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The Healthy Side of Thanksgiving

From the Show: Eat Right Radio
Summary: The holidays are full of rich traditions and calorie-filled dishes. How can you eat healthier through the holidays and still maintain your figure?
Air Date: 11/12/14
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Angela Ginn
Ginn Angela 2404 thumbAngela Ginn is a registered dietitian nutritionist who works as a senior education coordinator educator at University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, where she counsels patients on treating and managing diabetes and other endocrine diseases. She is the owner of Real Talk Real Food, a consulting practice for health-are corporations and organizations and develops nutrition education programs for disease prevention.

Learn more about Angela Ginn here.
The Healthy Side of Thanksgiving
Turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie... oh my!

The holidays are full of rich traditions and calorie-filled dishes.

Listen in as Angela Ginn, RDN, and Melanie Cole, MS, discuss holiday nutrition and getting prepared for the healthy side of Thanksgiving.

Learn about key ingredients to cut the calories and still satisfy the family, as well as ways to give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday treats without the guilt.

Melanie Cole (Host):  As the holidays approach, so does the weight gain or so we think. Does it necessarily have to be that way? The holidays are full of rich traditions are calorie-filled dishes. We’re going to learn today about the simple ingredients you can use that can make it just a little bit of a healthier holiday. My guest today is Angela Ginn. She’s a registered dietician nutritionist who works as a Senior Education Coordinator Educator at the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology. Welcome to the show, Angela. Let’s talk about the upcoming holidays. People get nervous. What’s your single best advice around the holidays for people and those calorie-laden dishes we’re all about to eat? 

Angela Ginn (Guest):   The first thing you want to do is be realistic. When we think about weight loss, we want to make sure -- we push that away and think about weight maintenance and make sure that we don't have to sacrifice the taste of tradition to stay on track during the holiday. 

Melanie:  I think that’s a very important point. It’s not a great time to try and lose weight, but it is a great time to work on maintaining your weight. What do you like to do to keep some of these dishes because some things, mashed potatoes loaded with butter, are you a person, Angela, that wants us to experience everything in smaller portions which is difficult or make the things that we are making a little bit healthier and less calories? 

Angela:  I think about the ingredients and sometimes, guess what? It is okay to have the real thing. When we think about ingredients, we may use -- and I'm thinking about being a home cook, if it’s a strong tasting cheese you can use a lesser amount like Romano or extra sharp cheddar or blue cheese because it has more flavor. If you’re thinking about muffins, guess what? You can actually cut back on the oil on its own and that cuts back on calories. 

Melanie:  Well, so those are great bits of advice. Now, what about the turkey? Is that good, bad or really neither for us? 

Angela:  Turkey can be wonderful. We want to make sure we limit the fried turkey, though, during the holiday and we watch out for the turkey skin. Trimming that extra visible fat from meat and avoiding the skin can be helpful to making you stay on track during this holiday season. 

Melanie:  The meat, it’s a good source of protein. Now, let’s enter the side dishes before we hit some of those deserts. The side dishes, typically, are where some of the most calories exist. So speak about side dishes and what ingredients, Angela, do you want the listeners to be able to use to make some of those side dishes just a little bit healthier for us? 

Angela:  Your key actual ingredients that add calories, think about these: home milk, whipping cream, sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, margarine or butter. We can make easy switches from those. When you’re thinking about whole milk, choose skim milk. If you’re thinking about whipping cream, you could use evaporated skim milk. Instead of sour cream, you can use a Greek yogurt, plain Greek yogurt and instead of regular mayonnaise, you can use a low fat version and even -- we talked about oil earlier -- oil, you can substitute baked goods with apple sauce instead. These are ways that you can cut back on the grams of fat and also the calories and don't have to sacrifice the taste. 

Melanie:  So we don’t have to sacrifice the taste. Do you think really that -- now, I know Greek yogurt works wonderfully as a substitute for sour cream and it’s absolutely just as good, but if we’re using substitutes for mayonnaise or any of these others, are we going to lose some of the substance, the texture or the taste? 

Angela:  You shouldn’t, and that’s where adding flavor comes into play. Adding more herbs and spices helps you when you’re using less fat or sugar and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla and almond abstract really bring out the natural sweetness in foods when you’re trying to cut back on the sugar. And when we think about herb vinegars and lemon juice and even some soy sauce, that even helps to cut back the fats but still add flavor. Marinating is a great way as well that you’re able to tenderize your meat and not add the extra fat. 

Melanie:  What about adding extra salt? People salt everything on Thanksgiving and these holidays, so what about reducing your sodium intake while still maintaining the flavor in these foods? 

Angela:  That’s when you season with fresh vegetables, with herbs and spices and you know, you could use dry spices or use fresh spices. Now, when you’re working with certain things like mashed potatoes, they do require a little bit of salt, just a pinch and I always take the salt shaker away from the table when we have dinner because guess what? If you season your food properly and add a lot of extra flavor with herbs and spices, everybody won't even miss that salt shaker on the table. 

Melanie: Let’s head in to the desert realm, Angela, where we pack in the calories because even if you’re full and stuffed to the brim, you always find room for the Pecan pie and the pumpkin pie and the little wonderful cookies people bring.What can we do about those? Give us your advice on limiting your intake and then making those things a little bit healthier for us? 

Angela:  When we are thinking about being realistic we plan ahead. The one thing -- when you show up to the party or to Thanksgiving, make sure you don't arrive hungry and the other thing is you also don't want to skip meals because when we skip meals, we tend to overeat. Also, make sure when you are done eating, get away from the table. And if you know there is something very special in that desert line that you’d like, you may cut your portion size of your dinner. Just cut it in half and find a fruit based or grain based desert that you enjoy. I always pick --when you want to have pie chose pies with one crust instead of two. And even try to seeif there’s a fruit pie so you can enjoy a little bit of fruit as well. 

Melanie:  Fruit is a great option. And now, if you’re going to be the person to make those pies and make those things, is there a way to cut some of the -- I mean, baking is different than cooking so can we cut some of the things in our baking recipes to make them a little bit less calories? 

Angela:  We actually can and one way is the sugar. We can cut the calories with less sugar. Some people use just less sugar, regular sugar alone, some people use sugar substitutes and I will say that when you’re baking especially baked goods like cakes and cookies, you want to be mindful and use sugar blend, not just the straight sugar substitute because sugar does have a place. Sugar has a place in browning, also giving it texture and moisture. So you want to be mindful of making those substitution and I always say, practice ahead of time. Don't wait till the day before Thanksgiving to try a new recipe. You want to make sure you practice this new recipe ahead of time that it has the same great taste as the prior one without the extra sugar. 

Melanie:  And now we only have a few minutes left, Angela, but what about alcohol intake? Are there certain bits of advice you want to give about the calories that people don't realize the amount of calories they add just in a margarita or a glass of wine or some beer. Speak about the alcohol a little bit. 

Angela:  Calories are pretty high when we drink alcohol and they also can stimulate your appetite. So if you want something to drink, you want to limit yourself to one or two drinks per occasion and then always consume it with food. You want to avoid any sweet wines and liquors and try to have club soda or calorie-free sparkling water with lime and when you do mixers, try to use a diet beverage. That can also cut back on the calorie. 

Melanie:  In just the last minute, if you would give us your best advice for a healthy Thanksgiving and a healthy holiday season upcoming in the ways that we can cut our calories and even eat a little bit healthier as we head into these holidays. 

Angela:  Just remember you don't have to sacrifice the taste or tradition. You just want to stay on track so be realistic, plan ahead, avoid overeating, think about your food choices, pile your plate with a half a plate of veggies and also get active. Activity can be a great way to be a part of the holidays and making sure you don't overindulge. 

Melanie:  That is great advice. Thank you so much, Angela Ginn. You're listening to Eat Right Radio. You know, this is our good friend from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, you can go to, that’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening and stay well.
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