Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and appreciation. It’s when we sit down to eat with family and friends to give thanks. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when most people overindulge in high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and alcoholic beverages, which can be harmful especially to seniors.
The older we get, the harder it is to fight off the holiday pounds, because our metabolism is working much slower. High cholesterol, a rise in blood pressure, and foods that can cause inflammation to our joints are a few things that older adults need to keep in mind this holiday season.
That doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the holidays. To celebrate a healthy Thanksgiving this year, try to follow these tips to help keep a balanced health plan and avoid overindulging.
Don’t Skip or Eat an Unhealthy Breakfast
Start your Thanksgiving Day off right with a nutritious breakfast. Skip the coffee and donut. Too much refined flour and sugar will result in hunger and fatigue before the morning is half over. The idea of skipping meals to “save room” is a recipe for overeating. Skipping meals can cause your blood sugar levels to decline and make you crave high-calorie foods.
Cut Back on Salt & Fat
Choose foods that are low in fat and salt. Too much salt can cause a spike in blood pressure or lower water retention. According to the National Dietary Guidelines for Americans, everyone should aim to consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of salt daily for better health. The American Heart Association recommends an even lower number — less than 1500 mg — to keep your blood pressure within a healthy range.
Don’t add salt and butter without tasting the food first. Doing so will cause you to add more unnecessary salts and fats to your food and cause you to over-season your food. Who wants to eat potatoes with too much salt? To cut back on fat, don’t eat the skin on the turkey. Another healthy Thanksgiving tip is to eat the healthier foods first, so by the time you move on to the heavier stuff, you’re already starting to fill up.
Portion Control for a Healthy Thanksgiving Meal with Your Holiday Favorites
“Eating healthy on Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to forgo all your favorite foods,” said Jennifer K. Nelson, a registered dietitian and director of clinical dietetics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Healthy portions and moderation are essential to avoid overeating. Limit yourself to one plate during the Thanksgiving meal. Nelson recommends your plate to be:
- Half vegetables
- Quarter potatoes or sweet potatoes
- Quarter turkey or ham
The more color on your plate the better, Nelson says. “If you fill up on those lower caloric density and higher nutrition foods, you’re going to feel full, but not bloated and tired, because it’s a lighter fare,” she says.
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
To avoid the negative consequences of alcohol, limit yourself to two drinks or, better yet, don’t drink at all. Most alcohol is packed with carbohydrates and high in calories. These loaded beverages can cause inflammation in the joints, making problematic joints and muscles worse. Instead of reaching for an alcoholic beverage, sip water. Drinking water can help you from overeating by making you feel full faster.
Take a Walk After Thanksgiving Dinner
Shortly after eating, get up and go for a brief walk. Research has found that a post-meal walk, even as short as 15 minutes, can help with digestion and improve blood sugar controls. In a study published in 2009, researchers found that a 20-minute walk about 15 minutes after dinner led to lower post-meal blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes than either a walk before dinner or no walking at all.
Another study found that in older adults who were overweight and sedentary, walking for 15 minutes shortly after each meal improved daily blood sugar levels to a greater extent than a single 45-minute walk in the morning. Researchers say that a post-meal stroll helps clear glucose from the bloodstream in part because more of it is taken up by the muscles.
Happy Thanksgiving from Bethesda
This holiday, we hope you celebrate a healthy Thanksgiving with your loved ones by following our nutrition tips. Give thanks this holiday season by volunteering at Bethesda’s Senior Living communities across the St. Louis Area.
Find our other healthy holiday tips and senior health and wellness news on our blog.