Tips to help you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal and stay healthy

According to the Mayo Clinic website,  many Americans may consume as many as 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day.  For many that’s two and a half to three times the amount they should eat.

There are ways around that while still enjoying the day, says St. Vincent Health clinical dietitian Anna Busenburg.

“The big deal is that you limit your portions,” she said. “Make substitutions if there are certain food items at the meal. Let’s say you don’t really love the sweet potato casserole and you really enjoy the cranberry sauce. Then go ahead and skip the casserole and enjoy a little more of the cranberry sauce.”

Busengurg also advises tweaking the sweets. By that she means you should bring a healthy item to share. Bring a relish tray or a fruit salad to help balance out all of the calorie-rich sweet desserts. Having fruit as a dessert can save you a lot of calories and is good for those with diabetes.

And if you really want to try a couple of different pies, cut the pie into twelfths instead of eighths. The smaller portion will help cut down on calories and still allow for the enjoyment of tasty treats.

Consider making some healthy ingredient substitutions. Busenburg says you can use applesauce in place of oil, greek yogurt in place of sour cream or cream cheese.

If you are putting together a meal for someone who has diabetes, consider using some sugar substitutes (like Splenda) in some of your sweet dishes.

In terms of food safety, make sure you wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before handling food.

Separate your cutting boards for meat and fresh produce. Avoid cross contamination, which is when the juices from the meat get to the fresh produce items.

When cooking food remember these guidelines: turkey, stuffing casseroles and leftovers in general should be heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Veal or lamb should be heated to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fully cooked ham should be heated to 140 degrees. Fresh ham, pork or egg dishes should be heated to 160 degrees.  After the meal, leftovers have about two hours to sit out, then they need to be refrigerated.

Generally, keep food out of the danger zone, which is 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you decide to freeze your cooked turkey, it will be good for about three to four months in the freezer.

"Remember to enjoy your favorite treats, but in moderation,” said Busenburg. “Try to make some healthy substitutes. Remember to incorporate lower calorie food items. And keep in mind the temperature danger zone."

Find more tips for a healthy Thanksgiving dinner from Food Network, All Recipes and Weight Watchers.

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