We all love Thanksgiving and why shouldn’t we? It’s a day of family gatherings, endless tables of food, Nonna telling you to “Eat- eat, I didn’t cook all this to go to waste!” and the acoustic sounds of the Thanksgiving Day Parade in the background on the T.V. So why would I deny you the pleasures that come with Thanksgiving- I wouldn’t dare! But I would and will suggest some tips for surviving Thanksgiving if you’re trying to watch what you eat. Surviving Thanksgiving is all about your approach. So don’t wave the white flag of defeat in the face of the first round of cornbread stuffing. Just be proactive…and by that I don’t mean wearing a pair of elastic pants to dinner- ahhhmmm Joey Tribiani. Take that healthful frame of mind you’ve been exercising lately to dinner with you alongside your apple crisp.
Make Breakfast Healthy and Nutritious
Begin Turkey day with a healthful, nutritious breakfast that is low in calories and fats, but high in soluble fiber to ward off early-afternoon snack attacks. Soluble fiber in oatmeal will keep you fueled and energetic until lunchtime. So try a ½ cup of quick oats with some fresh berries and plain, non-fat Greek yogurt.
Fill Up at Lunch with Complex Carbohydrates
Skip the starchy lunch options—such as the pasta, sandwich buns, and fries. Instead, opt for filling complex carbohydrates, like lentil salad, black bean soup, or chicken breast and steamed veggies over brown rice or quinoa to keep you fueled and satiated all afternoon. Provided you are not eating turkey with the family in the afternoon. It’s all about planning. If your turkey dinner is more of an afternoon affair then a simple bowl of quinoa with dried cranberries will keep you from gorging; if however you eat much later in the day then the suggestions above will do the trick.
Eat More Greens
Incorporating more green veggies into your daily diet will help you fill up on healthier foods, hopefully, decreasing your intake of calorie-laden, fatty foods. So jam pitas with baby spinach, arugula, and kale and on Thanksgiving pair that Turkey, an excellent source of low fat protein (if you stick to white meat) with steamed spinach, green beans, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts.
Opt for Lean Proteins at Turkey Dinner
You can choose the cornbread stuffing with sausage, buttery mashed potatoes, and gravy at dinner—or you can opt for a few slices of lean white meat, baked salmon, quinoa (which is the highest protein grain), along with healthier sides, like veggie-based salads and cranberry sauce for a lighter meal.
Use Smaller Plates
I always opt for an appetizer sized plate when I’m faced with a smorgasbord of a feast. That way, I cut down my portion sizes considerably. The only other option is to load a mountain on my plate and risk embarrassing myself—gasp!
Don’t Skip Meals to Save Calories
There are people out there that have the idea if they skip breakfast or lunch; they can just move those calories over and consume them all at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s called the pre-game Thanksgiving Day plan. Those who are reading this and denying that you do this- just admit it, we’ve all been there. The only thing you’ll do by saving up the entire day’s allotment of calories for an evening gorge-fest; is overeat at the party because you’re starving. You’re still going to eat all that delicious food but don’t deny yourself breakfast and lunch just to eat Thanksgiving dinner. Another little secret- healthy snacking and eating your three square meals a day (or in this case two) actually speed up the metabolism, thereby helping you burn more calories.
When it comes to snacking, particularly the days ahead of Thanksgiving, I try to have a plethora of healthy, high-protein, high fiber, low-sugar snacks on hand to avoid a rush to the nearest donut hole on the way home from work. Smart snacking requires you to be proactive. Have a selection of healthy snacks tucked into your desk drawer—i.e., low fat granola bars, rice crisps, melba toast and pack almond butter, a hardboiled egg, or fresh fruit to tackle those sugar cravings.
Bring a Healthy Dish of Your Own
This is probably the best tip I can give you. The only way to be sure there will be healthy selection of side dishes for you to sample at the game day feast is to bring a few of your own. I always know there will be turkey, so I’m set on the white meat front. However, it’s always good to ask your host/hostess what sides they are planning and if you could bring a side or two. I bring a healthy green salad and a steamed veggie side (i.e. kale- my favorite), so I know that at least I will eat them. If you have a favorite healthy side dish, don’t be afraid to bring it, just bring enough so that others can enjoy some healthy eating too!
Be mindful of what you consume at dinner. It’s easy to get lost in mindless eating when you’re faced with a table of creamy, cheesy hors d’oeuvres while you’re catching up with family or friends. Instead, make a small plate of health nibbles and move your conversations into another room away from the appetizer table.
There it is in a nut shell. I hope these tips help you survive your Thanksgiving Feast. Have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!