Thanksgiving is a time that is intended as a day for giving gratitude for the wonderful bounty of food that the land provides us at the end of the Fall harvest season. But more often than not, the intention for gratitude gets overlooked and replaced with a tendency to overindulge on calorie-rich, high fat and high sugar foods. The result is a feeling like the button on our pants is going to pop off and take out an eye of a loving relative, and a potentially dangerous slide into unhealthy eating habits that last right through the Christmas season.
But never fear! With a little planning and mindfulness, this Thanksgiving doesn't have to be a gorge-fest and you can still fit into your skinny jeans on the Tuesday after the feast. The following tips will help you eat better, feel better and stay guilt-free.
1. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration is often confused with hunger. By staying hydrated throughout the day, we can avoid this potential miscommunication to the brain. On Thanksgiving (and every day) be sure to sip at least 2L of fresh filtered water or herbal teas so your body stays refreshed and hydrated. Also, a 16oz glass of lemon water taken about 15-30 minutes before the big meal will not only help fill up your belly a little bit, it will also aid in digestion by getting the stomach primed to produce the digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid needed to break down proteins and carbohydrates.
2. Do Not Skip Meals
Alright, I admit that I have been guilty of this in the past. The "I'm going to skip breakfast and/or lunch today so I can enjoy my Thanksgiving dinner tonight" concept. Don't do it!! While it may seem like a good idea, it will always....ALWAYS....be a let down because you will be so famished by the time dinner rolls around that you will overeat much more than you normally might. And, if you're anything like how I used to be, that hunger will kick in as soon as the food starts getting prepped and coming out of the oven leaving you tempted to pick away as the final touches are being put on the various dishes. That picking and sampling alone can add up to a meal's worth of calories BEFORE you sit down to your plate. So, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast and a light lunch on the day of.
3. Get Moving
Exercise is important every day, but taking some time to move your body on the day of the big meal will help kickstart your metabolism and burn calories throughout the day. Depending on your ability and level of fitness, a good HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout, spin class, power walk or run will help mitigate any extra calories you take in at dinner. You can also keep active while visiting with family and friends. Instead of sitting on the couch and grazing on munchies, stand in the kitchen, help chop veggies or prepare other food items. Heck, even try to entice the rest of the gang into a friendly game of touch football or road hockey. Every little bit of movement and activity helps!
4. Make Veggies the Priority
Eating more veggies is a difficult task for most people no matter what day of the year it is. Thanksgiving dinner is a perfect opportunity to experience the benefit of making plant-based foods the priority over animal proteins and starches. Make 3/4 of your plate non-starchy vegetables (i.e. beans, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, salad, etc.), 1/4 of your plate a starch (i.e. baked or mashed potatoes....NO MASHED POTATO VOLCANO!) and the final 1/4 of your plate animal protein (likely turkey but possibly something different depending on your family's tradition). Portioning your plate in this manner provides you with a meal that is high in fiber and rich in nutrients. It will also leave you room for a nice serving of dessert without putting you over the edge.
5. Use a Smaller Plate
This is a great way to trick your brain into thinking you've heaped up a power plate without actually doing so. Research shows that switching from a 12" plate to a 10" plate can help you eat up to 30% fewer calories in a meal. So this is one instance where downsizing is a good thing!
6. Go Slow
Take your time and really savour your meal. Eat slowly and mindfully, tasting all of the beautiful flavours and allowing yourself time to properly chew and digest. When you are finished your plate, wait 20 minutes before deciding to go back for seconds or have dessert. While this may be hard to do, especially if the food is "rock your socks off" delicious, it is important because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that your stomach is full. If you dig in for seconds or hit the dessert table for a plate of sweet decadence too soon, your feeling of fullness will kick in after you've hit the "I'm going to explode" mark leaving you miserably uncomfortable for the rest of the evening. So give it some time and you may find that you really weren't hungry for that second helping after all.
7. It's Okay to Say No
Eat for yourself, not for the benefit of others. Don't be pressured to eat more than you want to! If you are on a healthy eating plan or "diet" (as much as I hate to use that term), let those at the gathering know that you are dedicated to your program and that indulging in a "little bit more" is not part of the plan to get you to your health and wellness goal. Great Aunt Fanny may have brought her world famous pumpkin pie but you are not obligated to have a piece.
So there you have it my friends. Now go and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones. There is so much to be grateful for!
If you would like to explore how working with a holistic nutritionist can help you achieve your best, most vibrant health, please feel free contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 519.404.9919 to schedule your free 15 minute discovery session to discuss how I can help you reach your goals.
Jill Taylor is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of two pretty awesome teenagers, s very dramatic dog, a hedgehog and a snake (yikes!). Jill assists her clients in achieving true wellness through thoughtful and compassionate dietary and lifestyle coaching. Feel free to visit the "Contact" page to get in touch. Jill would love to hear from you!