Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. This time of year is filled with joy, laughter, and togetherness. But for some, it can also be a time of dread if you’re watching your waistline. Nobody is arguing that Thanksgiving dinner is filled with the healthiest of foods, but here at Culina Health, indulging in yummy treats and spending time with friends and family fits into our bigger picture definition of wellness. Thanksgiving doesn’t mean all your hard work and good habits fall by the wayside. There are certainly ways to make your holiday a little bit healthier, so you feel great and confident this Thanksgiving Day.
1. Eat before the big Thanksgiving meal
Please do not fast all day in anticipation of the big meal, trying to “save” your calories. This plan will only backfire and we both know it. Skipping food in the beginning of the day will drop your blood sugar so low, it will be near impossible to recover from…and you will inevitably compensate for your hunger as soon as the eating begins. Cue the dreaded restrict, binge, guilt cycle. Here’s what you’ll do instead: start your day with a satisfying meal filled with protein, fiber and healthy fats to keep your blood sugar stable. Think an omelet with veggies and avocado, a Greek yogurt parfait with berries, chia seeds, and a drizzle of nut butter. Starting your day strong guarantees you will show up to the table with a clear head. This will allow you to make smart choices vs. arriving ravenous and impulsive.
2. Make some food swaps
Holidays are certainly rooted in nostalgia, and if your family is anything like mine, it’s practically sacrilegious to mess with a trite and true recipe that is traditional and looked forward to every year. However, it can be fun to put your mad scientist cap on and get creative in the kitchen- all without ruining your favorite foods. For example, want to add more veg, boost the volume, and up the antioxidants? Swap half of your spuds for steamed cauliflower in your mashed potatoes. Seasoned as usual with garlic, some skim milk and (still!) butter, the similar color and creamy texture will fool even the strongest veggie naysayers.
3. Dress to impress
It’s a holiday! Get out of the sweatpants and yoga leggings and put something on that makes you feel fabulous. When you look good you feel good and when you feel good, you make smarter decisions. This means you’re walking into Thanksgiving more confident than last year, and probably less likely to overeat if you’re wearing something you feel awesome in.
4. Scan and select
Be choosey about what gets to go on your plate. Before you go all in, scan the table to see all your options. A pig in the blanket during appetizers may be worth every bite, but the cornbread… not really. Pick your absolute favorite foods to take the VIP spot on your plate. Don’t waste the fun of the meal on the other options you feel “ehh” about just because they’re on the table.
5. Be the generous guest your Thanksgiving host will love
If you’re a guest at a party, bring something you can rely on. Be savvy and be prepared. Offer to bring the crudité, make a fun dip (black bean dip, tzatziki made with Greek yogurt, etc.), a huge salad, roasted veg…anything YOU feel great eating that will serve your goals. Not only will you likely introduce the host and other guests to an excellent new recipe, but you will feel empowered knowing you most certainly have something delicious and healthy to choose from.
6. Lead the cleanup committee
When you know you’ve had enough of your meal, offer to head the cleanup crew. This gets you up from the table and keep your hands busy loading the dishwasher-away from the mindless munching. Bonus: If you’re a guest, your host will be super grateful.
7. Send away your trigger foods
Once your guests leave, you’ll be left with the leftovers, and your kitchen may become a dangerous place. Don’t put yourself at risk in your own home if there are any trigger foods you know you’ll be tempted to overeat for days to come. If there are any of your particular trigger foods leftover, send them home with another guest. You want to get those specific foods out of the house ASAP!
8. Be prepared
If thanksgiving, or holiday time, typically brings on some anxiety, your best plan of action here is to recognize that. Maybe it’s the overwhelming sight of the buffet filled with your old “forbidden foods,” the incessant questioning from family, or perhaps it’s the fear that overeating may throw you off your plan. Whatever it may be, thanksgiving can provoke emotional eating for some. Acknowledge the situations that cause you some unease, and then strategize. Have a plan of attack. Rehearse in your head what you’re looking forward to eating, who you would like to sit with, and perhaps have a fun day planned for Black Friday – something you can look forward to other than the food.
9. It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Remember- your body doesn’t know it’s a holiday. It’s not like it’s expecting that extra spoonful of stuffing. This isn’t the last time you’ll see pie, or wine, or a casserole. As I like to say – it’s called a holiDAY for a reason! During the holiday season when seasonal dishes are repeatedly served at meals, it’s likely that chocolate cookie will show up at Friendsgiving next weekend too.
10. Show grace and give thanks to yourself first and foremost
Take a deep breath and keep in mind it’s not all about the food. We have all learned that time spent together should never be taken for granted. Cherish and relish in a delicious evening with your loved ones, and remember that indulging in holiday treats is all part of the fun!
Need more support this holiday season? Reach out to us here. Our dietitians would love you work with you!