Tips to Indulge Guilt Free this Thanksgiving by Cari Culp, RD

I love Thanksgiving! Partially because I love to cook but also because it is the kickoff to that special time of year filled with love, laughter, relaxation and good company. With Thanksgiving however, comes a lot of anxiety around how to maintain health goals and avoid setbacks. That “It’s the holiday’s, I’ll eat whatever I want and deal with it later” attitude typically leads to a few pound weight gain each year, and for most, that weight is much more difficult to take off than it is to put on. Of course, I want this to be a joyous time for each of you, without anxiety around food, so here are some tips to indulge without going overboard this year:
1. Keep it simple! – Thanksgiving can still be Thanksgiving without multiple casseroles and desserts. Preload with simple items like roasted vegetables (Brussels sprouts, root veggies, potatoes, green beans, etc.), protein, green salad and cranberry sauce, then pick smaller portions of a couple of the more indulgent foods like casseroles, stuffing and the like.
2. Bring your own dishes! – If you are not hosting Thanksgiving, make a couple of your own dishes, maybe your favorite Thanksgiving items, that you can do healthier versions of, like made-from-scratch  green bean casserole or mashed cauliflower/potatoes with half cauliflower, half potatoes. Making traditional casseroles from scratch by avoiding packaged/processed ingredients and using fresh veggies can make them much healthier and better tasting too!
3. Have a dessert game plan! – You know the dessert (or desserts) you just can’t live without on Thanksgiving. Pick one or two and know which ones you will choose going into it. Have small portions of these, enjoy, then focus on time spent with family and friends. If you are traveling for Thanksgiving, make your own healthier version of your favorite dessert and have it instead of the higher calorie options. Avoid snacking on desserts throughout the day. If you are hosting Thanksgiving, pick only two desserts to have around to avoid temptations.
4. Make healthier versions of your favorite desserts! – For most desserts, there is a healthier version. I enjoy making traditional desserts like pumpkin pie with almond flour for the crust and part stevia, part real maple syrup for the sweetener. It is delicious and you really can’t tell the difference other than it tasting much fresher and better quality than most others. There are all sorts of healthier versions of traditional desserts online.
5. Snack smart! – Instead of indulging all day long, save the more indulgent items for your meal and snack on the healthier choices like fruits, veggies, nuts, olives and a little cheese.
6. If it doesn’t shout Thanksgiving, leave it alone! – There will likely be all sorts of temptations to choose from. Once again, pick the items you can’t live without on Thanksgiving and avoid the extra calories on the rest.
7. Don’t overdo-it on liquid calories! – The holidays are a time when many people have a little extra of everything, including alcohol. Try to avoid sugary drinks, even the alcoholic ones, and keep alcohol in moderation by slowly sipping on 1 or 2 beverages throughout the day.
I hope these tips assist you in having a happy and healthy holiday season! Be well!

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