What’s not to love about Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday that revolves almost entirely around food. We can thank the Pilgrims for that.
However, it can be too much of a good thing and you could end up feeling more stuffed than the turkey.
If you’re not careful, this can start a downward spiral of overindulging that lasts all the way through Christmas. Hello, New Year’s resolution!
If you don’t want to break out the elastic waisted pants or worse, the maternity jeans and a long sweater (don’t judge), there’s good news.
You can still enjoy all the great foods you love this Thanksgiving without putting on the extra pounds. Here’s how:
The Most Important Meal
Have you ever gone all day without eating so you can “enjoy” your Thanksgiving meal more?
It’s a very short-lived pleasure and it’s not long before you begin to regret your decision and the untamed eating rampage it led to.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to have a healthy breakfast and even a light lunch if you’ll be eating your Thanksgiving meal later in the day.
This way you won’t be famished when you sit down to eat and are far less likely to overindulge.
You’ll probably consume more food than usual because it’s Thanksgiving, but a good breakfast will help you make better decisions about what and how much you eat at the meal.
If you’re looking for quick, delicious breakfast ideas that are under 300 calories, check out these recipes from health.com.
You Need Accountability and a Plan
It’s so tempting to sneak a bite here and there especially if you’re the one preparing the meal. You gotta taste-test, right? But those little nibbles can add up.
Your best bet is come up with a Thanksgiving Day game plan. No one knows you like you know you so be honest about what will work and what won’t.
If moderation is fairly easy for you, plan to have a small sampling of everything you want. This way you can have a taste and kill the cravings while not overdoing it and feeling miserable later.
However, if you know you won’t stop until the whole pie is gone and the plate is licked clean, then you’re better off skipping it altogether.
It’ll be hard, but you’ll feel much better physically and mentally if you can resist.
Munching on something healthy instead like carrots or celery will allow you to continue to eat with the rest of the crowd while still maintaining your waistline.
Before the meal is ever prepared, make a pact with a friend or family member to journal your Thanksgiving meal and share it with each other.
Vow to record every bite – even while taste-testing!
This works well for two reasons. One, you’ll have to write down everything which will make you stop and think before you eat it. And second, you’ll have to show this to someone and you don’t want it to be embarrassing.
Make it a contest if you want where the winner gets bragging rights. Who knows, this may even become a thing you want to continue throughout the year. Talk about a win-win.
An Empty Stomach Will Get Filled
The hungrier you are when you sit down to dine, the faster and more irrationally you’ll eat. Going back for seconds of rolls or mashed potatoes suddenly seems like a good idea when your stomach is raging.
But these are the very foods that will have you begging for mercy in about 30 minutes.
One way to curb this is to have a glass of water 10 minutes before the meal. You won’t feel satisfied, but you will feel full which should slow you down.
Water will also help with digestion later.
It’s also helpful to have a healthy snack about an hour before the meal. My go-to snack is an apple. You can take them anywhere, they’re good for you, and they’ll temporarily fill you up.
They’re a healthy snack by themselves but when paired with peanut butter or cheddar cubes and walnuts, they can’t be beat.
You’ve probably heard this before but by using smaller plates, you’ll actually eat less. Most of us eat with our eyes and we know about how full our plates usually look.
By using a smaller plate, our eyes are satisfied, and you won’t miss the extra food.
Doing It Right
Believe it or not, there’s a right way to fill up your plate.
The general rule is that half your plate should contain vegetables, one fourth lean proteins and the other fourth, starches.
There’s a right way to eat, too. If you start with the proteins, you get full faster.
Then move on to the veggies and finally to the carbs, starches and a small portion of dessert.
This may sound simple, but it works.
Savor the Flavor
A lot went into preparing this spread – which I don’t have to tell you if you’ve ever done it. Why not slow down, take your time and savor every bite.
This not only makes the meal more enjoyable, but it keeps you from eating as much too.
But, if you’re used to wolfing down your food, this can be a hard thing to do. A few ways to accomplish this is to chew eat bite 10 – 15 times.
You can also put your fork down after each bite. The combination of the counting and lowering your fork will distract you and slow down your eating.
Engaging in conversation while dining is another way to slow things down, plus it allows you to catch up with family members you haven’t seen in a while.
Here’s Why You Should Wait to Have Seconds
Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your mind to register that you’re full? The reason is because it’s not food filling your stomach but your brain reacting to chemicals released when you eat or drink that cause you to feel full.
This takes time. About 20 minutes after you start eating, you’ll begin to feel the effects.
The chemicals that cause this will continue to rise for another 10 to 30 minutes after that. Then they stay elevated anywhere from 3 -5 hours.
That’s a long time to suffer if you’ve overeaten.
So, the goal is to give your body enough time to recognize whether it’s still hungry before going back for seconds. This way, you can still enjoy your meal without feeling the pain later.
It’s always a good idea, not just for your stomach but for your guests as well, to have an after-dinner plan.
There are always football games that will entertain some but not everyone is into sports.
There are plenty of other things you can do to take your mind off munching while keeping your guests happy. Some ideas you may want to try are:
- Play a board game or bingo
- Watch a movie
- Go for a walk
- Set up a karaoke machine
- Do holiday crafts with the kids (making Christmas ornaments or holiday cards are great choices)
Thinking of ideas ahead of time will ensure that you have everything you need, and things will go a lot smoother.
Your guests will be entertained, and you won’t be hear that piece of pumpkin pie calling your name!
The Best Part of Cooking a Big Meal
One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. It’s what makes cooking for days not seem so bad.
If you do it right, you can have several more meals from this one-time effort and it doesn’t have to be a repeat of Thanksgiving either.
You can have turkey sandwiches, vegetable soups and stews or try this delicious turkey casserole from Allrecipes.com. By getting creative with your leftovers, you can produce some fabulous, low-effort meals.
Speaking of leftovers, I like to wrap mine up as soon as the meal is over. This way, I’m not tempted to munch while cleaning up the kitchen.
Wrapping them in serving size contains also works well to avoid overeating at your next meal.
Practice Forgiveness While Giving Thanks
Despite our best efforts, sometimes we indulge a little more than we should. It happens to all of us at one time or another.
If it happens this Thanksgiving, don’t let it ruin your day. This is first and foremost a day to give thanks for your loved ones and the opportunity to come together and share a meal.
So, if you find you’ve devoured more than you should, shake it off, tie your jacket around your waist, unbutton your pants and enjoy the rest of your day!
Check out these tips on hosting an amazing Thanksgiving dinner without the stress.