The holidays are notorious for two things … the food and the weight gain. It’s no surprise that the two are connected, especially when eating leftovers can become a 2-3 day festival of sorts. Then there is that proven fact that pumpkin pie is best eaten three days after it’s made.
So, yeah, calories tend to find their way around the waistline.
But, who says that you have to go through that each holiday season? Unless you’re going to make a Thanksgiving Dinner using these foods, it can be done. You don’t have to feel like a stuffed turkey around the holidays. Here are a few tips to keep things light and enjoy a guilt-free meal.
Find alternate recipes
You know, you don’t have to use your Grandmother’s recipe for her mashed potatoes, especially if it calls for five sticks of butter and a bucket of salt. Just having potatoes present at the meal is really all you need. Nobody will care if you use half a stick of butter or none (well actually, they might depending on the family).
Finding healthier versions of Thanksgiving classics doesn’t take much effort. Actually, just Google it. But, be weary and cautious, because some people don’t know how to make healthier versions taste good (meaning don’t trust Allrecipes).
But, you can also swap ingredients in and out of original recipes as well. It’s really up to you whether you’re the one making the whole meal or just bringing a side. The best way to control the food is to simply cook it yourself.
Eat breakfast while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade
You’d be surprised how many people DON’T eat breakfast on Thanksgiving. I am guilty of it. Totally guilty of it. But, when you know you’ll be consuming 10,000 calories later in the day you save up your calories by starving yourself (or snack on food until dinner and then eat a big meal).
But, if you are not wanting to overeat, then eat. Eat breakfast. And, you really don’t need to eat anything special, stick to what you regularly eat for breakfast. But, if you do want to avoid overeating later in the day make something with high protein in it. Omelet? Cottage Cheese and fruit?
The protein will help keep your energy level high and suppress the munchies you get from snacking constantly on carbs. Thus, hopefully, keeping you away from snacking on the dinner as it’s being cooked and you won’t overfill your dinner plate.
Drink water throughout the day
This is a guilty sin regardless of what day it is. The more you keep yourself hydrated the less likely you will snack and overeat. Generally, I drink about 32oz. every four hours, but you might be different.
If you’re cooking keep a glass of water nearby to use as a food suppressant. When you feel the need to eat half of the stuffing you’re making, take a swig of water. It also helps to keep you from over gorging at the dinner table.
Trust me. It works.
Opt for water at the Thanksgiving table
If you really want to suppress your appetite at the Thanksgiving table drink about 16-20oz. of water about 15-20 minutes you eat. Then refill that glass or bottle (make sure it’s 20oz.) and bring it with you to dinner with the goal of drinking it throughout the meal. It will help suppress your appetite more than anything.
On the flip side you might have to excuse yourself at least once during dinner to use the restroom. But, is that really a bad side effect? But, I guess that all depends on the nature of your company, right?
Watch your portion sizes
This is kind of a given when dieting or watching your calories. But, seriously, you’d be surprised how off you are even at the Thanksgiving table, especially if you didn’t cook it (think butter). So to avoid overeating familiarize yourself with the portion sizes of each food item.
By doing this you can actually count out the calories of your meal even before you eat. But, the trick is knowing what a serving consists of. Is it a cup? Is it two cups? Is it 3/4 cup? And, so on. You also don’t need to stick to a serving as well, you can cut that in half or even just sample something. I usually do this when there is something at the table that is cheesy, full of fat and a diet buster.
But, a taste won’t kill you.
Plus, usually a taste suffices to enjoy how something tastes, especially when you the rest of your plate will fill you up.
Decline seconds (it can be done)
This really is a given.
But, I do have exceptions to this rule. You can only have seconds if it’s fruit or vegetables and they aren’t full of cheese, butter or anything else fattening delicious. I love seconds of green beans, asparagus and carrots. I could munch on those forever.
Just remember that was much as you try to justify potatoes has a vegetable worth eating seconds of, it’s still full of cream and butter. So, just back away from them.
Enjoy your pie
I am a firm believer that desserts should be enjoyed guilt free. You can always make room for dessert, especially pies on Thanksgiving. Well, specifically pumpkin pie. Don’t even think twice about it. If you’ve eaten reasonably throughout the day and at dinner why shouldn’t you enjoy the pie?
Go for a run!
If you really want to feel like you’ve earned your turkey … or your pie … or your meal, go for a run. For the past five years I have ran a Thanksgiving Day race, not just to earn my meal and elevate some worry from the meal, but because it’s a healthy habit (granted I don’t pig out at dinner, right?)
There are a plenty of Turkey Trots around the country. Whether it’s a 5K or 10K you are bound to find something in your neck of the woods. In fact the past three years I have ran a half marathon the morning of Thanksgiving. That’s some MAJOR calorie burn. You don’t even have to race to get a run in before dinner. Why not go for a run while the turkey is in the oven? You could easily get in a good five mile run or more?
Heck, it doesn’t even need to be a run, do something active that you enjoy? Yoga? Flag football? Strength train? Chase kids?
I hope that you find these tips useful and that you put them into practice come next week. Eating healthy around the holidays is tough. There is so much food, so many parties and so much family. Why can’t it easier, right?
It can be easier though and the first you have to realize is that you have the control to make it easier, not the other way around. The food, the parties and the family will always be there and that won’t change, but your mentality and habits can if you learn what you need to do and apply it.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! And, may the odds be ever in your favor.