Dr. Campbell: Healthy living and the Thanksgiving holiday


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Thanksgiving is Thursday and millions of Americans will flock to the kitchen table for a huge, calorie-laden meal of yummy indulgences.

Believe it or not, the average American gains one to five pounds over Thanksgiving and we tend to keep those pounds and add even more after the holiday season ends.

Did you know that nearly 228 million turkeys were raised in 2016 and over 841 million pounds of cranberries have been produced in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday?

Once the holiday indulgence ball starts rolling at Thanksgiving, it is difficult to stop and many of us find ourselves putting on pound after pound.

Many consumers go on a six week “food fest” that can result in the permanent gain of unwanted weight that can be difficult to lose during the winter months.

1. What are the facts when it comes to the Holiday meal tomorrow?

First of all, it is important to understand exactly what the average American can expect from a Thanksgiving meal. Believe it or not, the average American Thanksgiving meal results in consumption of nearly 5,000 calories – all in one sitting. Most of us only need around 2,000-2,500 calories a day as a general rule-and women require even less daily calories than men.

• Six ounces of turkey is 500 calories, stuffing is 500 calories, pumpkin pie is 500 calories

• Alcohol and lack of physical activity can really contribute as alcohol promotes water retention

• Research shows that after one very indulgent meal, blood vessels stiffen and levels of triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) soar. Thankfully, other research shows that exercise quickly reverses some of these effects

2. What are some strategies that we can all use on Thanksgiving Day to promote a healthier holiday?

There are several strategies that we can use to have a healthier Thanksgiving Day.

Planning is everything:

• A great idea is to begin the day with a Turkey Trot or fun run in the morning. It is important to burn calories prior to a big meal. For one, you are not tempted to eat as much after vigorous exercise. Go to the gym as a family. Take a walk as a family.

• Drink lots of water – staying hydrated is very important and it also will give you a sense of fullness early in the day.

• Eat breakfast and then begin cooking the meal. This avoids nibbling while cooking the big meal which can add countless calories. Eating breakfast also avoids “starving” prior to the big meal, which promotes over-eating.

• Plan the meal for the middle of the day. This allows opportunities for family activities such as a walk before the meal and a walk after the meal before dessert.

• Limit alcohol. These are empty calories that can significantly contribute to weight gain over the holidays. One glass of wine with a meal is a good strategy.

How we can feast smartly:

• Before reaching for turkey and potatoes, fill two-thirds of your plate with vegetables of all colors. Healthy veggies will fill you up and keep you from indulging in unhealthy food. It is OK to taste everything. But keep the portion sizes under control.

• The most dangerous things on the table are the vegetables cooked in creamy sauces. Reach for steamed vegetables or flavor them with olive oil, lemon and herbs and you’ll save about 150 calories per serving.

• White meat turkey is your best bet – it is much healthier than ham and dark meat (which has a higher fat content). As good as it tastes, it is important to not eat the skin as this contains lots of fat.

• Aim for a teaspoon or two of cranberry sauce instead of drowning your turkey in it. This yummy treat is high in sugar so you should eat it in moderation.

• Go for a well-proportioned plate and skip seconds: It is all about portion sizes. Eat slowly and savor what’s on there.

• A slice of pumpkin pie is OK. If you’re doing a good job with portion

control on the mashed potatoes and turkey and aren’t going back for seconds, you may have saved enough room for dessert. Note that pumpkin pie has fewer calories and sugar than apple pie or the pumpkin cheesecakes. Try to avoid adding ice cream or whipped cream as those toppings are an easy 100 to 200 calories.

• Finally, once you’re done eating, leave the table. The entire dinner party should move to another room to chat and spend time together. Hanging out around the table may tempt you to snack on some leftovers.

Make sure to take time to enjoy all that Thanksgiving brings. Join with friends and family to give thanks for the blessings that we all have. Enjoy the holiday meal and realize that with a little planning and preparation, you can avoid the holiday weight gain that is so common this time of year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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