This week in St. Louis, we had our first snow of the season. And it wasn’t just any snow—it was a big, early snow! It’s rare these days for us to get much powder at all, let alone seven fluffy inches in mid-November.
As I spent my day sledding and drinking hot cocoa with the kids (yay, snow day!), it occurred to me how quickly the holidays are approaching! I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love the Winter holidays and especially Thanksgiving. It’s always so fun to catch up with friends and family, and to enjoy a decadent meal.
While I don’t over-restrict my eating on Thanksgiving, I do take a few steps to prevent completely gorging myself. This is not so much about the calories—I simply don’t like feeling uncomfortable and exhausted at the end of my meal. It’s all fun and games until your button from your pants shoots across the room.
Here are 8 tips for a healthier Thanksgiving Day.
Mathematically, it may seem like a good strategy to “save room” (or calories) for Thanksgiving dinner. But skipping breakfast or lunch often backfires, especially if you’re not accustomed to passing up meals. Sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner when feeling ravenous sets you up for serious overindulgence.
Listen to your body on Thanksgiving morning and afternoon. It’s fine to pass up a meal or eat a lighter one if you’re not hungry, but for Heaven’s sakes eat something if are! Just do your best to keep your meals and snacks light on Thanksgiving Day, sticking to lean proteins (like chicken breast, fish, turkey, and low-fat yogurt) and fibrous vegetables.
2. Hit the gym
I start every Thanksgiving with a good workout. I don’t do this to offset calories, because I don’t feel that exercise should be punishment for food indulgence. I work out on holidays for my brain.
I love spending Thanksgiving with family and friends, but it can be a hectic and noisy holiday. A good workout puts me in a relaxed mindset so that I can fully appreciate the day and eat more mindfully at dinner.
3. Find the veggie tray
Thanksgiving dinner tends to be heavy on carbs and fats and light on veggies (at least, ones that aren’t bathing in cream of mushroom soup). Stick to the crudite during the appetizer course. A serving or two of veggies before dinner is one small action you can take to make the day healthier. It also fills the belly a little so you don’t go haywire on the delicious, starchy carbs.
4. Pass on foods you don’t love
Do you pile every food from the turkey day buffet on your plate? If so, do you love every single one of those dishes?
Chances are, there’s something on that buffet you are kind of “meh” on (for me, it’s sweet potato casserole). Feel free to pass on that item. No need to waste belly real estate on something you could take or leave.
5. Know when to fold ‘em
If your family is like mine, there will be an ungodly amount of leftovers for sharing. You’ll see these foods again, whether in the days after the holiday or next year.
That said, try to stop eating when you’re satisfied—not full. Eating mindfully is a great strategy to prevent overeating on holidays and every day. You can always go back for another round if, after 15 minutes or so, you have that desire.
6. Limit the booze
Alcohol is kind of a quadruple whammy on holidays.
I probably don’t need to tell you that it affects your behavior (sometimes in fun ways like starting a family singalong to “Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo.” But sometimes, in not-fun ways).
Social graces aside, alcohol isn’t so nutritious:
The empty calories from cocktails add up. Five ounces of wine (a smallish pour) has about 120 calories, while mixed drinks can have hundreds of calories. PLUS,
Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and makes it more difficult to eat mindfully during Thanksgiving dinner. Studies also suggest that alcohol triggers certain neurons in the brain that increase hunger, at least in mice. And if that’s not enough…
A hangover increases the odds that you’ll skip your workout and eat comfort foods the day after Thanksgiving.
It’s best to stick to a drink or two, at most.
7. Volunteer for dish duty
Suggest a family walk after dinner or, if you really want to make friends with your host, volunteer to do the meal cleanup!
8. Enjoy yourself
Every holiday, I get a few frantic calls from clients and loved ones.
“Hoooooow do I keep from going off the rails?” they want to know.
The desire to stay consistent with your routine is admirable, especially when you’re trying to lose or maintain weight. But it’s just one day. Enjoy your favorite holiday foods. Spend quality time with family and friends. Don’t stress too much about what you eat.
Even if you eat every morsel of food that you crave, you’re likely no worse for the wear. You may see your weight go up for a few days, and this is mostly water weight from salt and carbs. Drink lots of water, get in a good workout, go back to your normal eating, and be kind to yourself.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I hope you have a wonderful and delicious holiday.