Advice from a nutrition expert of what foods to splurge on and what foods to avoid this Thanksgiving

Tips to fight the holiday fat

TAMPA - Nina Tamez-Mendez is training clients the day before Thanksgiving. But she's handing out more than just advice on working out.  She's telling clients how to survive the Thanksgiving holiday without going too off track.  First of all: three foods you can definitely splurge on. Turkey - of course.

"There is white meat and dark meat, and you can have both.  It's good to have good fats once and a while,"she said.

And what about those all favorite casseroles?  

Okay, Nina said, but, "We definitely want to stick to the fresh veggie casseroles and try to avoid the creams and sauces that we add on top of that especially the croutons or fried onions. Keep it fresh and spice it up with pecans and almonds some panko crumbs."

And finally, "The third thing to splurge on cooked yams. We all have the sweet potato casserole and of course it's delicious but when you start adding on the marshmallows and the additional sugar it defeats the purpose of a healthy side dish."

Nina says the foods to avoid, "We definitely want to avoid the pre made sauces and dips for example the gravy and the spinach and artichoke dip.  Try to make homemade sauces. Anything natural."

You know Nina's going to say skip the sugar or empty carbs found in candied yams, pumpkin pie and apple pie.  You can replace it with a healthier sweet dish like this one - made of pumpkin, whole wheat flour, egg and coconut sugar.  

And finally, avoid mashed potatoes.

"You definitely want to avoid the boxed version of mashed potatoes. White potatoes in general are just full of sugar. They have no nutritional value so this is where you can substitute with baked yams or cooked yams."

The key to conquering Turkey Day is to narrow down your options.

Avoid putting 10+ different items on your plate.

Stick with three to four of your favorites and eat as much as you please!

Foods to splurge on:

1. Roasted turkey with natural spices (home-made gravy is fine in moderation not store-bought in a can)

2. Fresh Veggie Casseroles that are light on the sauce or cream (i.e. green bean casserole, roasted beets or squash). Spice it up by adding roasted almonds or panko bread crumbs.

3. Cooked Yams with natural almonds or pecans: These vegetables are complex carbohydrates, which are "good" carbs, as they break down slowly, delivering a steady supply of sugar to the bloodstream and can be burned for energy, helping stabilize our energy levels and moods. They also are a great source of fiber, which keeps you feeling full longer. Moreover, yams are a good source of potassium, which helps control blood pressure.


1. Pre-made sauces and dips (high in sodium, sugar and fat): Try making your own home-made gravy with reduced-sodium broth and fresh mushrooms.

2. The added sugar or "empty" carbs: candied yams, pumpkin pie and apple pie

3. Mashed potatoes (they have no nutritional value, it's like eating spoon of sugar). Try mashed cauliflower instead!

Baking substitutions:

Use low sodium chicken broth.

Use evaporated skim milk.

Use egg whites or egg substitute.

Use unsalted butter or light margarine.

Use natural spices instead of pre-made.

Use fresh vegetables instead of frozen bags or canned.

Use organic coconut sugar, coconut nectar or honey instead of white cane sugar.

Use coconut oil or olive oil instead of vegetable oil.

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