For many people, Thanksgiving is the most extravagant food-fest of the entire year. Dinner alone typically represents 3,000-4,500 calories – double or three times the calories usually consumed in an entire day. And for some, Thanksgiving is only the kick-off to a six-week marathon of holiday feasts and parties that results in an average weight gain of approximately one to three pounds before New Year’s Day. One to three pounds, you ask? What’s the harm in a few extra pounds? The harm is derived from the fact many of us NEVER lose those few pounds; they tend to accumulate year after year.
But a little planning can go a long way in helping you avoid that dreaded weight gain during the holiday season. And here are Ten Tips for kicking the season off with a healthier Thanksgiving:
- Indulge – don’t deny; but don’t lose control either. Balance and moderation is key. You might consume a few more calories on Thanksgiving Day, but if you consume slightly fewer on other days of the week, it will even itself out. Thanksgiving should be enjoyed.
- Avoid “portion distortion.” Go ahead and enjoy the food, but mind how much you spoon out.
- Pace yourself! Remember that it takes time for the brain to register that the stomach is full. So slow down, chew a lot, and take time to catch up with your family and friends between bites.
- Go ahead and veg out! Enjoy some fresh crudités and low-fat dip before the meal, and then fill half your plate with fresh, steamed veggies during the meal. Veggies are loaded with vitamins and anti-oxidants and they’re low in calories. And keep in mind that the more colors you eat, the more vitamins you get, so spoon out lots of carrots, green beans, squash, beets, broccoli, and cauliflower.
- Don’t fast earlier in the day. Skipping breakfast and lunch will cause you to overeat high-fat, calorie-laden foods later in the day.
- Opt for the white meat of the turkey and avoid the skin. Turkey breast is an excellent source of lean protein and only contains 45 calories per slice. The dark meat and skin are higher in both fat and calories.
- Hydrate throughout the day and during the meal. Drinking lots of water will help you feel satiated without the added calories.
- Eat smart with healthy substitutions:
- Try fresh or frozen cranberries instead of canned.
- Stuffing mixes from the box are generally lower in calories than their homemade counterparts – not to mention the fact that cooking stuffing inside the turkey tends to dry the meat out.
- Prepare the mashed potatoes and butternut squash with skim milk, low-fat buttermilk or low-sodium chicken stock for a burst of flavor without the added fat and calories.
- Ditch the marshmallows and cut down on the butter in your sweet potato casserole. Substitute honey, a little brown sugar and pecans for a side dish with half the calories of traditional sweet potato casserole.
- For veggie dips, use low-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for less fat and more protein.
9. Dodge the dessert disasters. If you simply have to have dessert, choose well. Apple and pumpkin pie tend to be lower in fat and calories than pecan or chocolate cream. Or opt for a delicious low-fat, low-calorie chocolate or pumpkin parfait for a sweet and satisfying end to your meal.
10. Move! Take a walk after the big meal – two miles (or an extra 4,000 steps) will help you burn off 200 of the calories you’ll have eaten. Involve your whole household. Try organizing a game of touch football or break out the Wii Sports Resort. Or burn the calories and give back to your community at the same time by participating in your local Turkey Trot. These short, fun runs can be found nationwide – they’re perfect for revving up your metabolism, and proceeds from the races typically go to various charitable organizations.
So there you have it. A little proactive planning will help you avoid a lot of extra weight gain this turkey day and throughout the holiday season. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!