Big holidays like Thanksgiving scare me. In the past, I took the ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to Thanksgiving and throw away the whole week as far as healthy eating goes. I figured, why waste a perfect opportunity to eat loads of leftover pie when I ruined my diet in a single day? I realize that this kind of thought pattern isn’t rational, since eating healthy every other day of the week could minimize the damage of weight gain, but awareness of this fact does not keep me from using bad eating on a big holiday as a perfect excuse to pig out.
So let’s talk about ways to enjoy the holiday and feel satisfied, without breaking the calorie bank.
Know what to expect. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that tends to be traditional. Therefore, the same foods pop up on the table every year. Out of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is the best dinner to execute pre-planning. I know that stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and turkey are going to be served, so before I even arrive that day, I know what foods I will be putting on my plate.
Prioritize. Because I know what to expect at dinner, I know that the foods I look forward to will be there, and so will the foods that are available at the grocery store every week. I’m not crazy about sweet potatoes so I can pass those up, but I need that real, ooey-gooey turkey stuffing. I also know that my family will have a lovely spread of heavy cheeses, dips and chips before dinner, which I will be choosing to skip.
Portion Control. Doesn’t really need any explanation. Don’t overeat. Who wants to feel sick to their stomach on a holiday? Stuff the turkey, not yourself.
Load up on veggies. The good thing about Thanksgiving dinner is that vegetables like steamed carrots, corn, and broccoli are always available. If I can get 50% of my plate to be veggies, I’ll consider the meal a major win.
Bring something. My mom is making Thanksgiving dinner this year, but my Nana used to be the one to do all the cooking. Bringing a healthy dish to share is the best way to make sure there will be a healthy option to indulge in. I will be asking for veggies and a low fat dip as an appetizer, and possibly a healthy dessert.
Exercise ahead of time. When I put the effort into burning lots of calories, I’m somehow less likely to overeat like a pig that day. Even if I do overeat on Thanksgiving, the calorie surplus would not be as detrimental as if I had done zero exercise that day.
Watch those liquid calories. This is a biggie if your family is into beer drinking on turkey day. I tend to overdo it on regular sodas or mixed drinks on holidays, but this year I am drinking water and tea. Look up the calorie values for your holiday drink of choice, and budget how many you are going to have.
Aim high when estimating calorie values. If you’ve been calorie counting like me, estimating high for your calorie values is a good idea, especially if you didn’t see how the food was prepared. I’m going to need to account for invisible butter on my vegetables and estimate how much dressing is pre-tossed with my salad.
Enjoy the meal. When I think back to previous Thanksgiving dinners, I remember loading my plate with food to the point that there was no more room for anything else… and then going back for seconds. I’m pretty sure the reason I went back for another serving is because I ate everything so quick that I didn’t even enjoy it. This year, I’m slowing down, enjoying conversation, and concentrating less on the food.
Give away those leftovers. This is an important step for making sure that the entire week isn’t ruined after one day of heavy eating. If you can’t get rid of them, put them in a disposable tupperware and donate them to a local homeless person or lonely college student. I know that my mom will be keeping a lot of those leftovers, but I will focus on using the healthy veggies and lean turkey as components for new, healthy meals throughout the week.
Last but not least, have a Happy Thanksgiving!!