Thanksgiving, a classic American holiday, is typically associated with loosening your belt and eating too much of something ending in “casserole.” However, for someone trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, it can be a holiday filled with anxiety and regret. Not only are you dealing with splitting family time with your in-laws or hosting a dinner yourself and having to cook the temperamental turkey, you are also trying not to feel like you will fall away from your health goals because of a decadent Thanksgiving meal. Don’t throw caution to the wind and wait until January to get healthy. Whether you are entering the holiday season with goals to lose weight or just not wanting to feel completely wiped out after a marathon of eating, you can come out of the other side of November and December with some momentum for the new year. Here is how you can thrive leading up to, during, and after your Thanksgiving meal.
- Don’t skip breakfast (or lunch) leading up to mealtime.
Unless you are accustomed to intermittent fasting, skipping breakfast or any meal of the day is going to set you up for overeating. You will not only physically feel starved but mentally feel like you need to make up for the calories you missed out on earlier in the day. A Thanksgiving meal with reasonable portions is around 1,700 calories, and that number can easily double or triple if you’re not using some restraint.
- Eat protein throughout the day and at Thanksgiving dinner.
Protein takes more time and energy from the body to digest in the stomach. It will help you to stay satiated or “feeling full” for longer, according to the Annual Review of Nutrition. Getting some turkey on the plate will help you to feel full faster on Thanksgiving and may keep you from overeating. Protein will help retain your muscle mass when you are dieting down, so the days surrounding the Thanksgiving meal are just as important when getting protein in.
- Prioritize your favorite dish, and say no to the dishes you really don’t care for.
It’s okay to say no to the one lackluster dish that always makes an appearance every year. This is so that you can say yes to a piece of your favorite pie or an extra helping of your favorite side dish. The calories you eat on Thanksgiving should be enjoyed. Every last one!
- Keep grazing to a minimum.
Remember that calories from nibbles and tastes do count! While the charcuterie board may look enticing, those calories are high in fat and will most likely add up quickly. My suggestion is to have one small plate of appetizers and position yourself so you are not standing right next to the finger foods.
- Weigh yourself daily throughout the holiday season.
A 2019 study by The Obesity Society showed that participants who weighed themselves daily for 52 days during the holiday season did not see any significant weight gain. Even though weighing yourself during the holidays seems like the last thing you may want to do, it can really give you the full picture of how your body fluctuates normally. Thanksgiving dinner weight gain alone is probably due to water retention and slow digestion, not from gaining fat! Weighing yourself holds you accountable to stay on track with your nutrition goals in between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Ultimately, this holiday is to be enjoyed through food, so don’t stress too much about one day! As long as you plan ahead and wake up on Black Friday ready to go right back to your healthy routine, then you should be on track to finish out the holiday season with momentum built up for the new year.