Thanksgiving only comes around once a year, so many Americans tend to spend the holiday splurging and bingeing on the national holiday. Year after year, many pack on at least a pound during the holidays – and keep the extra weight permanently. However, Thanksgiving does not have to ruin your health goals. With a little mindfulness in your habits, you can satisfy your desire for traditional favorites and still enjoy a guilt-free and healthier holiday feast.
Here are 9 key tips to not feeling like a stuffed turkey this Thanksgiving.
1. Create a Calorie Deficit
Eating less and exercising more is the winning formula to prevent weight gain during the holidays. This way, you can create a calorie deficit and burn off extra calories before you even indulge in your favorite holiday treats. Exercise by increasing your steps or lengthening your fitness routine during the weeks ahead of the holidays.
Get your family in on the fun and make fitness a family adventure. Take a walk early in the day and then again after dinner. It is a wonderful way for families to get physical activity and enjoy a healthier Thanksgiving together.
2. Get Breakfast
While you might think that it makes sense to save the calories for a big meal, experts say that eating a small meal in the morning can give you more control over your appetite. On the day of Thanksgiving, start your day with a small but satisfying breakfast, so you won’t be starving when you arrive for your gathering. Eating a nutritious, protein- and fiber-filled meal before you arrive for Thanksgiving dinner takes the edge off your appetite, and helps you be more discerning about your choices during your next big meal.
3. Make it Lighter
Make your recipes healthier by cutting the fat, sugar, and calories in your healthier Thanksgiving dishes. Swap out high-fat and high-sugar ingredients to lower the calories of the meal.
Try fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make gravy. Use sugar substitutes in place of sugar and/or fruit purees instead of oil in baked goods. You can also try plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes, and casseroles.
4. Watch Your Portions
Thanksgiving tables are bountiful and beautiful displays of traditional family favorites. Before you fill your plate, survey the buffet table and decide what you’re going to choose. Then, select reasonable-sized portions of foods you cannot live without.
Don’t waste your calories on foods that you can have all year long. Fill your plate with small portions of holiday favorites that only come around once a year so you can enjoy desirable, traditional food.
5. Skip Your Seconds
Leftovers are much better the next day, so if you can, try to resist the temptation of getting second helpings. If you limit yourself to just one plate, you are less likely to overeat and have more room for dessert.
While we have our own favorites, there are better, healthier Thanksgiving food choices. White turkey meat, plain vegetables, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, thin gravy, and pumpkin pie tend to be the best bets because they are lower in fat and calories. However, if you keep your portions small, you can enjoy whatever you like.
6. Savor Slowly
Enjoy your meal better by eating slowly and putting your fork down between each bite. Taste each mouthful mindfully, and you’ll feel more satisfied with your one plateful of food. Choosing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, salads, and other foods with lots of water and fiber add to the feeling of fullness.
7. Easy on the Alcohol
Don’t forget those alcohol calories that can add up quickly. Have a glass of wine or a wine spritzer and between alcoholic drinks, enjoy sparkling water. This way, you stay hydrated, limit alcohol calories, and stay sober.
8. Be More Realistic
The holiday season is a time for celebration. With busy schedules and so many extra temptations, this is a good time to strive for weight maintenance instead of weight loss.
This way, at the start of the new year you will be ahead of the game if you can avoid gaining any weight over the holidays.
9. Focus on Family and Friends
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 family and friends socializing, spending quality time together, not just what is on the dining table.