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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

How to Make Favorite Thanksgiving Foods Healthier

GettyImages-621721636Although the holidays are meant to be a time of joy, they can be stressful for some, especially when you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, or just be more conscious of your eating habits. The best way to avoid these health-related stressors during the holidays is to prepare for them.

Following are seven of the most commonly consumed Thanksgiving foods and some suggestions for how to make them a bit healthier. Just by incorporating two or three of these simple swaps, you can reduce your intake of some not-so-health-friendly nutrients (like saturated fat and sodium), while still enjoying the seasonal foods you love and look forward to year after year.

 

Turkey

Opt for light turkey meat over dark meat because light turkey meat tends to have fewer calories, less saturated fat, and more protein per ounce. Removing all or some of the skin prior to eating can also help reduce total caloric and fat intake.

3 ounces of light turkey meat contains:

  • Without skin: 125 calories, 1.8g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, and 25.6g protein
  • With skin: 150 calories, 3.8g fat, 1.1g saturated fat, and 26.3g protein

3 ounces of dark turkey meat contains:

  • Without skin: 150 calories, 5.1g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, and 23.6g protein
  • With skin: 175 calories, 8.5g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, and 23.2g protein

Stuffing

Replace the bagged or boxed stuffing with homemade, which is typically lower in sodium and other processed ingredients. Use whole-grain bread in place of white bread to increase fiber content.

Incorporate more vegetables (celery, onion, carrots, broccoli, corn, mushrooms) and herbs (thyme, sage) to increase the nutrient content and overall flavor of your stuffing without adding too many extra calories and salt.

Use a reduced-sodium broth in place of regular broth, which can have several hundred additional milligrams of sodium per serving.

Green Bean Casserole

Use fresh steamed green beans, rather than canned, to decrease sodium content. Or you can choose canned green beans with “no salt added.” Use reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup and add real sautéed mushrooms for additional flavor and fiber. Try air-frying onions rather than buying packaged fried onions.

Cranberries

Use fresh cranberries in place of canned cranberries or cranberry sauce to help reduce added sugar and total caloric intake. If you must use canned cranberries, select those that are naturally sweetened without added sugars.

Potatoes

Use low-fat milk, plain Greek yogurt, or low-sodium chicken broth in place of cream, butter, or margarine. Use real potatoes with the skin intact to boost fiber content. Limit the amount of butter, salt and gravy added to mashed potatoes.

Instead of sweet-potato casserole, try roasted sweet potatoes with brown sugar, chopped nuts, and a little bit of butter available for topping.

Beverages

Limit alcohol and other calorie-containing beverages, such as soda and juice. If you do choose to consume alcohol, opt for lower-calorie drinks (seltzers, light beer, dry wines) and calorie-free mixers such as seltzer water or diet sodas. As always, be sure to consume in moderation; alcohol may make you more inclined to overeat.

Dessert

Opt for 100% pure pumpkin and reduce the amount used (or consumed) as filling to help cut back on calories. Skip the whipped cream, ice cream, and other toppings that may add additional calories.

If you’re given a choice, pumpkin pie tends to be lower in calories than pecan pie.

For many people, Thanksgiving may be the only time a year they get to enjoy pumpkin pie. If that’s the case for you, it’s perfectly acceptable to indulge; just be sure to practice portion control.

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Don’t have any say over what you and your family are having for Thanksgiving this year? Check out these tips for a practical, healthy holiday. Additionally, be sure to stay active, practice moderation and portion control, and remember: Thanksgiving happens only once a year and is much more than the food we pile onto our plates.

For more great recipes from NIFS dietitian, Lindsey Recker, go to https://www.nifs.org/healthy-recipes-nifs.

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating holidays Thanksgiving alcohol fruits and vegetables turkey

Have You Gained Weight Since the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

GettyImages-1286893989According to the American Psychological Association’s latest Stress in America™ survey conducted in late February 2021, 42% of adults reported undesirable weight gain since the beginning of the pandemic, with an average weight gain of 29 pounds. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, since almost everyone was stuck at home, the gyms were closed, and people turned to food for comfort.

Six Tips for Losing Pandemic Weight

If you’re struggling to manage your weight following the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown, and restrictions, try some of the following suggestions for getting back on track.

1. Establish a healthy eating routine.

Aim to eat three well-rounded meals each day. Meals don’t have to be complicated: the easier and quicker, the better. Try pairing a protein source (such as chicken, salmon, or ground turkey or lean beef) with various grilled, roasted, or steamed vegetables and seasonings and sauces of your choice for a quick, inexpensive, and easy meal.

2. Count calories.

The only tried-and-true method for losing weight is to eat fewer calories than you expend each day. Often when people eat healthy but don’t count calories, they tend to overestimate the number of calories they expend and underestimate the number of calories they eat, leading to weight gain/maintenance and frustration. To determine your individualized caloric needs, speak with a registered dietitian or get an estimate from the USDA’S DRI Calculator for Healthcare Professionals.

3. Stay active.

Fifty-three percent of adults reported that they have been less physically active than they would prefer since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Stress in America™ survey. Physical activity is a great method for managing weight and stress, and has even been shown to improve sleep. If you don’t feel comfortable going to the gym, take a walk outside. If you’re not able to safely walk outside, create your own walking route inside your home or apartment and take several brief walks throughout the day to keep moving. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity into your routine every day.

4. Limit alcohol consumption.

According to the Stress in America™ survey, 23 percent of adults reported drinking more alcohol during the pandemic as a coping mechanism for stress. The calories in alcohol tend to add up quickly, and too much alcohol can lead to unhealthy habits like overeating. To prevent alcohol-associated weight gain, be sure to drink in moderation, which is defined as no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

5. Manage stress.

There is evidence to suggest that increased cortisol, the hormone released during stress, may result in an increased appetite, leading to overeating and potential weight gain. Instead of turning to food for comfort, be sure to control stress through mindfulness and meditation, exercise, and social support.

6. Get enough sleep.

The Stress in America™ poll also found that 35 percent of adults noted getting less sleep since the start of the pandemic. Sleep plays an important role in losing weight, as inadequate or poor-quality sleep can affect the hormones that control hunger and satiety, may result in less energy for exercise, and could make you more susceptible to making poor food choices. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night for most adults.

Weight-loss Help from NIFS

NIFS can guide you in your weight-loss journey. Our popular Ramp Up to Weight Loss program has been adapted so that you can participate virtually from home  or at NIFS.

Find out more about Ramp Up to Weight Loss. Contact us today!

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress weight loss calories alcohol covid-19 lockdown pandemic

THOMAS’s CORNER: How Alcohol Can Affect Your Fitness Gains

ThinkstockPhotos-533242866.jpgThe curiosities of the human body never cease to amaze. Today’s topic is alcohol and its effect on fitness performance. Seems like a fairly straightforward and easy concept to grasp, but just as I find more details there seems to be more head scratching, mostly from the historical aspect and how we have evolved to today’s ideals.

It’s no secret that alcohol can trigger several spiraling ailments, ranging from liver disease to heart issues, in addition to the obvious weight gain and stunting of muscle development. That being said, with so much knowledge about the negatives of alcohol abuse, why would an individual not want to become independent of all the risks and dangers? The answer is not so easy to discern, but we can at least look at some of the more alarming facts.

The Health Impacts of Alcohol Abuse

The aforementioned alcohol-induced liver disease, also known as cirrhosis, is the result of abuse over a long period of time. Not everyone gets to the point of cirrhosis, but there are many other, smaller monsters that can arise (Kuzma, 2015) from your head to your toes:

  • Brain function can become unreliable.
  • Decision making abilities are limited.
  • Your looks can diminish due to blood vessel ruptures and swollen or puffy skin.
  • The heart works harder to do what it normally does.
  • Circulation is impaired.
And the list can go on for another paragraph. The fitness levels you strive for by working out like a maniac for hours at a time, several days a week (aka Gainz), are definitely compromised by the affects of alcohol.

One of the main things to remember is that alcohol acts as a diuretic, which can lead to fluid loss. Dehydration is not exactly the most welcoming environment for muscle development. Dehydration also leads to muscle fatigue. Earlier, I mentioned that you can gain weight from alcohol. This is twofold: number one, alcohol is not a calorie-free substance; and number two, we tend to eat more junk when we drink. They go nearly hand in hand. Finally, we see a hindrance in protein synthesis, the foundation of all our hard work toward Gainz. (Hanes, 2014)

Is a Little Alcohol Okay?

Now you may say, “Thomas, why does everyone keep saying that it’s okay to have a small amount of alcohol for good heart health?” Well, simply put, there are studies that have linked light/moderate alcohol consumption (like one or fewer drinks per day) with heart health. There are some catches, though. The studies found that the benefits did not help everyone; for example, those under 45 had less positive impact, younger women could have a higher risk for breast cancer, and people with hereditary alcoholism issues would not be advised to start drinking just because of this study (Gupta, 2008).

Educate Yourself About Alcohol Effects

Alcohol is not going away anytime soon. It’s part of many cultures around the world and has been for thousands of years. However, the people who are trying to get fit and stay healthy for life deserve to be educated on the topic so that they can give their body a better chance to succeed. 

Those with concerns about leaving alcohol behind can rest assured that fitness and wellness programming will not leave you behind, whether you are relieving stress, making friends, or aspiring for greatness.

For a better understanding of how alcohol affects your body, please contact the NIFS Registered Dietitian, Angie Mitchell.

Until next time… Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

THOMAS LIVENGOOD

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness Thomas' Corner alcohol gainz dietitian