Especially in its early phases, the South Beach Diet can be quite strict in keeping you away from certain foods. Unfortunately “strict diet” and “Thanksgiving” don’t go so well together. But with a sensible approach and the use of some South Beach-friendly recipes, you should still be able to enjoy a hearty holiday meal, while minimizing the extent to which it deviates from the South Beach ideal.
The South Beach Diet was developed by cardiologist Arthur Agatson as a way to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease more effectively than the low fat diets that most cardiologists recommend, and that people have so much trouble sticking to. Enough people reported losing weight on the diet that soon it became popular not just for heart health but as a weight loss diet.
The South Beach Diet is often lumped in with the Atkins Diet and other low carbohydrate approaches, but it’s only a distant relative of these. The general idea behind the diet is that there are “good carbs” and “bad carbs,” and “good fats” and “bad fats.” So rather than simply reducing carbs or fats or both across the board, the dieter is to pick and choose from among the different types of carbs and fats.
Bad carbs are those that the body digests quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar, such as processed sugars and most bread. Whereas carbs with a low glycemic index, like beans, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains, are good carbs.
Trans fats and saturated fats are bad fats. But certain fats, like unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acid, are OK if not actually good for the heart. The fatty portions of red meat and poultry generally have the bad fats, whereas oily fish and certain lean meats have the good fats.
Traditionally popular Thanksgiving foods are a mix of good and bad, but certainly many of them have significant amounts of bad carbs and/or bad fats.
A South Beach dieter need not go to one or the other extremes of strictly avoiding any and every Thanksgiving food that doesn’t pass muster under the South Beach guidelines, versus surrendering to an “anything goes” attitude and going off the diet entirely. A compromise where you bend a little on what you would normally allow yourself to eat is not to be rejected as a defeat.
For example, turkey is a problematic food for the South Beach Diet. But if turkey is a huge part of Thanksgiving for you, as it is for most people, you needn’t deny it to yourself entirely. Have a light to moderate amount of lean turkey meat, and avoid the skin, where so much of the fat is.
Some lean ham is fine too. Certainly there are many good vegetable options you can prepare for Thanksgiving. If you have any kind of rolls or bread, stick to whole grains, and don’t slather it with butter or anything fatty.
When it comes to foods that don’t fit well with the South Beach Diet, such as mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, or buttered corn on the cob, use your best judgment. If you’re OK skipping them entirely, that’s the best. Consider preparing alternatives, like this roasted cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. If there’s one or more of them you can’t live without, take a smaller portion than you normally would and enjoy your dinner without feeling guilty.
Here are some links to additional Thanksgiving recipes that are more South Beach friendly:
Broccoli and radish salad with gorgonzola
Chocolate dipped apricots
Double berry Jell-O salad
Lemon peel ricotta crème
Sausage and pears stuffing
Sugar free pumpkin cheesecake
If you put your mind to it, you can prepare a terrific Thanksgiving meal that doesn’t blow up your South Beach Diet.