Are most Thanksgiving foods really healthy?

It’s that time of year when students look forward to enjoying a variety of delicious dishes for Thanksgiving dinner. But are most Thanksgiving foods really healthy? UVU’s registered dietician weighs in on the matter.

A beautifully set table awaits serving family and friends on Thanksgiving.

A set table awaits serving family and friends on Thanksgiving. Photo by Nichole Terry.

For those who are unsure which favorite holiday dishes are healthy or are worried about how to stay healthy during the holidays, Kayla Jacobson, UVU’s registered dietician, has provided some valuable insights. 

When asked about whether or not most “traditional” Thanksgiving foods are healthy, Jacobson answered, “Looking at a traditional Thanksgiving meal, it does include most, if not all, of the food groups!” 

“Turkey and ham provide protein; green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and corn provide vegetables; cranberry sauce provides your fruit; stuffing and rolls provide grain; and if you have ice cream with your pie or cheese with your meal then you have your dairy,” Jacobson further explained.

Thinking positively about what you are going to eat helps create healthy eating habits, especially around the holidays. “Looking at food this way can help provide a more positive outlook to your eating, as opposed to thinking that everything you are eating is ‘unhealthy,’” Jacobson stated.

Jacobson also explained that when individuals have a positive mindset while eating, they are able to enjoy food more as well as notice how the food makes their bodies feel. 

“This can help us to be mindful and stop when we are full, rather than eating to the point of feeling sick. And, if you do eat until you feel sick, the feeling will pass and you will be okay,” stated Jacobson.

What are some tips for staying healthy over Thanksgiving break? Jacobson suggests, “Keep your eating schedule roughly the same. Ideally, you don’t want to be skipping any meals to ‘save up’ for the big feast. This can often lead to overdoing it, feeling sick, and not enjoying the food fully.” 

Jacobson also recommended being mindful of how your body feels throughout the week. “What food would be most satisfying to your taste buds and to your stomach? Adding in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you have more energy and feel less sluggish as you go about your holiday activities,” she explained.

Since Thanksgiving comes once a year, individuals may feel that they need to eat as much of the seasonal food as possible, while it is available. However, doing so can lead to “overdoing it, which can make…[people] sick,” as Jacobson stated.

To avoid this problem, Jacobson recommended that individuals “remind [themselves] that [they] can have leftovers whenever [they] want.” She explained that although people feel the urge to overeat when limited seasonal foods become available if individuals will remind themselves that leftovers can be eaten later,  people can be more mindful of their bodies. 

Above all, Jacobson reminded students of the important principle of balance and of letting themselves enjoy the holiday: “Regardless of how you end up eating over the Thanksgiving break, remember that your body is resilient and one week of eating does not impact your health as much as consistent habits the rest of the year do. Happy eating!”

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