Do you dread the Thanksgiving feast? Plan for flavor, not fat

Nov 20, 2015 | 3 comments

By Susan Burke March

Do you approach the holiday season with a feeling of dread, instead of delight? Is it because you fear you’ll throw caution to the wind and, by the time you have the courage to get on the scale in January, you’ll find you’re four or five pounds heavier than at Thanksgiving?chl susan logo2

This year, make your New Year’s resolution early and plan for flavor, not fat. Avoid the trap that usually begins with the Thanksgiving feast where, by some accounts, the average American adult will gobble more than 3,000 calories at a single sitting!

gluttony1It’s no wonder when many “traditional” recipes are laden with heavy cream, butter and sugar.

Create new traditions and come January you’ll feel wonderful when you look in the mirror and say, “Yes! I am starting the New Year feeling great!”

Whether you’re celebrating Christmas dinner or Hanukah, Kwanza or New Year’s Eve, now is the time to make your lists, collect your new recipes, and stock up to make it easier for you when it’s time to choose the food.

Be sure to take some time to count your blessings — knowing that you have the freedom to choose your foods.

The Blessings

  1. Food and feelings! Make this the year you begin to think about your relationship with food.  Begin to think about how food affects you, and how what you choose can influence how youLouisCK feel. Food is neither good nor bad, but it can be fatty or healthy, over-sauced or elegantly flavorful. Choose flavorful, well-prepared foods, and feel great about your choices. According to, there is only one original account of the first Thanksgiving — and turkey isn’t even mentioned! Cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes weren’t invented yet, so the Pilgrims and Native Americans feasted on duck and venison, onions, corn and squash.
  2. Balancing act! This year, throw off the shackles that are holding you back from feeling good about food. It’s not an “all or nothing” proposition. If you decide to indulge in something overly sweet, rich or high-cal into your diet, find some balance with salads and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. You can balance the scale in your favor.
  3. Be pro-active! Even if you can’t make it to your usual aerobics class or gym session, find a few creative alternatives and keep moving. I’m a fan of fitness trackers like pedometers and other monitoring devices. Research shows that they motivate people to move more. A simple pedometer is the perfect gift — it’s inexpensive and convenient. Walking at least 10,000 steps a day will burn about 3,500 calories weekly. Start gradually, but aim for about 12,000-15,000 steps a day.
  4. Plan to succeed! Many of us face multiple social functions throughout the holiHealthyThanksgivingdays. Besides Thanksgiving, there are upcoming social events — Christmas, New Years. It’s likely you’ll be invited to dinner at a friends’ and have no control of the menu. What to do? A small snack before you go could help you stay focused on smaller portions. Happily, when you’re dining out at a restaurant, you’re the boss. Take a look at that menu — know the lingo. Stay simple — order grilled, roasted, broiled, and baked — instead of covered in sauce, or cheesy, or deep-fried. Make your voice heard — and eat slowly. Resign from the “clean plate club”, slow it down and you’ll be satisfied with less food — make “para llevar” part of your vocabulary.
  5. Drink up! Sure you can toast the holidays, but just do it with more water than soda or alcoholic beverages. One glass of regular soda has about 150 calories. Drinking one extra soda a day can result in you gaining 16 pounds over one year! One bottle of sweetened ice tea has about 240 calories and can slam you with 25 extra pounds a year. Eliminating sweetened drinks is one of the easiest ways to improve your diet. Drink to your health with water, herbal tea or sparkling water.
  6. Say yes to NO! There’s really no reason to feel pressured to eat. When you’re faced with someone who insists you have a little more, stand your ground and roll out the biggest two-letter word in the English language: NO! Just be smart about it, smile and say “no, thanks”…or “thanks for offering, but not this time”…or “I appreciate your offer, but I’m full, thanks for thinking of me!”

My beautiful colleague, Ellie Krieger, registered dietitian and host of Food Network’s Healthy Appetite,Thankful has posted some special recipes, great for Thanksgiving, and for entertaining year-round. She’s done a great job of keeping the flavor and textures bright and vibrant, while cutting calories by reducing added fat and sugar. Click here for Ellie’s recipes.

Don’t be afraid to modify the ingredients. For example, if a recipe calls for broccoli, you can substitute cauliflower. Any green is interchangeable — spinach with Swiss chard, or arugula, or kale. If the recipe calls for chicken broth, substitute vegetable, beef, or white wine or even water (just add some extra salt and seasonings).  For info on obtaining foods and ingredients like sweet potatoes, or “camote amarilla”, read my blog

You’re invited!  Share your favorite recipes and ideas for modifying the “usual” to make them healthier. Just scroll down to post in the comments section below. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Susan Burke March, a Cuenca expat, is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in smart solutions for weight loss and diabetes-related weight management. She is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally—a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term. Do you have a food, nutrition or health question? Write to me at


Susan Burke March

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