Roasted turkey with gravy. Mashed potatoes. Cranberry sauce. Sweet potatoes with the little marshmallows on top. Stuffing and rolls with butter. All of that before dessert even hits the table, and let’s face it, not many people turn down pumpkin or pecan pie. Did you know that the average person consumes up to 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day? Yikes!
Thankfully, there are several very simple things you can do to help minimize the calorie damage on the big day. There are also lots of ways to satisfy your cravings for Thanksgiving flavors, without sabotaging all of the weight loss progress you’ve already made.
The good news is that there are several thanksgiving favorites that are already on the healthy side. Here are a few of the Thanksgiving you won’t need to feel guilty about the next day:
If you’re a fan of the not quite as healthy thanksgiving dishes, don’t stress. There are many substitutions that can make your favorite holiday dish a little bit healthier.
Ultimately, the goal is to enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday and be able to eat your meal with moderation. Love your great-grandmothers green bean casserole and only eat it at this one holiday? Go ahead and enjoy a small serving and then make sure to focus on healthy alternatives throughout the rest of the meal.
Love dessert? Have one small piece after dinner, with the understanding that you’ll skip the mashed potatoes, stuffing and bread during the meal. Enjoying thanksgiving in moderation is completely possible. Here are a few tips:
1. Make a plan. Are you cooking? Plan your meal to be full of vegetable side dishes and salads so that you know the fat and calorie content of your food. Sitting down at someone else’s table? Bring a healthy side or a salad so that you know there’s something there that you can eat. It’s also helpful to think about what’s most important to you and then plan the rest of what you eat around that.
2. Eat first. This may sound counterintuitive – why should you eat more? But, if you eat a big salad or bowl of vegetable soup before the big meal, you’ll have less room to eat the unhealthy carbs and sides that tend to populate the Thanksgiving table. Plus, you’ll have gotten in an extra serving or two of low calorie and yummy vegetables.
3. Skip the yoga pants. Though we all love a good pair of comfy pants, they are not your best friend in this situation. Wearing tighter or more fitted pants will cause you to register that full feeling and help you stop eating much quicker then in a stretchy pair of yoga pants.
4. Drink water. It’s easy to overindulge in alcohol or other sugary cocktails. In addition to packing on the calories, drinking alcohol lowers your inhibitions and makes it easier to make poor food choices. Infuse a glass of water or seltzer with cranberries, citrus, or your other favorite seasonal flavors instead.
5. Practice portion control. It’s okay to want to eat your favorite foods. But grab a measuring cup from the kitchen so you can measure out exactly what your portion will be. Just winging it can cause you to eat more than a serving of a given food, and way more than you intended to eat.
6. Keep active with family and friends! Play outdoors, initiate video games that make you move around and involve everyone. Avoid that stuck on the couch feeling, fighting a food coma. You don’t want an over-eaten feeling of regret.
7. Eat slowly. Instead of scarfing down your dinner, take time to savor your food. Have a conversation with the person sitting next to you and really enjoy the meal, company and ambiance. This will help you recognize when you are feeling full so you can stop eating before you overindulge.
8. Pop a mint. When the meal is over, pop a sugar-free breath mint or chew a piece of gum. The minty flavor signals that the meal is over, and also changes the flavor of food, making you less likely to continue to pick at the food on the table.
9. Help clean up. Instead of sitting around after the meal, get up and start clearing the table. Keeping busy by cleaning up not only keeps you from eating more, but also burns calories. A double benefit!
If you’re like the increasing number of people who plan to let a restaurant do the cooking this year, you can still have a healthy Thanksgiving, though it might take a little more planning. If you have a choice of sides, choose all of the veggies that you can, and aim for baked sweet potatoes. You can always add in a salad (look for a salad in a bag for an easy side dish) or bake a sweet potato for some additional healthy options.
Finally, it’s important to remember that this is only one meal. If you overindulge or eat a little more than you intend, give yourself permission to enjoy it and recommit the next day. Don’t let one day sabotage your entire weight loss journey, and don’t beat yourself up over the slip.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!