Nov 08

How to Have a Heart Healthy Thanksgiving

Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart disease, which the number-one cause of cardiac arrest (a.k.a., death) in adults in the U.S. In order to give thanks for your health and show your appreciation for life, I challenge you to celebrate Thanksgiving this year in a healthier way. To help you with this challenge, I would like to propose some ideas for family activities, suggestions for making your traditional recipes healthier, and some thoughts on boosting your emotional well-being.

Start a new Thanksgiving tradition with your family this year by beginning, and/or ending, your Thanksgiving Day with exercise! You can hike on one of the many, multi-level trails throughout the county. If you hike Cowles Mountain, you will see my family and me there. We also enjoy hiking Iron Mountain, and walking, rollerblading, and biking around Lake Murray, or Scripps Lake.

For the more energetic, I like Father Joe’s Thanksgiving 5K Run/Walk fitness and fund raising event in Balboa Park. Wheelchairs, pets and baby strollers welcome!! The idea is to get out and do something active.

When it comes to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day, most people look forward to throwing caution to the wind and NOT counting calories. Well, I used the “Thanksgiving Calorie Counter” and determined that my typical Thanksgiving dinner comes to 1685 calories, and that I would need to walk 16.85 miles do burn it off. If I widdle down my Thanksgiving dinner to nothing more than ½ a cup of mixed, raw veggies, ½ a cup of fresh fruit, 3 cups of salad with diet dressing, 6 ounces of white and dark turkey, ½ a cup of stuffing, and ½ a cup of mashed potatoes, the calories now total 855 calories and I would only need to walk 8.55 miles. Of course, it seems nearly un-American to skip pie on Thanksgiving, but 1 piece of apple pie a la mode adds 555 calories to my meal!

Don’t despair. Making some healthy substitutions in your recipes will help cut back on the calories and fat this Thanksgiving, and go a long way to helping you maintain your healthy lifestyle. Common ingredients such as eggs, butter,  whip cream, and sour cream all have favorable substitutes for the health-conscious holiday celebration.

Here are some healthy ingredient substitution ideas for your Thanksgiving recipes:

Butter: For baking, an excellent and healthy substitute for butter or oil is using the same measurement of pureed fruit. Think applesauce, canned pumpkin or yams, and pureed banana. Even if you only substitute half of the butter or oil, you have made your recipe healthier.

Eggs: Instead of using whole eggs, use egg whites. Typically, 2 egg whites equal 1 whole egg. Eggbeaters are also a healthier choice.

Sugar: Sugar substitutes have a bad rap because most of them are made from chemicals. However, my favorite, Stevia comes from a plant and is all natural. There are now many brands and varieties of Stevia, so read the label carefully. Experiment with quantities. Stevia tends to be sweeter than other substitutes.

Sour Cream: I now substitute plain non-fat Greek yogurt for all my recipes and dishes that call for cream of all kinds. It is my base for salad dressing, my mayonnaise substitute, my whip cream substitute, my sour cream substitute. You can add your favorite spices for great flavored sauces and dips. I love to add plain horseradish and hot sauce for a spicy dip or dressing. I add lemon, garlic & dill for my tuna sandwiches. I use it instead of mayo in the powdered Ranch Dressing mix. And if a recipe calls for sour cream or whole milk, substitute it with a low-fat or a fat-free option.

Whip Cream: Again, I use plain non-fat Greek yogurt. I mix 2 parts yogurt with 1 part low-fat cottage cheese, and add vanilla & Stevia. If you have a food processor, you can blend it and put in on fresh strawberries or blueberries, and no one will know it isn’t real whip cream! When baking, instead of whipped cream, use canned, chilled, evaporated skim milk.

Heavy Cream: For those times when heavy cream is needed in a recipe, instead use a one-to-one ratio of flour whisked into fat-free milk.

Click here for Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes, Menus and Cooking Tips

Because you live in American, you are among the richest people in the world. However, you are also more likely to be depressed. Our emotional well-being is equally important to our overall health. Stress is another leading cause of heart disease and, among other threats, attacks our immune systems. Emotional and spiritual health means different things to different people.

If you are interested in finding, or developing, your spirituality, perhaps the following suggestions will help.

  • Assess what’s important to you and how you wish others to perceive you. Define to yourself your stance on moral and ethical issues?
  • Align your current behavior with your values and live your life accordingly.
  • Share your time with people who share your values.
  • Develop a strong sense of self by exploring answers to questions that identify your purpose in life. Decide what drives you / what depresses you / where you find fulfillment / what determines the kind of person are / what kind of person you want to be.
  • Find literature dedicated to issues of spirituality. These can be religious, non-religious or philosophical pieces.
  • Seek happiness by giving it to others and helping those who are needy. Do something for a loved one. Comfort and support someone who is hurting. Praise another’s accomplishments. Be sincere.
  • Attend services in houses of worship that speak to who you want to be.
  • Do things that fulfill your spirituality, such as, listening to music, writing, playing with a pet, exercising in nature, praying, etcetera.
  • Spend time talking with a spiritual counselor, or with someone whose values you admire or share.

So, this year show gratitude to the body parts that got you through to today and do something healthy this Thanksgiving.