10 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It is all about family, friends and of course food. What can be better than that? A challenge many clients face this time of the year is how they are going to stick to the healthy habits that they worked so hard on. If we go into Thanksgiving with the right mindset of being ‘satisfied’ rather than ‘stuffed’ we won’t feel so uncomfortable. It’s possible to satisfy your desire for traditional favorites and still enjoy a guilt-free Thanksgiving. In this post, we have outlined 10 tips to help you with sticking to your healthy habits for a healthy Thanksgiving.
1. Be Realistic
Thanksgiving only comes around once a year. Make sure you are not stressed or anxious about what you will eat or how much you will consume. Set your mind up for success and keep in mind that one day of eating will not highly influence how you look or feel in the long term. Being aware of our habits and intake is helpful but not when it can take away from enjoying the day with family and friends.
2. Don’t Show Up with an Empty Stomach
Eat before you eat. This is so important not just on Thanksgiving but every day. It is so common that as soon as we wake up, we know we’re going to have a big meal, so we don’t eat anything, but by the time it’s time to eat, we’re absolutely starving. This just does not work. Research shows skipping meals leads to ultimately overeating calories and undereating fiber. Make sure to eat a high-fiber breakfast with berries and protein. Maybe half of a protein bar or a handful of almonds. This will not only make sure that you got some fiber in for the day but it will also fill you up enough to not overeat when it is time for dinner.
3. Be Mindful of Liquid Calories
What we drink throughout the day is just as important as what we eat. Give yourself the okay to indulge in a drink or two but keep in mind that each drink contributes to 150-250 extra calories. Whether it is soda, alcohol, juice, cider, etc., they are loaded with sugar and have no nutritional value. Not to mention liquids have a fast transit time so they will not contribute to your fullness causing you to overindulge. This can be a game changer when it comes to saving yourself calories.
4. Make and Bring a Dish for a Healthy Thanksgiving
This is one of my favorite recommendations. Bringing a dish is not only a great opportunity for you to try a new fall recipe but it is even better when you get to share it with others. I always recommend to clients to find a non-starchy vegetable or dessert recipe that contains ingredients that may not be so healthy but make the dish taste amazing. We want to stay away from butter, heavy cream, breading and frying.
5. Start The Meal with Turkey
I like to recommend starting with turkey because roasted turkey is a great high protein, low carb meal component. A 3 oz turkey leg with skin has 177 calories, 8.4g fat, 0g carbs, 0g fiber and 23.7g protein. Removing the skin of the leg saves you 30 calories and 3g of fat. Studies have shown that protein increases satiety hormones (reduces appetite) and decreases hunger hormone (ghrelin) leading to feeling satisfied faster and reducing calorie intake.
Oftentimes people use Thanksgiving as a ‘pass’ day for exercise but imagine how good you could feel if you woke up early and burned some fuel before the refuel? Whether it’s just going for a walk, signing up for a turkey trot, taking an exercise class, doing a home workout class or going for a run, they are all great ways to get yourself active. You can even include the whole family in the fun.
Besides for a morning workout, I always like to incorporate a walk around the block after dinner. There is always at least one family member that is willing to join. It is a great way to help yourself digest while also burning off some of the delicious food you just ate as opposed to just sitting around.
7. Stay Hydrated
It’s important to stay hydrated while indulging in our favorite Thanksgiving foods. Besides making sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day, I always recommend clients take a few sips of water before eating and a few sips once they’ve finished. This will ensure that you are not confusing hunger cues with thirst cues. It will help you maintain your portions and increase satiety.
8. Take a Look at Your Options Before Making Your Plate
Before making your Thanksgiving plate, take a look at all the options available. Think about the foods you really want and the foods that you can live without. This will help with making sure you are not overfilling your plate with calories you don’t actually want but mindlessly put on your plate. Don’t forget to allow yourself to have those foods you’ve been looking forward to while making sure you are balancing out your plate with turkey and non-starchy veggies.
9. Savor Your Food and Eat Slowly
Eating slowly, putting your fork down between bites, and tasting each mouthful is one of the easiest ways to enjoy your meal and feel satisfied with one plate of food. When you are done with your plate, take a pause and allow your brain to catch up with your stomach. If after a few minutes and a couple of sips of water, you are still hungry, see what else you can have that will truly satisfy you without overdoing it. Choosing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, salads, and other foods with lots of water and fiber adds to the feeling of fullness.
10. Enjoy Time with Family and Friends
Thanksgiving only comes around once a year and it is more important than ever to really savor our time with loved ones. Instead of food being the focal point of the day, it is so important to focus on staying present with family, sharing moments of laughter and cherishing these soon-to-be memories. It is a time to be grateful for those in our lives and give back to those in need.
If you are looking for healthy recipe inspiration I’ve found a great resource that has over 60 healthy Thanksgiving recipes to balance out the feast. I hope that these techniques can cause you some relief this season and that your Thanksgiving is happy and most certainly HEALTHY.