Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays of the year. There is no better excuse to express gratitude for those that you love the most and open your heart and your home to spread the love. Although some people look forward to, literally, pigging out all day, there is a better and healthier way to enjoy Thanksgiving without the proverbial hangover that comes from overindulging (whether that be food, alcohol, or both). Here are five tips to make the most out of this wonderful holiday:
1. Be sure to eat a healthy and hearty breakfast. Don’t be fooled into thinking that by skipping out on breakfast you have license to eat that much more during the Thanksgiving feast. It’s never fun to feel overstuffed. Eating a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein (eggs or egg whites, salmon, protein-enhanced smoothie, Greek yogurt) and fresh fruit (apples, pears, berries) or vegetables (spinach, bell peppers, broccoli) will get the day started on the right track and help keep you satisfied and less likely to binge or “pick” throughout the day. Take it from a seasoned Thanksgiving cook, there’s nothing quite as annoying as the person who is constantly in the kitchen picking at all the food one is meticulously putting out on serving trays.
2. Get some vigorous exercise first thing in the morning. Get outdoors for a hike, brisk walk, bike ride or run. The outdoors is invigorating and you’ll take in some needed vitamin D. You’ll also set your metabolism in gear as you prepare to potentially take in a few more calories than normal.
3. Start small. If offered, always choose the smaller plate size. We are less likely to overindulge when we use smaller plates. Why? Smaller plates equals smaller portions. Go generous on the vegetables. Say yes to soup.
4. Take your time. Although it is tempting to dive right in and (pardon the pun) gobble everything down so you can be first at seconds, taking the time to chew, breathe, and put the fork and knife down between bites will actually result in less chance of overeating. It takes the brain a little bit of time to register satiety (the feeling of fullness) after the food hits the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. When you plow through your food without taking time to pause, you’ll likely be that person who ends up having to loosen that top button on his pants or leaning way back in your chair because your trying to create space for your diaphragm to expand and contract.
5. Make the best choices. There are some stellar superfoods available this time of year and they often show up on the Thanksgiving table. Sweet potatoes are fabulous on their own – they don’t need extra butter and sugar. As a superfood, they are loaded with carotenoids, fiber, antioxidants and vitamins. So definitely say yes to sweet potatoes. Cranberries are also a definite yes. Say no to ham, which is usually loaded with sodium and nitrites but yes to turkey breast. Limit the amount of gravy you use, especially if it has been prepared with excess fat drippings or tons of butter. Pescatarians (vegetarians who also eat fish) may chose poached salmon for their main dish. Vegans may chose Tofurkey, a tofu-based dish with imitation turkey flavor. Say yes to winter green salad made with spinach, beats, pears and slivered almonds. I suggest skipping the stuffing altogether (you have enough starch from the sweet potatoes). Try alternatives to stuffing, such as wild rice or quinoa pilaf. For dessert, say yes to pumpkin pie but pass on the pecan pie. Although we love pecans, pecan pie is typically loaded with excess fat and sugar.
More than anything this Thanksgiving, be grateful for the table set before you! Give thanks for all who came together to make the feast possible. And if you’re looking for extra credit or at least a good excuse to burn a few extra calories, put on some great music after your meal and dance the Thanksgiving night away.