Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s the time of year when people gorge themselves on a delicious, rich, home cooked, carb loaded feast. There’s no escaping it, you think to yourself. You’re doomed to sprawling out on the couch like a beached whale after eating one too many slices of grandma’s pecan pie.
Think again! Here are some simple strategies to stay healthy on Thanksgiving and avoid the food coma. But remember, it’s okay to go a little overboard- it’s just one day out of the year!
Don’t Wait All Day to Eat!
Many people like to skip breakfast and lunch if there’s going to be a huge feast later on in the day, causing them to overeat later. Make sure you follow your normal eating routine, including snacks! Eat a little snack before you eat dinner so you’re not starving.
It’s Not All About Eating
Thanksgiving can be more fun if you make time for exercise, games, and socializing away from the food. Go for a walk, run, or hike before dinner with your family. Many communities even have a “turkey trot” walk or run that typically benefits a good cause. Instead of watching football, you can throw the ball around in your backyard or organize a game of touch football if you have enough people.
If it’s too cold to go outside, play board games or other party games, make festive crafts, and stay away from the food until dinner is ready.
Make Healthier Food Choices
There are endless opportunities to eat healthier on Thanksgiving. Use milk instead of cream in mashed potatoes, and low fat cream of mushroom soup in green bean casserole. Offer crudités and Greek yogurt dip as an appetizer or serve roasted vegetables as a side dish (think brussels sprouts, carrots, squash, etc). Stick with one dessert- more options means piling up more dessert on your plate. Check out this delicious recipe for rice-stuffed squash:
• 1 cup mixed basmati and wild rice
• 3 cups water
• 4 small acorn squashes
• 3/4 cup cooked chestnuts (canned or vacuum packed), roughly chopped
• 1/2 cup dried cranberries
• 1 small red onion, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
• 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
• 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
• Salt and pepper
1. Put the rice in a saucepan, add the 3 cups water, and bring to a boil. Cover, and simmer very gently until the rice is just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain off any excess water.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a large, sharp knife, slice off the top quarter (stalk end) of each squash. Set aside these little hats, then scoop out the seeds and fiber from the center of the squashes using a small spoon. Trim the bases to make them level, if necessary. Season the cavity of each squash lightly with salt and pepper, then place them in a large ovenproof dish or roasting pan.
3. Mix together the rice, chestnuts, cranberries, onion, thyme, parsley, and mozzarella in a large bowl. Season lightly
with salt and pepper.
4. Spoon the rice stuffing into the squashes, pressing it down, and mounding it up neatly on top. Replace the reserved “hats” on top. Bake until the flesh of the squash is tender when pierced with a small, sharp knife, about 45 minutes. Serve hot.
In addition to keeping your hands occupied without piling on calories, drinking water can be an effective way to control your appetite. One study presented at an American Chemical Society meeting shows that dieters who drank 2 cups of water before meals over 12 weeks lost about 5 pounds more than dieters who did not increase their water consumption.
Don’t Be Afraid to Indulge a Little
It’s a holiday, after all, and you’re allowed to overdo it a little bit. As long as you don’t keep eating these foods every day, indulging on Thanksgiving shouldn’t make a big difference in your diet. Feeling guilty about it can lead to unhealthy restriction of your food intake the next day.
Get back on track with your healthy eating routine the next day and get plenty of exercise. If the gym is way too crowded with people trying to burn off holiday calories, go for a jog outdoors or do some cleaning instead (you know your house will be a mess!).