For those living in a retirement community, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to bring together all of your family and friends for one of the best meals of the year. However, this holiday can pack quite the dietary wallop to otherwise healthy eating habits. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes around 3,000 calories during Thanksgiving dinner, and a total of more than 4,500 calories throughout the course of the entire day. Furthermore, Thanksgiving meals are usually loaded with more fat, and the average person may consume up to 3.5 times their recommended daily intake. During the holidays it's easy for us to put our health second and dive into second slices of apple pie, but there are numerous easy ways to make Thanksgiving a healthy holiday. Here are five ideas for planning a healthy holiday gathering:
1. Watch the butter and oil
Traditional Thanksgiving culinary advice tells us that adding butter makes anything taste better, but in general many recipes call for more butter and oil than is needed. Unless you're following a specific recipe, slowly add butter to dishes rather than pile it in right away. This will ensure that you get a good flavor without overdoing the butter and oil.
2. Assign specific foods for each guest to bring
Have you ever shown up to a potluck or gathering and found that everyone brought a dessert? Your friends and family may be prone to show up with an unhealthy dish as opposed to a salad. Better Home and Gardens recommends avoiding this scenario by assigning dishes for your guests to bring, such as veggies and other healthy sides. This way you can focus on the main course and also ensure that your guests come with healthy options.
3. Send guests home with leftovers
Divide leftovers up among your guests so that you're not left with a refrigerator full of heavy food. After all, a heaping slice of pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream will probably make less of a dietary impact on your grandkids anyway. Hopefully, this will also save you on having to do all the dishes, as you can send your friends and family home with serving trays that can be returned later.
4. Opt for healthy side dishes
Make sure to have a wide range of healthy side dishes such as salad, fresh fruit, Brussels sprouts or asparagus. Also, avoid making nutritious sides unhealthy. For example, holiday tradition tells us to load up sweet potatoes with brown sugar, butter and marshmallows, but these veggies can just as easily be served mashed or roasted.
5. Use healthier ingredients
Sub out heavy ingredients for healthier alternatives. For example, rather than loading up traditional mashed potatoes with heavy cream and butter, use skim milk. Odds are when you look at all of your Thanksgiving recipes, you'll be able to find simple ways to make each of them a little bit healthier in similar fashion.