Thanksgiving is a time for reuniting with loved ones, giving thanks for our blessings, and eating enormous amounts of food. Well, maybe that last one is a little bit of an exaggeration. But still, for those who are trying to make it through the season without gaining weight, it’s a holiday that can be fraught with temptations – and pitfalls.
That said, it doesn’t have to be a matter of feast or famine for dieters. With a few conscientious choices, it’s possible to enjoy the holiday and enjoy the food without stretching your waistline to the limit. Here are a few ways to keep your calories under control:
Don’t go hungry: One sure way to guarantee that you’ll overeat is if you arrive at Thanksgiving dinner completely famished. Instead, eat a modest amount of food earlier in the day so that you’re not starving before the main meal. And if you find yourself hungry before the big turkey feast starts, have a few carrot sticks to tide yourself over.
Make conscious choices: There’s nothing more damaging to your diet than sitting right next to a big bowl of nuts, candy, or chips. You absent-mindedly eat handful after handful, and before you know it, you’ve consumed hundreds of calories. This year, resolve to make conscious choices about everything you’re going to eat. And stick to eating only what you’ve put on your plate so you can be sure that your portion size is appropriate.
Use fiber as a filler: Fiber-filled foods like vegetables will fill you up more quickly – and give you more bang for your buck in terms of calories and nutrition – than just about anything else on the Thanksgiving menu. If your family tradition involves meals that are heavy on low-fiber foods like rolls and mashed potatoes, make a green salad or a fruit salad to add to the mix. Then when it’s time to eat, fill up on the healthy stuff and savor the stuffing in small amounts.
Hands off the kids’ snacks: One common pitfall for moms (and this happens all year round, not just at Thanksgiving) is absent-mindedly sampling the kids’ food. Most of the time these are extra calories you don’t need, like crackers or other munchies. Stick to the high-quality adult foods that taste good and add value to your diet.
Savor the food: Take your time at dinner enjoying every bite and participating in the conversation. If you feel like you need seconds, take a break so that you can assess whether or not you are truly hungry. Sometimes your stomach takes a few minutes before it sends you the message that it’s full.
Watch the alcohol: Don’t forget that alcoholic beverages – even wine – can add a significant amount of calories to your meal. If you choose to drink, consume a modest amount with dinner and then switch to water.
Don’t deny yourself: If you love pumpkin pie, don’t tell yourself that you can’t have any. It’ll only make you crave it more. Instead, make a conscious effort to save some room for a small piece after dinner. And hold off on the whipped cream or ice cream toppings.
Walk it off: If you’re not in the kitchen, find some activity to do outside (rather than sitting in front of the television) while you’re waiting for the food to be ready. After dinner, get the whole group to enjoy a post-meal walk outside.
Enjoy the day: Last but not least, remember what you truly enjoy about the holiday: spending time with loved ones and savoring a delicious meal. Don’t let your worries about your weight interfere with your pleasure during this special holiday.