It’s Time to Eat. Here’s How to Do Just That a Little Healthier This Holiday Season

Staying healthy this season is hard, but the Y can help with these healthy recipes

By Kedric Fink

Kedric Fink, a Certified Personal Trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, is the Wellness Coordinator at the YMCA of Greater Brandywine’s West Chester location. He holds a Fitness Nutrition Specialization and has been eating Thanksgiving dinners since 1978. Here are his tips on how to eat better this holiday season.

It’s bulking season.

Thanksgiving is here and the December holidays are right around the corner. Also known as “hibernation time,” it’s that time of year when many people put on weight with copious amounts of high-fat, high-sugar foods that we are obligated to eat for fear of grandma telling us that we look too skinny.

Unless you’re doing all of the cooking, substituting healthy alternatives for traditional Thanksgiving fare just isn’t an option. Maybe you’ll be in charge of one of the side dishes, and if that’s the case, keep reading for some ideas on what you can cook to do your part in the fight against winter weight gain.

Even if you bring a healthy side dish, there’s going to be an overwhelming amount of unhealthy, and, yes, delicious food that you know you shouldn’t be in the same room with. Here are two tips on what to do to choose the lesser of food evils, along with two healthy alternatives to traditional Thanksgiving foods that will ease your guilt a little bit.

Eat This: Vegetables

Not That: Dressings, Sauces, and Gravy

Fill your first plate with vegetables that contain the least amount of sauces, dressings, and gravies. Veggies contain lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber, and they’ll fill you up and prevent you from overeating on unhealthy foods.

Eat This: White Meat Turkey

Not That: Dark Meat Turkey

White meat is lower in fat than dark meat. Fat has nine calories per gram and if you’re looking to keep the weight off, fat is the number one thing to avoid. Add some white meat turkey to your first plate of veggies from the above tip and you’ve got a plate of healthy vegetables and lean meat. Be sure to give yourself a few minutes before going back for your second plate. It takes about 20 minutes after eating for the body to release hormones that control satiety, the feeling of fullness.

Make This: Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic

Not That: Green Bean Casserole

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Mince two large garlic cloves and add them to a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Saute until that delicious smell starts filling the air, which should only take about 30 seconds. Remove the ends on two pounds of green beans and add the beans to the mix for about seven minutes. Stir in a tablespoon of lemon zest and add salt and pepper to taste.

Make This: Sweet Potato Mash

Not That: Sweet Potato Pie

Place six medium uncooked sweet potatoes - peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks - and four medium peeled garlic cloves, in a large pot. Pour in enough water to cover potatoes. Set pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil until potatoes are fork-tender - about 12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add one cup of plain fat-free Greek yogurt to bowl and mash until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Have a great holiday!