It's that time of year again, the leaves have turned beautiful shades of red, orange & yellow, the cold months of winter are upon us and to kick off the holiday season, Thanksgiving is here! It is a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year...and most importantly EATING GOOD FOOD! With some helpful tips, insights and recipes, you can still enjoy the days festivities, while staying on track with your nutrition.
White Meat Turkey vs Dark Meat Turkey
White Meat: consists of breast & wings per 3 oz. serving (w/o skin)
25.6 g protein
1.8 g fat
Dark Meat: consists of legs & thighs
per 3 oz. serving (w/o skin)
23.6 g protein
5.1 g fat - 1.54 g saturated, 1.75 g monounsaturated, 1.41 polyunsaturated
This tends to be a hot button topic on Thanksgiving, and it usually ends up with dark meat getting a bad rap. But if we compare the macro nutrients of the two side by side with the same serving size there is a difference, but not as much as you might think. Yes dark meat does have a higher fat content, but a large portion of that is from mono & polyunsaturated fats (beneficial types of fat). The saturated fat in dark meat is from an animal source (gobble gobble) and not the typical overly processed foods that an American diet has grown accustom to. So I say, if you enjoy dark meat, then by all means do not shy away. Compared to its lean counterpart white meat, dark meat has a similar nutritional profile.
Side Dish Dilemma
Lets be honest here, the side dishes tend to make or break Thanksgiving dinner, or in my case break a button on my pants lol. But never fear, I have a few tips that can be applied to most side dishes to help you avoid a food coma.
Opt for roasted veggies & keep it seasonal.
Carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, beets, sweet potatoes, ANY winter squash (peep our winter squash post), brussel sprouts...any combo of these vegetables roasted in a pan go great together.
Make use of your spices, so you do not need to rely heavily on salt
Garlic, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, parsley all go great with the vegetables listed above.
When using salt, try and stick with Himalayan Pink Salt, high mineral content compare to regular table salt
Try and avoid using heavy creams & copious amounts of sugar with your side dishes
Try using a natural sweetener like pure maple syrup or locally sourced honey with your sweet potatoes as a substitute for usual brown sugar & marshmallows
Stuffing...Yay or Nay?
I have nothing fancy here, its bread on bread on bread. I say Yay, this is one of my favorite Thanksgiving indulgences, so I just make sure to keep it to a reasonable serving size...or two. Just do not "stuff" your face.
What everyone has been waiting for...Pie!
Lets that a look at the usual suspects on this day, Pumpkin, Apple & Pecan Pie. These are based off of 1 piece or 1/8 of a 9" pie.
Pumpkin Pie (my all-time favorite)
40.9 g carbs
14.4 g fat
7 g protein
57.5 g carbs
19.4 g fat
3.7 g protein
63.7 g carbs
27.1 g fat
6 g protein
Who knew....the "basic" one wins the health award. So in the grand scheme of things, yes we are comparing which pie is "healthier". But I personally do not need to be told more than once to go ahead and have a piece of Pumpkin Pie. The fact that it just so happens to be the most health conscious choice is a bonus...yes I am turning a blind eye to the mountain of whip cream you just topped it off with lol
Some of my favorite Thanksgiving Recipes:
Oven Roasted Turkey:
Cranberry Mango Sauce:
Mashed Sweet Potatoes:
Roasted Sweet Potatoes:
Best Pumpkin Pie Recipe:
What the Ultimate Goal Is
So we broke down some of the common menu items we come across on Thanksgiving, how to put some healthy twists on them and even broke down the "healthiest" pie options. Small adjustments mentioned above can go a long way in making sure you avoid that post-dinner Tryptophan trap (doesn't really exist).
But when it is all said and done, Thanksgiving is ultimately about spending time with your loved ones, all while enjoying some good food at the same time. If tracking your macros/intake that day is going to just cause you undue stress, then don't. Take it from me, I was a chronic dieter for 5-6 years, and the holidays always made me over stress what I was or was not going to eat. Looking back on it now, it was impossible for me to enjoy the holidays and be mentally & emotionally present those days.
What I am trying to say is, enjoy your Thanksgiving. If that means indulging in the things you enjoy this time of year, then do it. If it means extra whipped cream on your pumpkin pie, then pile it on dammit. Stressing about tracking EVERYTHING you eat on days like these only make matters worse and the people around you will probably enjoy your company less.
Remember, "there is more to life than being really, really, ridiculously strict with your diet".
Have the happiest of Thanksgivings!
- Nick -