different vitamins and minerals, very, very good for you. The problem is that in the process of making this we add a lot of sugar,” said Manis.

The good news in, you can cut that sugar in half and most wouldn’t be able to taste it. Manis told us that’s the case with a lot of dishes.

For those counting carbs, the centerpiece of the table is good news for you. Turkey on it’s own has zero carbs, unless you base it in sugary dressings and sauces.

When carving the turkey, consider your options.

“The dark meat has more saturated fat in it and saturated fat are those fats that are solid at room temperature, which mean they tend to be solid at room temperate in our body,” Manis told us.

If you remove the skin, that cuts a lot of fat out too.

And then there’s desserts, which can be double trouble if you’re dressing them with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie by are Turkey Day classics, but one of them tends to have less sugar.

“Generally we tend to add more sugar to the sweet potato pie than we do to the pumpkin pie, but it does a little depend on what recipe you’re using,” Manis told News 4.

And what about the old post-Thanksgiving nap myth?

It turns out turkey does have a chemical that makes us sleepy, but most of the time our need to nap comes from general carbo-loading, not just the tryptophan found in turkey.

Manis also noted that the 3,000 to 4,000 extra calories doesn’t include the wine, beer, and cocktails many enjoy on Thanksgiving. If you’re planning on drinking, factor that into your calories as well.

She recommends above all things, to have a plan:

  • Don’t skip breakfast, as this often backfires and you end up eating more
  • Limit your cocktails if you’re planning to eat a lot
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • Try to fit in exercise at some point before or after the meal, even if it’s just a walk around the block

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