Health & Environment

How To Indulge In A Healthy Way This Thanksgiving

A Texas A&M registered dietician shares how you can enjoy your favorite comfort foods without overeating.
By Kathleen Green Pothier, Texas A&M University College of Dentistry November 19, 2020

holiday food on table
Being mindful this Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean being restrictive.

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Thanks to physical distancing and a call for small gatherings, Thanksgiving will look different this year. Despite this, food will remain at the focus of the holiday. Instead of worrying about calories this year, Lisa Mallonee, professor and graduate program director for the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene at the Texas A&M University College of Dentistry, suggests looking at the big picture.

Being mindful shouldn’t mean restrictive, said Mallonee, a registered and licensed dietitian who abides by an 80/20 approach. That means eating healthy 80 percent of the time and allowing for splurges the other 20 percent.

“Foods are so much more than just nourishment. The key is learning to balance it as a whole over a week or even over a day versus just kind of losing control at one sitting,” Mallonee said. “My philosophy is moderation. It’s not easy for everyone, but you should have a ‘live it’ versus a diet. You can enjoy foods and not restrict them in your diet. That practical mindset is much needed during the holidays. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, it’s just a wash.”

She recommends kicking off Thanksgiving Day with a veggie tray: celery, carrots, cucumbers and bell peppers rich with vitamins A and C, served with dip or hummus. “Some healthier snacks while you’re waiting for dinner allows you more room for those little splurges you want to enjoy during your meal,” Mallonee said.

Typical holiday fare like turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie and Brussels sprouts have oral health benefits, too. Besides added vitamins and minerals, they can also help tooth enamel, gum health and more.

Lifestyle choices also should factor into holiday happenings — and that includes exercise.

“I always encourage people to be active,” Mallonee said. She suggests taking a family walk.

While exercise helps burn calories and reduce stress, it’s also been linked to good oral health.

“The importance of exercise is not just for your body but your overall health,” Mallonee said.

She points to two studies that link physical activity and oral health. Results have shown that participants who were more physically fit had improved periodontal status, and those more physically active with a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) were 54 percent less likely to experience periodontitis compared to their less active peers.

This article by Kathleen Green Pothier originally appeared on Vital Record.

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