Tips to make your Thanksgiving meal healthier

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Among tips for a healthier Thanksgiving: Don't fry your turkey and stay away from eating the skin. (KABC)

Holiday shoppers preparing to buy all the fatty fixings for their Thanksgiving feasts got some coaching in the grocery aisles recently thanks to a local health-care provider.

"Shop with Your Doc" is an annual Providence Health & Services event designed to head off holiday health hazards.

The program was prompted after someone asked: Would you make healthier choices if you went grocery shopping with a doctor?

"They eat too much salt," said Dr. James Michail, a family medicine and geriatric physician from Providence Health. "They drink a little too much alcohol and then come to the hospital and they have too much fluid in their body."

Michail says if you ask yourself how much damage one meal can do, you might be surprised. Even though Thanksgiving only comes once a year, Michail says going way overboard on salty or fatty food can have a big impact.

Studies show a single high-fat, high-sodium meal can lead to a dangerous cardiac event.

"You can have increased blood pressure and the complications of that," Michail said. "Maybe if you have congestive heart failure, you can have an exacerbation or worsening of that."

He said a lot of people end up in hospitals during the holidays because people neglect their medical problems to be with their families and eat what they're eating.

So what's on some of these shoppers' menus?

"We have a variety of turkeys because my husband likes deep-fried turkey fried in coconut oil," Tasha DeVeaux said. "I'm not a big meat eater, but we have ham, as well, and of course all of your sides."

Michail says to avoid frying your turkey.

"Lay away from the skin and the dark meat," he said. "Stick with the whiter meats."

He also says to eat more vegetables, especially before the main course. Opt for fresh vegetables in your green bean casserole or fresh yams instead of canned ones, which contain 14 grams of sugar per serving. Use more broth instead of butter. When it comes to pies, eat the fruit filling and skip the crust.

You can also control how much salt goes in your gravy if you make it yourself, but be careful if you're going to use premade gravy.

"Read the labels and look at the portion size of salt and sugar and fat," Michail said.

DeVeaux might be having fried turkey but she's filling her table with plenty of fresh vegetables to create a healthy balance.

"I'm not opposed to swapping out butter for healthier alternatives because it works for my family," DeVeaux said.

And when you're done at the table, Michail suggests you and your family create another turkey tradition: take a walk.

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