7 Tips for a Heart-Healthy Thanksgiving Meal
Thanksgiving meals are often decadent. While heaping mounds of turkey, stuffing, marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes and creamy casserole dishes are delicious, they’re not exactly good for your heart. Many of these dishes are loaded with salt, fat, sugar and other unhealthy items that boost the flavor of your meal. Fortunately, you can make some substitutions which will provide for a heart-healthy Thanksgiving dinner without sacrificing flavor.
Limit Your Butter and Cream
Many Thanksgiving recipes call for large quantities of butter or cream. However, there are a variety of heart-healthy options that can be substituted for these ingredients. Consider replacing butter with one of the following options:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- High-oleic safflower oil
- Greek yogurt
- Organic canola oil
- Macadamia nut oil
If you’re preparing a soup, sauce or potato dish that calls for heavy cream, you can use soy yogurt to achieve that creamy texture.
Stick to Whole Grains
White flour will cause you to consume needless empty calories and extra carbs. When baking, substitute whole wheat flour for white flour for a healthier option. You can also use items such as whole-grain breads, quinoa, or barley in your stuffing to provide a heart-healthy alternative to traditional stuffing.
Limit Your Salt
Thanksgiving meals are loaded with salt. When every item on your plate is heavily salted, it will result in vastly larger quantities of sodium than are considered healthy for one meal. When preparing your dishes, start with one quarter to one third the amount of salt listed on the recipe. In many instances, you’ll find that you don’t even miss the extra salt.
The following tips will help reduce the amount of salt in your Thanksgiving meal:
- Lemon juice will brighten the flavors of vegetable dishes and compensate for a reduction in salt
- Low sodium broths can provide a flavorful dish with a fraction of the salt
- Avoid processed foods since they tend to be high in salt and unhealthy fats
Be Mindful of Your Sugar Intake
Thanksgiving meals are typically carb-heavy. When you add large quantities of sugar to a meal full of carbs, it can be detrimental to your heart health and cause your blood sugar to surge. The following tips will help you cut back on the sugar in your meal:
- Consider low-sugar dessert options such as baked apples instead of cake or pie
- Instead of baking a sweet potato casserole loaded with sugary marshmallows, roast your sweet potatoes with savory herbs and spices
- Use low sugar cranberry sauce
- Add fresh fruits and naturally sweet vegetables such as beets to your salad to provide a sweet touch to the meal
- Avoid serving bread with the meal to limit the carbs you’re consuming
Focus on Vegetable Sides
You can still enjoy a small amount of stuffing and mashed potatoes, but they shouldn’t be the focal points of your meal. Make sure you serve several vegetable sides that allow your guests to limit their intake of the carb-heavy items on the table.
Vegetables are an important component of a heart-healthy diet, and they should be well represented at your Thanksgiving meal. Good options to serve include:
- Steamed green beans or carrots
- Roasted Brussels sprouts
- Roasted Cauliflower or Cauliflower mashed with potatoes to lower carb content
- Colorful Holiday Salads
Moderate Portion Sizes
Part of eating a heart-healthy meal involves being mindful of your portion sizes. We have a tendency to eat everything on our plate, so you may want to consider serving dinner on smaller plates to help reduce overeating.
In most instances, you don’t need that second plate of food. Give yourself a few minutes to digest before going back for more. If you truly feel like you need seconds, start with some healthy vegetable sides instead of a second portion of mashed potatoes and stuffing.
When it’s time for dessert, take a small slice of pie instead of a large one. This will satisfy your sweet craving without sending your sugar and cholesterol levels through the roof.
Limit Alcohol Intake
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass or two of wine with Thanksgiving dinner, but you don’t need to consume excessive quantities of alcohol. After enjoying a couple of drinks, switch to water, seltzer, unsweetened iced tea, or another option that is better for your cardiovascular health than alcohol.
South Denver Cardiology Associates Can Help
At South Denver Cardiology Associates, we’re committed to helping you live a healthier life. In addition to the comprehensive cardiology services we offer, we believe it’s important to educate you on your daily choices. Our Health and Nutrition Department conducts a wide range of wellness classes and exercise programs to help you maintain optimal cardiac health.
Our specialists can also meet with you individually in order to help you develop a nutrition and fitness regimen that is customized to your unique health needs.
Please contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our health and nutrition experts. South Denver Cardiology Associates serves patients in Denver, Littleton, and the surrounding areas of Colorado.
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