Bamini Pathmanathan, MS, RDN
What do you think about when you think about the holidays?
Family, friends, football, presents, lights, games, conversation, traditionc...
And, of course, FOOD.
Food often takes center stage in the holiday season, particularly on Thanksgiving. To completely abandon tradition and avoid any special treats is unrealistic and would leave you feeling unsatisfied. But that doesn’t mean the holidays have to set you up to undo all the hard workouts you put in or the great food choices you’ve made.
Having a more successful holiday- one that leaves you satisfied but also feeling good about your choices- really centers around one thing: mindfulness.
The more you can be in the moment when you are eating and realizing what you are eating and how much, the better off you’ll be. Follow these steps for a healthier thanksgiving Day.
1. EAT FOR THE SEASON
With the seasonal food choices this time of year, such as pumpkin, sweet potato, a variety of squash ... and who can forget cranberries… you have a lot of opportunity to get in some foods with great nutrients. These foods are loaded with various nutrients, such as Vitamin A, C and potassium, to name a few.
2. STICK TO THE NORM
Don’t steer from what you normally do and make your regular workout schedule a priority. Rather than sinking into the slump of the holidays and falling into the hectic routine, make your regular workout routine priority number one. You’ll actually have more energy, get more done and eat better!
3. THANKSGIVING IS ONE DAY - REMEMBER THAT
Get rid of leftovers. Give them away or freeze them. Only keep what you can remake into something healthy such as leftover turkey for soup or extra salad/roasted veggies.
4. EAT BREAKFAST
Skipping a meal and saving your appetite for later sets you up to fail. Eat a full breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. The idea that you can skip breakfast to “save calories” for a big feast later is a myth. Skipping breakfast will leave you starving and set you up for overeating.
5. KEEP IT REAL
Eat real butter, real sugar, whole milk and whole milk products like sour cream and yogurt. Avoid using items labeled “low fat,” “fat free,” “sugar free” or “lite.” These items tend to be processed foods loaded with excess calories and added sugar.
6. BRING A HEALTHY DISH
If you are going somewhere for Thanksgiving bring a healthy dish you like. You will at least know there is one thing you can eat that is healthy.
7. AVOID SNACKING
Calories add up a lot when you snack. For example:
4 rye crackers with ~1/2 ounce of soft cheese
3 bunches of grapes
3 handfuls of mixed nuts
2 glasses of wine
1 handful M&Ms with nuts
2 pieces broccoli with ~1 Tbsp cream cheese dip
Total: 1,209 calories, 60 g fat, 28 g protein, 110 g carbohydrate
8. WAIT 15 MINUTES
Before you go back for another heaping spoonful of gravy and mashed potatoes, wait 15 minutes. Don’t go back immediately after finishing plate one. Wait at least 15 and then see if you still feel like more.
9. SHIFT THE FOCUS FROM FOOD
Go for a walk, play a game, have great conversation, watch a movie. Do whatever you can to shift the focus of the day from food. Eat the food then move on to something else fun!
Overall, you can make one or two changes to your Thanksgiving Day that can make a big difference. Don’t do a 180 and suddenly try to change your entire meal or traditions. This will set you - and even more likely family in your household- up for disappointment. Be realistic. Have a plan. And you will have a happy, healthy holiday.
Create a tradition filled with healthy choices, mindful eating and a holiday filled with lots of activities surrounded by family and friends.