Think the turkey’s causing you to take a snooze on the couch each year after the big Thanksgiving meal? Think again. Yes, turkey does contain tryptophan, a compound that enhances sleepiness and relaxation, but in order to really be put to sleep from it, you’d need to chow down on a 46 pound gobbler! The more likely post-meal coma-culprit is the abundance of food and alcohol many of us end up consuming throughout the holiday. Ward off feeling ‘stuffed’ by eating mindfully during the day, watching portion sizes and staying hydrated with water. Stay focused on your fitness and diet goals, let them guide you through a great holiday!

Breaking Down your Dinner Plate

Ever wonder how many calories you actually rack up over the course of the Thanksgiving meal? According to recent research, the average American consumes nearly 4,500 and 229 grams of fat from start to finish on turkey day—that includes about 1,500 calories of pre-dinner snacking and nibbling and over 3,000 calories attributed to the holiday meal itself. Looking at the big picture, that’s nearly 2.5 days worth of calories and almost 4 times the daily recommendation of fat intake all crammed into one afternoon/evening. Enjoy the holidays and still keep your waistline trim by eating smart, making just one plate with all your favorites rather than heading back for seconds (and sometimes thirds). Skip the calorie-heavy appetizers or snacks and save up for the delicious main event. Stock up on the vegetables and salad and lean protein like turkey. Dish out your comfort side dishes like sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing and biscuits in moderation so you can save room for a slice of mom’s pumpkin pie. Dish by dish, here’s a healthier breakdown of the nutrition facts for your Thanksgiving meal, lighten up by sticking to smart portion sizes.

Food Portion Calories Fat
Turkey, no skin 4oz (4 small slices) 180 3.7g
Mashed Potatoes 1 cup 237 9g
Stuffing ½ cup 178 8.6g
Green Beans 1 cup 34 0g
Cranberry Sauce ¼ cup (1 thin slice) 110 0g
Pumpkin Pie 1 slice (1/8 of pie) 340 15g
TOTAL 1079 40g

Finding the Health on your Holiday Table

No matter where you’re spending the Thanksgiving holiday, you'll always be able to scout out healthful finds on the dinner table. Here are a few finds loaded with nutrients.

Cranberry Sauce - A good source of vitamin C and fiber, cranberries are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants and may help lower cholesterol levels and the associated risk of heart disease. Research also cites cranberries abilities to prevent kidney and urinary infections. The calories in cranberry sauce can often rack up very quickly, thanks to a lot of extra, added sugar in canned and jellied sauces. Try to skim down on sugar by making fresh cranberry sauce, it’ll take you no more than 15 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts - Brussels sprouts are a fantastically nutritious addition to your holiday plate. Cousins of the cabbage, Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables, meaning they are loaded with dietary fiber to keep our digestive systems running strong. They also enhance the body’s natural disease fighting capabilities, particularly against cancer. These nutrient powerhouses help detoxify the body and bolster healthy skin and immunity. Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C, a 1 cup serving boasts over 161% of your daily recommendation. Sprouts are also a good source of vitamin K, folic acid and vitamin A.

Sweet Potatoes & Yams - Possibly one of the most healthful root vegetables and complex carbohydrates, sweet potatoes are king when it comes your Thanksgiving table. Sweet potatoes and yams are rich with antioxidants, vitamin A and beta-carotene—1 serving has nearly 260% of the daily recommendation. They’re also good sources of vitamin C and dietary fiber. Because they’re naturally sweet, sweet potatoes don’t need too much added sugar. The added sugar in traditional side dishes like candied yams and sweet potato casserole often masks great nutrients and can add a lot of unnecessary calories. Try lightening things up this year with simply roasted sweet potatoes.

Marissa Lippert is a registered dietitian in Manhattan who helps clients lead balanced lifestyles, enjoying food while actively achieving dietary, weight, health and wellness goals. Marissa works to bring her clients back into the kitchen, making grocery shopping and cooking healthful, quick, and simply delicious. She keeps her finger on the pulse of what busy, informed individuals need and want when it comes to living and eating well. Voted as one of New York's "Best Nutritionists" in 2007 by New York Citysearch, Marissa currently counsels clients through her self-owned company, Nourish. She frequently contributes to numerous publications including Glamour, The New York Times, Women's Health, Woman's Day, Runners World, and Health magazine and has partnered with Equinox Gyms, Whole Foods, Disney and other corporations to plan and promote nutrition and healthy cooking programming and seminars. For more information, see Marissa's Web site.

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