In my opinion, Thanksgiving is the best holiday ever. It’s all about being grateful for our blessings, time with family and friends and good food, and the best part of all, there’s no pressure to buy gifts. When it’s over, there’s no need to be sad, because Christmas and New Year’s are right around the corner!
My family goes all out for Thanksgiving. We all gather at my parents’ house in the mountains for the weekend and eat, play games, dance, watch football, eat, drink, kiss on babies, watch movies, and did I mention we eat? Mama Kay usually cooks up not one, but TWO huge turkeys to feed our large crew. Not to mention the sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn bread, green beans and cranberry sauce. And don’t even get me started on the desserts! Then, we get up the next day and do it all over again with leftovers.
As tasty as all that food is, it’s really easy to overdo it all weekend long and return home on Sunday feeling pretty large and in charge. That’s why this post is just as much for my benefit as yours.
So the way I see it, there are two ways to approach Thanksgiving if you want to still be able to fit into your jeans on Monday. The first option is to just go all out and eat whatever you please, but just for that one day. After all, Thanksgiving only comes along once a year, so you might as well enjoy it to the fullest. I recommend this approach to people who only have one group meal to attend and feel like they can pretty easily jump back on the horse come Friday morning. Leftovers may not be a challenge for those of you going to a Thanksgiving dinner at a friend or family member’s house and then returning home immediately after.
The other approach might be more practical for those of you who have several dinners to attend at various houses, or like me, you’ll be spending time with family for three days in a row. In that case, it will be necessary to do some prioritizing, clever swapping and to implement some good old-fashioned will power.
Prioritizing: When loading up your Thanksgiving plate, ask yourself which foods are the most appealing to you. Do you really want to fill up on the cheese and crackers set out for an appetizer, which you can eat anytime, when stuffing and cranberry sauce only come along at this time of year? I’m going to do my best to save my calories for the foods I’m really excited about, rather than wasting them on the ones that are just okay to me.
Clever Swapping: There are a few simple swaps you can make on Turkey Day that will go a long way in reducing your caloric intake. For example, enjoy shrimp cocktail or veggies with hummus for an appetizer instead of chips and dip. Prepare roasted veggies instead of more fattening casseroles. Try sweetening a dessert with stevia instead of refined sugar. Cranberry chutney (dried cranberries pureed in orange juice and water) contains half the calories of regular canned cranberry sauce. In fact, making almost anything from scratch will be a lot healthier and whole than the canned or packaged variety. Incorporating these little switches could make all the difference as you battle the Thanksgiving bulge!
Will Power: I’m all about enjoying some great food, but there comes a point when enough is enough and indulging turns to gluttony! I’m so guilty of this in Thanksgivings passed. We can enjoy the delicious holiday foods we love in moderation without going overboard if we use a little common sense and will power. Serve yourself reasonable portions of your favorite dishes, and chew well so you can truly savor and enjoy them as well as the company and conversation. You’ll feel more fulfilled by your holiday if you focus on quality time with friends and family rather than just the food.
Another great way to take the focus off eating is to get some exercise. Take a morning jog with a family member or organize a group football game. You’ll burn off some of those excess calories and feel a lot better. My husband and I are thinking of doing a 5K on Thanksgiving morning, and I plan on taking lots of long walks with my sisters in the mountains over the long weekend.
Let’s face it – this is Thanksgiving we’re talking about, and we’re not going to be perfect. But every little wise choice we make this holiday season will reduce the damage and keep us from packing on a bunch of unwanted pounds. It’s far too easy to fall off the wagon at Thanksgiving and then continue on a downward cycle all the way until New Year’s. I’ve made a lot of progress with my nutrition this year, and I don’t want to lose all that momentum by falling on my face at the holidays. Let’s finish 2010 with a bang so we’re not retracing the same steps in 2011.
Do you have any tricks for staying on track during the holidays? We’d love to hear your tips and suggestions.