Slim down your Thanksgiving feast


There's no room left on the dinner plate.

There's the turkey --ith some gravy on top. There are the potatoes --ith some gravy on top. There's the stuffing --ith some gravy on top. And, of course, there's a dinner roll, teetering on the plate's edge, which will be used to mop up all the gravy your spoon or fork couldn't get.

You get the picture.

Thanksgiving, a holiday with roots traced back to this country's earliest days, has become a day synonymous with overeating, physical inactivity and the ensuing guilt that comes from the former the latter, or both.

That doesn't have to be the case, said dietician Roberta Gill, who works with Yampa Valley Medical Center and the Visiting Nurse Association.

"It's not a good day to totally limit everything you want to eat or totally say you can't eat any of this stuff, but pay attention to food choices and portions," Gill advised.

Gill and Jacques Wilson, executive chef at the medical center agree that Thanksgiving is a great day to enjoy food, but it is possible to eat healthier -- if a person chooses to do so.

Obvious suggestions include avoiding large portions and second helpings. If a person wants to eat more, he or she should reach for another spoonful of vegetables, Gill said.

"Instead of a whole turkey, buy the turkey breast," Gill suggested. "White meat is skinless and has less calories. ... Instead of pumpkin pie or pecan pie, do some sort of spice cake, and maybe instead of icing just sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. If you want to use one dab of whipped cream, it's one dab of whipped cream."

Gill also suggested eliminating gravy because it's made from pan drippings, but those who can't do without it should have no more than two tablespoons.

"And always drink a glass of water before you start to eat," Gill said.

Thanksgiving caloric troubles can come at every phase of the meal. While sitting in front of the TV watching football or standing in the kitchen chatting with family and friends, a person can have his or her fill before sitting down to eat the actual meal.

To counter that, lighten up the meal.

"A lot of people want to use butter and salt on their vegetables," Wilson said. "Use olive oil, and if you want flavors, you can take lemons or oranges and vinegar, and add salt individually. It cuts down on the fat and sodium."

It would be foolish, however, to ignore the must-have carbohydrates of a Thanksgiving meal. Potatoes, bread and sugars are the staples of a traditional dinner, but Wilson said to avoid one. Have a dinner roll and some cranberry sauce, and skip the mashed potatoes. Or have some sweet potatoes, which are better for you than regular potatoes, and some stuffing, and skip the bread.

But it all comes back to the desserts, Wilson said.

"With desserts, if you truly want to have dessert with Thanksgiving, there are lighter ones out there," he said. "Chiffon cakes, chiffon mousse torts or angel food cake with fresh berries or sorbet and sherbet," (are alternatives).

For additional suggestions for light eating, visit the American Dietetic Association's Web site at


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