Wow, here it is again! Thanksgiving is upon us here in the U.S. and many of us are shopping, cooking or preparing for a day of feasting. If you happen to be dieting right now – and you enjoy Thanksgiving – you may want to simply plan to take a day off of your diet. Or this idea may be a given for you. But if you do plan to indulge, there are a few tips that can help you enjoy the day while ensuring you don’t go overboard and feel stuffed like the turkey! Some of these are no-brainers, but just glance over them and your awareness level will help you remain closer to your goals.
Top 10 Thanksgiving Meal Tips:
- Appetizers and Snacks: If you’re hungry and waiting for the meal, have a small plate of pickles, carrots, and the like. Go easy on the salty goodies and fatty nuts, but whatever you take try and keep it to one appetizer plate and avoid picking as you go.
- Drink Water first! Before you eat or drink anything, have a full 8 oz. glass of water, which will help keep your appetite under control.
- Veggies: Most every T-Day table has a variety of veggies and salad on it. Heap on as many veggies as you can eat on your first plateful of food, going light on any dressing. If you can put 35-50% of your plate full of veggies it will help control your appetite automatically against those more fat-laden foods.
- Indulge in that yummy turkey or other lean protein! Try and stick to 80% white meat if possible, which is better for you. If you’re vegetarian, there are plenty of healthy meat substitutes like Tofurkey, Veggie Sausages, etc. Also, if you have a few tablespoons of stuffing and gravy, that’s okay – just don’t pile your plate full of it.
- Starches: Hot, homemade bread on the table? Piles of whipped potatoes? If you followed steps 1 & 3, your plate should be 3/4 full of veggies and protein, so just fill as many potatoes and bread on your plate that will fit on it. (This assumes you don’t have a massive sized plate.) Don’t take a side plate and pile rolls on top of it during this round of eating.
- Eat slowly and enjoy your food: Use this time to give thanks, visit with loved ones and enjoy the dining experience that Thanksgiving can offer. Eating slowly will help your body digest your food more fully and therefore metabolize it better.
- Seconds? Give yourself at least 10-15 minutes after eating your first plate to allow your body’s satiety signals to kick in and tell you if you’re full. Then if you’re still hungry, try and only refill your plate about 30%, rather than refilling it to the top. This way, you’ll be sure and have room for dessert.
- Desserts everyone! What’s T-Day without some pumpkin pie, apple pie and ice cream or bread pudding? Go ahead, allow yourself to enjoy a moderate sized serving today. Be sure to savor it without any guilt! It’s best to stop with one serving, which is part of adopting a long-term weight maintenance strategy anyway.
- A word about alcohol: Try and abstain if you can, since alcohol messes with our metabolism. If you must, drink no more than 1 or 2 glasses of red wine, a light beer, or cocktail like a gin and club soda. Abstaining or drinking less will also help you to eat less.
- Take a walk: At halftime or between dinner and dessert, take a brisk half hour walk with loved ones. The fresh air will do you good, it will give you a break from looking at food, and you’ll enjoy a boost in your metabolism.
Any one of these top tips will help you feel more balanced while enjoying a day of indulgence. A few other notes: It’s a good idea to start out the day with a lighter breakfast if possible, and end the day with a small plate of leftovers or a salad. If you must have more sweets, try a piece or two of dark chocolate with mint tea or a sliver of pie.
The days following Thanksgiving can be challenging, too. Lots of leftovers? Pack some of the more fattening ones up and bring them to others who may not have had a home cooked meal. Also, have a healthy breakfast the next day – no skipping meals. Finally, it doesn’t hurt to plan a few long walks, hikes, or extra 20 minutes of cardio at the gym within a few days after the holiday.
Whatever you do, don’t punish yourself if you don’t do so well. Just start onto your diet plan again quickly, and let it go.
There’s an old saying out there in the health field: “We won’t ever be perfect, what matters is that we’re on our plan more of the time than we aren’t!” I think of it as the 80/20 rule. If you eat well 80% of the time you’ll be much better shape than if you simply give in because you aren’t perfect.