Enjoy Thanksgiving Without Wrecking Your Diet!

By Ms Jones from California, USA (Our (Almost Traditional) Thanksgiving Dinner)[see page for license], via Wikimedia CommonsWith the Thanksgiving season upon us (and retailers already pumping out Christmas advertisements with reckless glee), it is the time of year where even the most disciplined among us throw caution to the wind and start downing large plates of holiday food.  For most of us, this begins with Thanksgiving, continues through company Christmas parties, culminates in piles of Christmas food, and finishes off with drinks and chips at a New Year’s celebration.  Yum…

But does the holiday season necessarily mean that our healthy lifestyle is in shambles for a month and a half?  No, not entirely.  There are a number of things that we can do to help us enjoy the holidays without overdoing it.  Or maybe… overdo it, but in the most healthy fashion possible.

Without further ado, here is our list of ideas – Thanksgiving diet tips – pick and choose the ones you think may work for you!

1.  Work on your mental game!  Close your eyes and you can probably visualize what your Thanksgiving meal will look like.  If your family is anything like mine, everyone has the routine foods they bring every year – the foods we have come to crave.  Mom will have the turkey ready, your sister will bring her famous mashed potatoes, dad will have his pecan pie, and the list goes on.  You are craving it in advance – but that also gives you the chance to mentally prepare for the meal.  Envision the meal, envision your plate of food – you know what will be there and what you are craving.  By mentally preparing, you will know what portions you need in advance to satisfy your cravings with one trip, rather than relying on a 2nd and 3rd to get the job done.  When the time comes, it is merely a matter of filling your plate as you envisioned and proceeding with the plan!

2.  Do a bit of healthy “pre-game tailgating” before heading to the big meal.  What do I mean by this?  Thanksgiving is a meal of excess, so strictly healthy foods are probably scarce at your family get-together.  If you want to stop yourself from filling up on desserts and gravy, eat some healthy food before you go to the big Thanksgiving meal.  Start off with a large mid-morning salad, for example.  Are you making stuffing?  Perfect!  Then you have celery around – grab some dip and snack on that while you are prepping the food.  This will help ensure that you get enough vegetables for the day AND help fill you up faster once the big meal rolls around – a double bonus!

3.  Bring a healthy snack with you when you go.  Our Thanksgiving meals are always prefaced with family time; milling around the house, putting finishing touches on the food, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on tv, etc.  If your family does pre-meal snacking, bring something along to snack on – or choose the relatively healthy snack options available.  Ideas?  Pack along a home-made smoothie in a water bottle.  Sliced cheese (the less processed, the better).  Whole grain crackers.  Unsalted nuts, such as almonds.  Bring a veggie appetizer tray.  These foods can also double as your mid-afternoon snacks while lounging around afterward!

4.  Start your meal by including the healthy (or “healthy”) options.   Similar to suggestion #2, include some of the healthy alternatives on your plate when you begin dishing up your meal.  This may save you from filling up on less healthy alternatives afterward.  Vegetables, vegetable casseroles, salads…. you get the idea.  I’m not saying you need to skip the good stuff, just telling you to include the healthy stuff first rather than later.  It will help, I promise.

5.  Desserts in moderation.  Before you start hurling gravy boats at my head and accuse me of heresy, hear me out:  This is just a follow-up from suggestion #1 above.  It is an extension of your mental game plan.  You likely know what desserts to expect in advance (or will get a glimpse of them before the meal begins).  Simply proceed to the dessert portion of your plan.  If that is a piece of pie, then go fetch one.  If somebody throws a wrench in things and brings an unexpected dessert that you need to try, back the pie off to a half-piece and grab a smallish portion of the new arrival.  Planning ahead makes it easier to achieve “moderation” – easier than deciding while standing in front of a loaded dessert table, at least.

6.  Don’t abandon your exercise routine!  When visiting family, or when family is in town to visit, it is easy for us to skip our usual exercise routine.  Instead of skipping your routine because of family, switch things up to involve family.  Depending on your usual activity level (and if the weather permits), take somebody with you on a jog or a walk, play tag or football with the kids outside, or (in the case of bad weather) check for daily-use rates at the local gym.  Remember that getting exercise will not only help you better digest your meals and burn the excess calories you consume – it will also help reduce the stress often associated with large holiday events!  The key, again, is to plan ahead and know what your options are.  If nothing else, do your best to stay active around the house during the holiday….. and maybe throw in some Black Friday sprints-to-the-toy-aisle for cardio.

Black Friday as Exercise

Image Credit: Mike Derer / AP

These are just a few suggestions to help you survive Thanksgiving (and the holiday season!) with your diet and fitness levels in tact.  I’m sure there are other excellent suggestions out there – share yours in the comments below!

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Image Credit for “Thanksgiving Meal” above:  Ms Jones from California, USA (Our (Almost Traditional) Thanksgiving Dinner), via Wikimedia Commons

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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