Thanksgiving meals are traditionally family events where certain kinds of food are served. You have your turkey, the stuffing, mashed potatoes with or without gravy, then your pecan pie, apple pie or pumpkin pie. It sounds like a glorious feast poised to derail your hard work, but it’s not. There are staples in a Thanksgiving meal that are still healthy. Follow these tips, and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner the right way.
1. Eat Breakfast
Don’t skip breakfast. You shouldn’t go to a Thanksgiving feast starving. This makes you overindulge and you eat more than you normally would. Also, eat a small, low-calorie snack with some protein and fat, like a handful of nuts, a cup of greek yogurt, or a protein shake, before arriving for the meal. This will help you control your cravings when you’re faced with the huge Thanksgiving buffet.
2. Drink Water
Drinking a lot of water can help you feel full and less likely to overeat. It helps control your appetite and makes you feel fuller faster.
3. Eat Slowly
Enjoy your meal. Try tricks like sipping water between bites and putting your fork down. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full, so eat slowly and until you’re about 80% full. Stop after that and give your body a chance to catch up. If you’re still hungry, go for seconds, but make sure they’re smaller portions!
4. Eat the Special Stuff
You know the special stuff. The stuff that you only get once a year. Eat that. Skip foods you can eat anytime. How about the stuffing, green bean casserole, and a piece of pie? If there are more Thanksgiving staples in your family’s feast that you don’t regularly have, choose those. It’s a special time for family and the meal is a huge part of this day.
5. Don’t Go Back for Seconds
Chances are, you loaded up your plate pretty well. If you think you are still hungry, wait 20 minutes. If you’re still hungry, see when they will bring out the pies/dessert. Got to leave a little room for the pie!
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
Thanksgiving is a time for all that delicious foods that the host spent a lot of time making, and people are afraid to offend by saying no. Teach yourself that it’s okay to say no. You are not offending anyone by refusing seconds–or firsts, on a particularly calorie-heavy item. I have to imagine most hosts harbor no ill feelings over something like this.
However, if you are part of a family that does get offended and will cause problems (i.e., “you need to put some meat on those bones” comments – only you can know your family), stick to vegetables or turkey white meat. Skip the gravy and mashed potatoes. Don’t grab another dinner roll. Otherwise, just politely give a firm no.
7. Walk It Off!
If you’re staying where food is being prepared, take a walk in the morning. Grab a few family members or friends on your way out from smells of turkey, gravy and pies. This is a great opportunity to chat about what’s been going on in your life. If you have kids, they can expend their energy before the big feast. Take another walk after the meal to help your digestive system work. Plus it’s more exercise!
8. Avoid the Finger Foods
Finger foods tend to be loaded with sugar and fats. If you must munch on something, stick to raw veggies and avoid the dip, unless you know that it’s low-fat, fat-free, or made with a healthier substitute like yogurt. Otherwise, if you don’t need a fork and knife to eat it, don’t eat it.
9. Enjoy the Thanksgiving Meal
Thanksgiving only happens once a year! Sit back, relax and have fun with your family. Enjoy the dinner, and if you do overindulge, don’t fret. Exercise it off the next day (or week).
With that, I’d like to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for my family, my health (my annual cardiologist appointment went well!), that I have a roof over my head, and all the love in the world.