The Healthy Thanksgiving Strategy

turkey timeWhen Thanksgiving rolls around, a lot of people get overwhelmed. The biscuits, the cheese, the sweet potato casserole, the stuffing, the pumpkin pie...the list goes on. But go into your meal with a strategy and you won’t come out feeling like a sack of potatoes or that you deprived yourself of enjoying one of the greatest holidays of the year.

The warm up: Get moving. Many towns have taken to a new tradition called “Turkey Trots” – basically just a run or walk on the morning of Thanksgiving. Even if there isn’t a community organized event like this, getting in a workout or physical activity early in the day is a good idea – even if it’s just a jog to the coffee shop for morning coffees. A few laps around the block is also a great way to actually spend time with the relatives and friends with whom you might be sharing the day, and will allow you to focus less on the feast and more on what the day is actually about – being thankful for the great people in your life.

When getting ready for the main meal, it’s so tempting to slip into your best “eatin’ dress”. And of course you should be comfortable, but dress for success. Wear something a little more fabulous than frumpy and you’ll feel good before the feast even begins. Any way you can remind yourself of your hard work will help you avoid going nuts.

First things first: Don’t go to your Thanksgiving meal hungry. Have a well-rounded breakfast and don’t starve yourself so you can gorge at dinner. If you’re starved, you’ll walk in and immediately stuff yourself on all the hors d’oeuvres, completely starting off on the wrong foot. Be mindful during appetizer hour. Take a seat that’s more than an arm’s length distance from any food that’s out and limit your apps to just one mini napkin or plate’s worth. Don’t eat anything without putting it on a plate first and try to stick to the veggies from the crudite or shrimp cocktail.

Now time for the main event: Break your Thanksgiving plate into 3 quadrants: 1 protein, 1 green and 1 carb (that’s the size of your fist). For example, turkey is a protein, roasted brussel sprouts or sauteed green beans would the vegetable, and carrot souffle, sweet potato casserole or stuffing would be the carbohydrate. Life is full of choices, and this meal is just another one. Choose the carrot souffle or the sweet potatoes, or a half portion of each. And remember, while you’re eating, slow it down. Put your fork down between bites, engage in conversation and chew your food mindfully. If you go for seconds, keep it to just the protein and vegetables.

The curtain call: My other big tip to keep Thanksgiving from sabotaging your whole diet is to choose one indulgence. That may be your slice of pie or cheesecake at the end of the night OR it’s that serving of sweet potato and marshmallow casserole during the meal, but not both. If you’re going with dessert, your main plate may be your turkey, a green veggie and a salad. Really want that bread stuffing? Make that your carb quadrant and have fruit salad for dessert. You can enjoy the things you’ve come to love at Thanksgiving without totally derailing your healthy diet. It is Thanksgiving after all -- you deserve to celebrate!


Heather Bauer, RD CDN
Heather Bauer, RD CDN

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