Tips for a heart-healthy Thanksgiving

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The average American gains one to five pounds over Thanksgiving and we tend to keep that pound, and more, long-term after the holiday season.

More than 225 million turkeys were raised in 2015 and over 841 million pounds of cranberries have been produced in the U.S. in 2015. Once the holiday indulgence ball starts rolling at Thanksgiving, it is difficult to stop. Many consumers go on a six-week food fest that can result in the permanent gain of unwanted weight that can be difficult to lose during the winter months.

The average American Thanksgiving meal results in consumption of nearly 5,000 calories, all in one sitting. Most of us only need around 2,000-2,500 calories a day —we are getting all of those in one sitting.

drcampbellthanksgiving3Six ounces of turkey is 500 calories, stuffing is 500 calories and pumpkin pie is 500 calories. Alcohol and lack of physical activity can really contribute as alcohol promotes water retention. Research shows that after one very indulgent meal, blood vessels stiffen and levels of triglycerides soar. Thankfully, other research shows that exercise quickly reverses some of these effects.

There are several strategies that we can use to have a healthier Thanksgiving Day.

Planning is everything.

A great idea is to begin the day with a Turkey Trot or fun run—there are several here in town. It is important to burn calories prior to a big meal. For one, you are not tempted to eat as much. Go to the gym as a family or take a walk as a family.

Other tips:

    1. Drink lots of water—staying hydrated is very important.
    2. Eat breakfast and then begin cooking the meal. This avoids nibbling while cooking the big meal. Eating breakfast avoids “starving“ prior to the big meal, which promotes over-eating.
    3. Plan the meal for the middle of the day. By planning the meal in the middle of the day, it allows opportunities for family activities such as a walk before the meal and a walk after the meal before dessert.
    4. Limit alcohol. These are empty calories that can significantly contribute to weight gain over the holidays. One glass of wine with a meal is a good strategy.

Before reaching for turkey and potatoes, fill two-thirds of your plate with vegetables of all colors. Healthy veggies will fill you up and keep you from indulging in unhealthy food.

drcampbellthanksgiving2The most dangerous things on the table are the vegetables cooked in creamy sauces. Reach for steamed vegetables or flavor them with olive oil, lemon and herbs and you’ll save about 150 calories per serving and that adds up!

White meat turkey is your best bet—it is much healthier than ham and dark meat (which has a higher fat content). As good as it tastes, it is important to not eat the skin—it has a very high fat content (hence it tastes great).

Aim for a teaspoon or two of cranberry sauce instead of drowning your turkey in it. This yummy treat is high in sugar so you should eat it in moderation.

Go for a small plate and skip seconds: It is all about portion sizes – you can still fill up your plate, but eat slowly and savor what’s on there.

A slice of pumpkin pie is OK. If you’re doing a good job with portion control on the mashed potatoes and turkey and aren’t going back for seconds, you may have saved enough room for dessert. Pumpkin pie has fewer calories and sugar than apple pie or the pumpkin cheesecakes. Try to avoid adding ice cream or whipped cream — those toppings are an easy 100 to 200 calories.

Finally, once you’re done eating, leave the table. The entire dinner party should move to another room to chat and spend time together. Hanging out around the table may tempt you to snack on some leftovers.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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