Although originally meant to celebrate the survival of the pilgrims through the first difficult years in America, Thanksgiving has become a holiday to celebrate overeating. While it is tempting to toss all thoughts of diet out the window during the holiday season, the average American adult gains one pound each year as a direct result of holiday eating.
This may seem insignificant, but a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000 found that, for many, this weight never leaves. Researchers estimated that a significant percentage of midlife weight gain in Americans is caused by overeating during the holidays.
However, you can avoid this weight gain by making smart choices during the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving. As a bonus, these healthy alternatives will save you a chunk of change.
Embrace the veggies
Vegetables are some of the healthiest foods on the planet, yet we don’t usually eat enough vegetables in a day. It may surprise you, but this holiday meal is an opportunity to redeem yourself! Thanksgiving dinner has numerous side dishes, and what is usually in a side dish? Vegetables, of course!
Vegetables are not only healthy, but they also cost less than pricy meats and non-veggie side dishes. Many fresh vegetables cost less than a dollar per pound, which means you can purchase several pounds of delicious vegetables for around $5. Steam or sauté your veggies, rather than frying, boiling or covering them in a cream sauce. This alone means you will have a healthier Thanksgiving table.
Eat less meat
Meat is expensive. Certain cuts of meat can cost $10 a pound or more. Traditional turkey is usually inexpensive around Thanksgiving, but large birds can still cost a fortune. Rather than purchasing a huge turkey, try purchasing a smaller bird. Treat meat like a side dish and you will save quite a bit on your Thanksgiving meal. Stick to turkey only, rather than using meat in other dishes, which will quickly make your meal cost a lot more.
Narrow down the dessert selection
There are so many fantastic desserts to make at Thanksgiving, which makes it easy to go overboard. But loading up on desserts is not a healthy choice. Instead of creating the temptation to overindulge, simply make fewer desserts. Choose your two favorite desserts, such as pumpkin and apple pie, and don’t make more than that. You will still get to eat your favorite Thanksgiving dessert, but a limited selection will keep your calorie intake low and your bank account buoyant.
Make recipes from scratch
Ready-made foods might be convenient, but you pay for that convenience. Additionally, most prepared foods are made from unhealthy ingredients, such as high-fructose sweeteners. You can save money by making your recipes from scratch — and this will also ensure your meal contains healthy ingredients.
Keep portions small
Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to overindulge, but you don’t have to stuff your face to enjoy the holiday. Instead of preparing massive quantities of each dish, make smaller portions that will feed everyone without too many leftovers (or just enough for Thanksgiving lunch and supper). This is beneficial for both your budget and your waistline.
Make it a potluck
Having a potluck means everyone at Thanksgiving dinner shares the cost. This is also helpful if your guests have dietary restrictions. Guests can bring along dishes that accommodate their own particular dietary needs, saving you the extra work of making dozens of different options.
Thanksgiving can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. With a few simple menu changes to make dishes healthier, and with the help of your guests, Thanksgiving can be both healthy and affordable for everyone.
—The Alternative Daily