Thanksgiving is right around the corner! For many people, this is traditionally a family event, where more savory, less healthy foods are served. Turkey is usually the featured item in most Thanksgiving feasts (hence the term “Turkey Day” and why many of us look to run a “Turkey Trot” the morning of). Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, rolls, and various pies are commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner. There is also the pre-meal watching of football with Hor d’oeurves, followed by the post-meal football watching, where people typically complain about being overstuffed and drift off into a tryptophan coma.
Don’t stuff yourself like a turkey this year! Opt for everything in moderation with these tips:
- Water is your best friend! Water helps control your appetite by making you feel fuller faster. Drink plenty of it to stay fuller and keep your cravings under control.
- Eat Slowly! It only takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full. Make sure you savor your food, and slow down. This teamed up with drinking lots of water will keep you from going overboard and over stuffing yourself. It will also give your mind a chance to catch up with your body and realize that you are full. Eating is not a race. The slower you eat the more you will enjoy your meal, because you will take the time to enjoy bite and the flavors it offers.
- Eat Before the Feast! Don’t go to dinner starving. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast (high in protein and fiber) and a low calorie snack before heading out to your Thanksgiving destination or your guests arrive. Eating a healthy breakfast and snack will help to ensure you won’t be starving when it’s time for your holiday gathering.
- Opt for the Special Stuff! Don’t waste your calories on large portions of food you can eat every day. Focus on smaller portions of the favorites your family makes only once or twice a year. Keep in mind that some holiday foods are better choices than others, but don’t deprive yourself of higher calorie favorites that are special to your family. Just remember it’s all about moderation! Sometimes, just a small taste is enough to satisfy the craving.
- Say No to Seconds! If you eat slowly and drink plenty of water with your meal, you shouldn’t feel the need to go for seconds. If you’re visiting and your host keeps pushing you to have seconds, politely say, “No.” and compliment the meal they served.
- Avoid Finger Foods! Hor d’oeurves can be very high in calories and fat. If you forgot to have a snack before arriving at your destination, opt for crudité. This is also a great option for you bring with you. Your host/hostess will appreciate the offer when they invite you and you’ll ensure that there is a healthy snack for you to enjoy while watching football and waiting for the main course to be served.
- Stop When You’re Full! It sounds obvious, but stopping when you’re full is probably one of the hardest things to do at the Thanksgiving table. It’s difficult to do when so many “special” foods are present and everyone else is helping themselves to seconds. It will be easier to stop if you slow down and enjoy each bite, drink lots of water and avoid wearing pants with an elastic waist!
- Limit Alcohol! Alcohol impairs your thought process and makes it that much easier to justify a third helping mashed potatoes or another slice of pie with ice-cream. Let’s not forget that it can also be high in empty calories and removes your brain to mouth filter (which might not be the best thing when surrounded by family!) Have a glass of wine, a wine spritzer or enjoy a light beer or two. Between alcoholic drinks, enjoy some sparkling water so you stay hydrated, limit alcohol calories, and stay sober.
- Make Healthy Choices! Thankfully, many Thanksgiving staples fit into a healthy meal plan. Turkey is a great source of protein, and sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A. Just take a minute and think before you eat. If you’re preparing the meal, cut back on salt and butter in the side dishes. Try to use whole-grain breads whenever possible and remember that herbs and spices add a lot of flavor without added fat and sodium.
As you head out to your Thanksgiving feast or open your door to host family, remember it’s okay to say “No”, just be polite when doing so. Some people show their love through food and will insist on you having seconds. Others may feel threatened by your healthy lifestyle and pile food onto your plate because it makes them feel better about themselves. Politely saying “no” in these situations shouldn’t produce hard feelings. If you’ll be visiting family, offer to bring a healthy side or the crudité to ensure you’ll stay on track. Some of the other guests might also appreciate this!
Above all, creating a calorie deficit by exercising to burn off extra calories before you head out and face your favorite foods is key. Sign up for a Turkey Trot the morning of Thanksgiving, go for a brisk walk, head to the gym or do your favorite workout DVD. Treat that morning like you would any other and stick to your workout routine. After dinner, invite family to take a walk around the neighborhood, instead of heading to the couch or recliner and drifting off to sleep. It is a wonderful way for families to get some physical activity and quality time together. Have a lot of kids at your gathering? Bring a football, head out into the yard and throw the ball around, instead of just watching it on TV. Be creative and innovative! Have fun, stay active and look for the healthier options at your Thanksgiving meal. Your waistline will definitely thank you!
Don’t forget the #EarnThatTurkey Challenge that is going on now! Join us and stay active in the days leading up to Thanksgiving!