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Tips for Healthy Choices and Kitchen Safety when Preparing Your Thanksgiving Meal

The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone trying to implement healthy habits.

Despite your best efforts, it can be difficult to follow through with an exercise routine and resist tempting, high-calorie foods. Reports suggest the average person gains between 7-10 pounds during the months of November and December, and that extra weight doesn’t easily come off in the months or years to come.

“Small changes or opportunities to scale back portions can make a big difference in overall calories. While I don’t suggest over-eating, be mindful of enjoying the foods on the table,” said Millie Smith, clinical nutrition manager at Atrium Health Navicent. “But, if you do find yourself overeating Thanksgiving dinner, don’t let that be a gateway for poor eating habits into the Christmas season. Instead, try again the next day. This is not a time for guilt, but a time to examine choices and start fresh the next day.”

Simple strategies

You don’t have to abandon your favorite holiday foods. Here are a few strategies for making better choices:

• Try serving smaller portions of calorie-laden foods, and supplement that with fresh fruits and vegetables.

• Eat slowly to allow time to enjoy the meal and to register fullness.

• Be careful of which beverages you consume. Punch, eggnog and alcoholic drinks can add up to 300 calories or more per glass.

• Don’t abandon your physical fitness efforts. Even just a 20-minute walk can make a difference.

Ingredient swaps

A great way to prevent weight gain during the holidays is to enjoy healthier versions of your favorite foods. Try swapping:

• Low-fat mashed potatoes, pureed vegetables or a reduced-fat soup instead of creamed soup in casseroles

• Lean protein sources, such as fish or poultry, instead of cured meats

• Wine, broth or fruit juice instead of oil for sautéing vegetables

• Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or heavy cream

• Yogurt, applesauce or pureed pumpkin or banana instead of butter and oils

• Flavored water instead of eggnog, punch or alcoholic drinks

• Fruits and vegetables instead of starchy sides

• Whole grains, such as wild rice, instead of white rice

Safety first

While you’re focused on making healthy swaps for your holiday dinner, don’t forget to keep kitchen safety in mind. Distractions can pose deadly risks, especially on Thanksgiving Day. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an average of 1,600 cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day each year, more than three times the average number of daily cooking fires throughout the year. Year-round, cooking is the leading cause of U.S. home fires, with unattended cooking serving as the leading cause, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Turkey fryers create particular risks. Since 2000, the CPSC has cited 217 fire or scald/burn incidents involving turkey fryers, resulting in 83 injuries and $9.5 million in property loss.

Atrium Health Navient physicians urge the community to keep safety in mind while preparing holiday meals, especially when there’s a lot of activity at home.

Physicians offer these safety tips:

• Never leave cooking food unattended. If you must leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

• Stay at home when cooking your turkey, and check on it frequently.

• Move items that can burn away from the stove. This includes dishtowels, bags, boxes, paper and curtains.

• Avoid wearing loose clothing or dangling sleeves while cooking.

• When frying food, turn the burner off if you see smoke or if the grease starts to boil. Carefully remove the pan from the burner.

• Keep a pan lid or a cookie sheet nearby when cooking. Use it to cover the pan if it catches on fire. This will put out the fire. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.

• Turn pot handles to the back of the stove, so no one bumps them or pulls them over.

• Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on. Check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving home to ensure all stoves, ovens and small appliances are turned off.

• Keep children — and pets — at least three feet away from the stove.

• Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.

• Keep knives out of the reach of children.

• Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.

• Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

“Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for our many blessings, including our health. Keeping safety in mind while preparing holiday meals will mean less visits to the emergency room and more time at home with your loved ones,” said Dr. John Wood, medical director of the Emergency Center at Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center.

If an accident or injury occurs, seek appropriate medical treatment. For emergency situations, call 911 or seek care at the nearest emergency center. Atrium Health Navicent offers emergency care at the following locations:

• Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children's Hospital (888 Pine St., Macon)

• Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center (770 Pine St., Macon)

• Atrium Health Navicent Peach Emergency Department (1960 Hwy 247 Connector, Byron)

• Atrium Health Navicent Baldwin (821 North Cobb St., Milledgeville)

• Putnam General Hospital, Atrium Health Navicent Partner (101 Greensboro Road, Eatonton)

For non-life-threatening injuries, visit your nearest urgent care provider. Atrium Health Navicent provides urgent care at three Macon-Bibb County locations:

• Atrium Health Navicent Urgent Care North (3400 Riverside Drive, Macon)

• Atrium Health Navicent Urgent Care East (1339 Gray Highway, Macon)

• Atrium Health Navicent Urgent Care Northwest (5925 Zebulon Road, Macon)

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of health care in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent is part of Advocate Health, which is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the third-largest nonprofit health system in the United States, created from the combination of Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit

About Advocate Health

Advocate Health is the third-largest nonprofit integrated health system in the United States – created from the combination of Advocate Aurora Health and Atrium Health. Providing care under the names Advocate Health Care in Illinois, Atrium Health in the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, and Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, Advocate Health is a national leader in clinical innovation, health outcomes, consumer experience and value-based care, with Wake Forest University School of Medicine serving as the academic core of the enterprise. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Advocate Health serves nearly 6 million patients and is engaged in hundreds of clinical trials and research studies. It is nationally recognized for its expertise in cardiology, neurosciences, oncology, pediatrics and rehabilitation, as well as organ transplants, burn treatments and specialized musculoskeletal programs. Advocate Health employs nearly 155,000 team members across 68 hospitals and over 1,000 care locations and offers one of the nation’s largest graduate medical education programs with over 2,000 residents and fellows across more than 200 programs. Committed to equitable care for all, Advocate Health provides nearly $6 billion in annual community benefits.