Overstuffed is only good when we’re talking about the turkey… not our stomachs. Follow these 10 tips to eating healthier and lighter during this feast-worthy holiday.
Festive gatherings filled with friends, family, and food. That’s what often comes to mind when thinking of Thanksgiving day. But, for some, this day carries a lot of anxiety.
“How will I maintain my healthy lifestyle throughout the holidays?”
“There are never any healthy meals at dinner. I just shouldn’t go this year…”
“What’s the use? My diet is ruined, I might as well just eat whatever I want.”
Pssst… we have a secret for you: THANKSGIVING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! Okay, sorry. That was a bit aggressive. But, it’s true! With the right game plan, you can conquer this holiday guilt-free and without restrictions. Thanksgiving won’t derail your health goals, and we’ll show you how.
Fall Off the Wagon Every Thanksgiving
Millions of Americans will gain a pound over the holidays, despite a well-thought-out diet plan held throughout the year. The reason these diets fail around Thanksgiving is that they address the wrong problem. It’s not your willpower.
It’s the environmental cues we surround ourselves with that trigger our appetite and food habits. Thanksgiving, especially, combines some of the worst environmental cues for overeating. There is plenty of food easily accessible, lots of company to share the moment, and an increasing amount of variety. Your willpower is easily overwhelmed by all of these cues to eat.
How to Combat the Holiday Food Guilt
When it comes to sticking to your nutrition plan and keeping the holidays as healthy as possible, it’s important to alter the environmental cues around you. Now, this doesn’t mean avoiding get-togethers with family and friends or restricting yourself by any means. All we encourage you to do this holiday is to follow these 10 guidelines as best you can:
1. Keep It Squeaky Clean Leading Up Dinner
Thanksgiving week can often be filled with tumultuous treats and recipe sampling leading up to the big day. But, it’s important to keep food quality high during this time. Focus on crushing protein and veggie-heavy meals throughout the week as well as the day of.
While many individuals skip meals on Thanksgiving day in preparation for the feast, sticking to small, satisfying meals will help curb your appetite for dinnertime. Start your day with eggs and toast or a bowl of whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk to avoid overindulging later that day.
2. Offer Up Your Cooking Skills
Walking into someone else’s party without your own food is asking for hidden calories. Instead, offer to meal prep for the occasion, bringing healthy side dishes filled with veggies, fruits, or proteins. These types of foods are always lacking around this holiday, so switch it up and provide a healthy option for you and others! This also gives you the opportunity to make some smart swaps with foods traditionally high in calories.
For example, mashed potatoes! While we love these tasty spuds, the appeal is more about the lush, smooth texture than any standout flavor… as well as a vehicle for gravy. However, you can swap out the mashed taters with pureed cauliflower instead. This cruciferous vegetable has six times the Vitamin C, twice the fiber, and fewer calories than the standard spud.
Not a master chef? We can help! Choose from any of our a la carte options to ensure there’s a healthy, tasty side dish ready for you at dinner.
3. Fill Up on Fiber & Water
Eating a nutritious meal with protein and fiber before you arrive takes the edge off your appetite and allows you to be more discriminating in your food and beverage choices. However, it doesn’t have to stop there. Try to fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies come feast time.
This may include brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, or a green salad. Aim to make your plate as colorful as possible. As well, sipping on water throughout the day will curb cravings and keep you full in-between meals!
4. Limit the Bubbly
These fun gatherings often call for a splash of liquid courage. But this doesn’t have to derail your healthy eating habits. Alcohol can lower blood sugar and those alcohol calories that can add up quickly.
If you do have alcohol this Thanksgiving, have it with food. Also, set a goal to minimize any boozy drinks to about 2-3 servings. In between drinks, sip on some refreshing La Croix, Zevia, Kombucha, or water.
5. Stick to Your Routine
Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean your routine has to change. Crush some breakfast, hit a workout, or take a time-out to recharge from family and friends. If you love journaling in the morning or taking a mid-afternoon walk, DO IT! Consistency is key to keeping your healthy habits alive and well during the holiday.
As well, try to keep your food routine the same, if not similar. Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady. If your meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime and eat a little less when dinner is served.
6. Police Your Portions
Thanksgiving tables are bountiful and beautiful displays of traditional family favorites. But before you let Aunt Irma stack your plate high with “a little bit of everything,” scout the buffet table to decide what you really want to treat yourself to. Then select reasonable-sized portions of foods you cannot live without.
If you are still hungry after your first plate, head back for seconds to sample a bit more. Start conservative and add as your stomach sees fit.
7. Feast on Your Favorites
No food is on the naughty list. Don’t waste your calories on foods that you can have all year long. Choose the dishes you really love and can’t get any other time of year. Fill half your plate with small portions of holiday favorites and the other half with healthy veggie options.
Or if appetizers are your thing, grab a plate and fill up. No sense saving yourself for the main meal if turkey and trimmings leave you cold. Don’t feel obligated to eat specific foods, regardless if they’re deemed “bad” or “good.”
8. Get Physical… Physical
Getting physical and staying active means many things to many people. But when it comes to the holiday season, especially Thanksgiving, fitness doesn’t have to be so strict. Make it a family adventure! Take the kids for a walk early in the day or after dinner. It is a wonderful way to get some physical activity in a fun and social way.
While you may burn off the calories from your future meal, there are other benefits to being active. Exercising before a meal puts you in a positive mindset with an eye toward health, and exercising afterward can help banish that uncomfortably full feeling. Find which option works best for you and your schedule!
9. Savor It Slowly
Ever sit down for a delicious meal only for it to be over in the blink of an eye? You weren’t able to truly appreciate everything that went into the meal. This often leaves you unsatisfied and over-stuffed.
Eating slowly, putting your fork down between bites, and tasting each mouthful is one of the easiest ways to enjoy your meal and feel satisfied. Choosing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, salads, and other foods with lots of water and fiber will also add to the feeling of fullness.
10. Enjoy the Day with Friends and Family
Thanksgiving is not just about the delicious bounty of food. It’s a time to celebrate relationships with family and friends. The main event should be socializing and spending quality time together. Even if you slip up during this time, you can easily get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.
The most important thing about this holiday is being able to enjoy it with loved ones instead of stressing over what the scale might say the next day. Remember Thanksgiving is a holi-DAY, not a holi-WEEK or holi-YEAR. Become aware of your environment and adjust your habits to conquer the day successfully!