New England 61 Day Challenge: Avoiding Thanksgiving calorie bombs

The New England 61 Day Challenge is about challenging yourself to cut out soda, sweets and cigarettes as best you can for the last 61 days of the year, which is November and December. Those also happen to be the two months when people tend to gain weight that never comes off. Of course, Thanksgiving doesn’t help, but with a little advanced planning, you can still feast, and even leave room for dessert, without going crazy.

“It could be making healthy swaps in your recipes,” said Erin Ballou, a food educator at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, “either swapping out ingredients or cutting back on the amount so instead of a stick of butter, making it more like a third of a stick of butter, which in many recipes works just fine.”

When it comes to turkey, the white meat tends to have fewer fat and calories than dark meat – assuming you don’t drench it in gravy to moisten it up. Also, don’t let your carb consumption get out of control.

“Okay so stuffing is a bread,” said Pamela Doubleday, a Dietician at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, “if you do a whole-grain bread versus a white bread, that’s better in terms of raising your blood sugar, but stuffing is a lot of calories on your plate so you want to keep that to a smaller portion on your plate.”

You can use that plate to help with portioning as well. The nutritional experts at Trinity Health of New England said half your plate should be vegetables and fiber, with one quarter being a lean protein and the other quarter being a starch.

“The fiber in the food causes a heaviness, a feeling of satiety in the stomach, which causes you to eat less,” said Doubleday.

A great trick to eat less is to eat slowly, because you can eat a lot of unnecessary calories in the ten minutes it takes for your stomach to signal to your brain that it’s full.

“People tend to eat too fast,” said Dr. Seth Clohosey, an Internal Medicine Physician at Trinity Health of New England, “We’re very busy people for the most part, and it’s really easy to scarf down your meal.”

When it comes time for dessert, enjoy! Hopefully you’ve cut enough calories during the meal to afford a slice of pie (and if you’ve taken the 61-Day Challenge to abstain from sweets, don’t worry – if you really want to have it, and have worked hard to be conscientious about your food choices, then it’s fine). However, not all Thanksgiving desserts are the same.

“So what you want to do for dessert is have a pumpkin pie, a natural pumpkin pie versus a pecan pie,” said Doubleday, “there’s a 200 calorie difference between the two.”

Ballou suggested bringing your own healthier dessert if you don’t trust what may be offered.

“A fruit platter, perhaps a healthy dip to go along with the fruit platter is a way to do it,” she said.