Rx Nurse Kris: Kick the Urge to Count Calories Over the Holidays and Enjoy Your Meal

“Hard to Believe: Average Thanksgiving Meal Equals 3,000 Calories and 229 Grams of Fat!”

“Thanksgiving Calorie Calculator: How Far to Walk Off Thanksgiving…”

“Thanksgiving Survival Guide”

Yikes!  I don’t know about you, but I feel guilty already and I haven’t even taken a bite!

These are the articles out there making this American icon of holidays feel like the unhealthiest day of the year.  Even I have fallen victim to spreading such salacious rumors. I’ve often been asked to report on how unhealthy a Thanksgiving meal can be or how to work-off the massive calories consumed on this one day of the year, but not anymore.  This year I am speaking not only as a nurse, but as a Domestic Square Peg who would rather give her left arm than give-up Thanksgiving dinner.

So, why do we have such a tough time simply enjoying this single meal?  It’s simple; Thanksgiving is the quintessential example of a love-hate relationship.  We LOVE all the food, but HATE how it makes us feel.

But is it really going to cause buttons to begin busting open?  Clog our arteries?  Cause us to completely disregard common sense when we wake the next day?  Not likely.  And I would argue the stress we feel over eating it is far more damaging than the meal itself.

As a health professional, I will forever advocate a healthy, balanced diet— but, as a DSP, I will forever advocate being real and enjoying life.  For example, if you are trying to lose weight, you wouldn’t completely cut-out your favorite little craving, it will only set you up for failure.  Use common sense.  Use moderation and take responsibility.  That applies to Thanksgiving dinner, as well.

Does it really matter how many calories are in a Thanksgiving meal?  Is there really anyway to know for sure?

You bet, but it would take a lot of weighing, calculations and time– time better spent enjoying your friends and family.  Time better spent giving thanks for arguably the very best meal of the year, instead of trying to figure out how to beat it.

Alright, so you are still not comfortable eating a meal full of so much fat and calories, simply go ahead and adjust how you both cook and eat your Thanksgiving meal.  You’ll find the meal itself is not what’s bad for you, it’s all the butter, sugar and sauces we add. Oh, and that 3rd or 4th serving.

Here a few hints to a healthier, guilt-free dinner:

- Choose light meat instead of dark meat.

- Keep your potatoes pure.  Offer a baked potato instead of mashed and allow folks to add their own toppings.  This goes for your sweet potatoes too.

- If you are making a green bean casserole, I found plenty of low fat, low calorie recipes online or if you prefer the “original”,  Campbell’s soup offers 98% Fat Free and Healthy Request® ingredients.

- I even found several healthy options for stuffing.  The “Cornbread & Sausage stuffing” from Eating Welluses turkey rather than pork, and omits all the butter and cream to cut the fat by two-thirds.

- Serve a fresh or steamed vegetable.

- Choosing a cup of fresh cranberries over canned cranberries will save you roughly 350 calories, alone.

- Finally, pumpkin pie is a healthier, lower calorie choice than my favorite pie, pecan, or most fruit pies, such as apple.

Bottom line, Thanksgiving dinner has been given a bad rap for no good reason.  When cooked healthily, it’s high in protein, vitamins and minerals and it’s actually good for you.

So, whether you choose to go all in and indulge on this day of thanks or ease-up and treat it like any other day of the week— most importantly, enjoy yourself.  Don’t let counting calories ruin your day. Tomorrow comes around quick enough; take one day to give thanks for the bountiful meal in front of you.