TUPELO • Ah, Thanksgiving. The day when we throw our healthy lifestyles out the window and indulge in decadent foods, often helping our plates two or three times.

With the number of obese adults in Mississippi at 37.7 percent and overweight or obese kids in grades K-12 at 40 percent, we might want to change tack this year and offer some healthier choices on the holiday buffet.

“Focus on proteins such as ham, turkey, deviled eggs and non-starchy vegetables,” said Krista King, a registered dietitian at Children’s of Mississippi, the pediatrics arm of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “Remember that starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas and beans) are in the same food category (carbohydrates) as some of your grain favorites like macaroni and cheese or bread.”

Use the plate method as best as possible, King said, keeping in mind that there are always leftovers so choose your favorite from each section at the holiday meal and plan on getting other favorites at the next meal.

For the plate method, fill half of your plate with vegetables such as carrots, green beans, salad, or squash.

“Get creative with your recipes and try swapping some of your starches for non-starchy vegetables, for example, cauliflower mac and cheese, roasted carrots instead of sweet potatoes, squash casserole instead of corn casserole,” she said. “You can also experiment with nutrient-rich vegetables such as butternut squash, acorn squash and spaghetti squash, which can be used in both savory and sweet recipes.”

Next, fill a quarter of your plate with starches, such as dressing or sweet potatoes. Try to skip the bread or rolls.

And finally, fill a quarter of your plate with protein, avoiding dark meat such as drumsticks. Remember to remove the skin and cut off any fat you see.

“One of the most important things to remember during the holidays, where you are prone to consume more calories than at other times of the year, is to skip the sugary drinks and opt for water or a calorie-free beverage,” King said.

Sometimes, lightening recipes can have a big impact on calories and fat. If you have recipes that call for sour cream, heavy cream or cream cheese, you can always substitute plain Greek yogurt, evaporated skim milk and low-fat cream cheese.

Most importantly, don’t skip meals to save up for the one giant holiday binge.

“Instead have a balanced breakfast that includes fiber and protein such as toast and eggs or cottage cheese with fruit,” King said. “This will ensure that you are not overly hungry when it’s time to have the big meal, and that you are able to practice mindful eating techniques – enjoying smaller portions of your favorites while avoiding feeling deprived. Avoid the finger food tables and mindless munching, which adds up quickly to extra calories.”

Dr. Shane Scott, who is board-certified in both internal medicine and pediatrics in New Albany, said the holiday table can be a good place to start talking about healthy eating.

“As we come upon Thanksgiving and Christmas when families gather, that’s a great time to have a conversation,” he said. “Set expectations for family members so that you get off on the right foot for 2020.”

Sometimes, when children or adults decide to adopt a healthier lifestyle, other family members can sabotage those efforts.

“So you need to say to them, ‘When Johnny comes to your house in 2020, here’s what we expect. We need you to get on board and help him make healthy choices,’” Scott said. “That way, everybody’s on the same page.”

Here are some healthy recipes to mix in with traditional recipes for a balanced holiday table.

ROASTED CARROTS AND PARSNIPS

1 pound parsnips

1 (1-pound) package baby carrots

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon Splenda

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel parsnips; cut into wedges to match the size of baby carrots. Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary and Splenda and toss to combine. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until tender. Serves 8.

Recipe courtesy of Krista King.

CAULIFLOWER ‘MAC’ AND CHEESE

4 cups cauliflower florets

Salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

2/3 cup freshly shredded Cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Chopped parsley, for garnish

In a large pot, bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower and boil for about 5 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Return cauliflower to the pot over low heat. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, garlic powder and paprika and stir to coat. Stir in cream cheese, cheddar cheese and Parmesan until melted and combined. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serves 4.

Recipe courtesy of YellowBlissRoad.com.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH CASSEROLE

1 butternut squash

3/4 cup Egg Beaters egg substitute, well beaten

1/4 cup Splenda

1/2 cup 1 percent soy milk

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

2 tablespoons flaked coconut

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Cut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop seeds out of the bowl. Wrap in foil; bake at 350 degrees until soft. Cool; scoop out squash with teaspoon to measure 2 cups.

Combine squash and remaining ingredients, mixing well. Pour mixture into a greased casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until set. Serves 6.

Recipe courtesy of SparkRecipes

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