All of us have been there… sitting at the table after a big holiday meal, feeling heavy and in need of a serious nap.
In the name of good family and friends, many of us willingly fall off the health wagon, giving in to the snacks, breads, sweets and larger-than-life portion sizes.
There is good news for your health. Not every food item on the menu needs to be avoided!
With a bit of awareness, there are ways that you can take control of your health and your waistline this Thanksgiving. Here are a few examples of foods you can indulge in without too much guilt.
1. Vegetables with dip
When it comes to the holiday spread, this common staple seems quite harmless. The universal safe-food, you can eat as much as you want – it’s just vegetables, right? The fact they are raw makes them even better!
Well, not so fast. First off, in the middle of almost every veggie platter is the unhealthy offender you need to watch out for, the ranch or blue cheese dip. The moment you dunk that piece of broccoli, all healthy bets are off. A small serving of ranch dressing (100 g is about as much as you would use to dip one portion generously) has 145 calories.
If you dip multiple veggies, the calorie and fat content keeps creeping up. And that fat-free blue cheese dressing still contains one gram of fat. Crunch away, but instead of the heavy dressings, add in some healthy hummus or eat those veggies naked.
A dessert or condiment that is common at the holiday table is applesauce, a nutritious addition to any meal. Steer clear of the store-bought version as it tends to come loaded with sugar. Do the work and make it from scratch so you can control what goes in and how much. Brown sugar ranks a little higher on the health pyramid, so a little of that can’t hurt.
The health of apples has been well-documented. According to the Mayo Clinic, the pectin of apples contains soluble fiber which is excellent for your bowels. Apples also have an impressive dossier of vitamins: A single small apple is a great source of vitamin C, potassium and calcium.
Nuts can be a double-edged sword. Often the ones that come in a can or a gift box are loaded with oil, sugar and salt. If you choose nuts like pralines, beer nuts or salted peanuts, the nutritional value is going to be easily negated by the salt or the sugar in the crispy coating.
If you go with raw nuts, however, with no added salt or preservatives, they can be a tasty way to indulge and stay on track, too. They are a great source of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and loaded with vitamin E and B, not to mention protein.
4. Sweet potato pie
This classic holiday dessert can be one of the healthiest on the buffet! While there are versions that come packed with butter, sugar and fat, if you make it yourself to control the ingredients, this pie can be good for you!
Sweet potatoes are a superfood. They are full of fiber and have high amounts of vitamin A and potassium. But a word to the wise, portion size is important when it comes to the potato. According to Harvard Public Health, the sweet potato is a great health food. It’s a great source of vitamins and minerals, but it is still a potato, which is high on the glycemic index. Foods high on this chart can cause erratic dips and spikes in your blood sugar which can lead to you feeling hungry soon after you’ve eaten.
However, a slice of sweet potato pie after a meal is considered a small portion, with a nutritional component that is really impressive. Have a slice, don’t overdo it and always make the pie yourself, to once again, control the sugar and additives!