One of the biggest, most festive holidays is finally upon us. Here’s your guide to making sure you don’t gain weight on Turkey day, but still enjoy every bite!
The holidays are a stressful time of year for everyone. Whether you’re in the kitchen preparing meals, or in the stores taking advantage of last minute deals, it can lead to a really bad diet consisting of forgetting to eat and then overeating or binging.
This isn’t usually a problem during other seasons.
In the summer, we’re more likely to snack on fruits and veggies that we keep on our counters. But, in the winter months with holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, we need to watch out for the sugary snacks filling up the kitchen.
Some of these treats may have been made for family get-togethers, some are gifts from coworkers and some are from the neighbors. While they’re all delicious, they also conspire to produce one simple goal: Gaining holiday weight.
It’s a given that we can put on anywhere from five to 20 pounds around the holidays. Some people may not see this as a big deal, but if you don’t pay close attention to what you eat during the holidays, you’ll have a very hard battle of the bulge around your middle in the New Year.
Thanksgiving Might Be The Toughest On Your Diet
The last few months of the year are hard on those who are trying to watch their weight. Think about it: Pumpkin-spiced everything, chocolate fudge and plenty of other sugary delights are desperately trying to make their way into your stomach. It’s hard enough that the cold weather makes you want to snuggle up in bed with a good book, a cup of hot cocoa and your favorite comfort food. But, there are also dozens of treats ready at any time.
All of this works together with the lack of desire to step into the cold and get to the gym. If you do plan on indulging in the sugary goodness that we all face in the months of October, November and December, make sure you get to the gym to keep on track when Thanksgiving rolls around.
Of all the holidays that we celebrate, there just isn’t anything like Thanksgiving. This is one day of the year that we gather around a table regardless of our differences and give thanks by stuffing ourselves with some of the most decadent meals we’ll ever eat in our lifetimes.
Recent research indicated that an average person tries to consume around 4,000 calories throughout Thanksgiving day. That’s not a typo. It’s real. That’s double the recommended amount for a day’s consumption for an average man! With that in mind, here are our best tips to save your physique this holiday season—especially through Thanksgiving.
Don’t Forget To Eat Breakfast
First things first, eat breakfast. This can’t be stressed enough. Your mom was right: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast will wake your stomach up, wake your metabolism up and make sure that your body is running properly so that when you put the lovely Thanksgiving dinner in it, it will know what to do.
It will also ensure that you snack a lot less during the day leading up to the big meal—especially if you have a protein packed breakfast. If you aren’t a breakfast person, have something small like a yogurt and granola. Starving yourself in the morning just so you can fit in a couple of extra plates at dinner does not work in your favor.
Don’t Skip On The Water
This may sound simple, but you can’t afford not to stay hydrated on a special day like Thanksgiving. Staying hydrated will make sure that your body can handle the big meal that you’ll be eating. Even on a regular day, we are supposed to drink a lot of water, but on Thanksgiving it is important to help your body know when you’re actually hungry and when you just think you need to snack on more cold turkey and gravy.
Water can also help you digest the amount of food you will be eating at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Drink a full glass of water about 20 minutes before you eat dinner and 20 minutes after. Remember to wait the whole 20 minutes to figure out if you’re actually still hungry or if things needed to settle a little bit.
One big mistake a lot of people make after their plate is empty is to immediately start refilling it. Although the mashed potatoes were extra garlicky and delicious this year, you have to take time to let your body catch up with your mouth to know if you can really eat another plate. If you’re full, no one will judge you if you take a break, especially because if you’re hungry later on you know what you’ll be eating.
Make Sure To Get Some Veggies
Thanksgiving dinner is literally a feast, so even if you do eat breakfast and drink water, you are still bombarded by all the different types of food you can and probably will eat. Thanksgiving is notorious for being a little low on vegetables.
Around most tables you will find a green bean casserole and sweet potatoes, but both have their original flavors hidden with fatty, sugary goodness. While the veggies are in there, these dishes are not a great source of the good stuff.
Our advice is to buck the tradition and find ways to get more veggies on the table for the big meal. It will help boost fiber in everyone’s diets and will make a big plate look more beautiful. It will also get you the right things your body needs at the right quantity.
Fresh green beans instead of casserole add a pop of beautiful color and crunch to a basically soggy meal. Make savory, sweet mashed potatoes and knock out the regular potatoes for a healthier and colorful alternative. Because of the natural flavor of sweet potatoes, this will also cut out the need for potato gravy, which is just a bunch of unnecessary calories and butter.
Canned cranberries, while being delicious, are also a culprit of high sugar and unnecessary carbs. Fixing up these dishes in new and exciting ways, even if they are healthy, will impress your family and will have them filling their plate with the good stuff.
Build The Better, Healthier Plate
Plates are also important during the big day. A lot of plates are themed. Some are just plain. But, all plates have two circles: The outer circle and the inner circle. The outer circle is where people tend to fill their plates up to—seeing how much potatoes can be packed on top of the rim without spilling over the side.
Fill your plate up the right way. Load up with lots of protein (turkey and ham) and a big portion of veggies. Sure, you can have some of the less healthy stuff, but get the good stuff first and most! Also, make sure you’re only filling up to the inner circle of your plate. Most people think they need a whole plate’s worth or more. But, if you’re eating the right things, you’ll be more full and more satisfied.
You’ll also want to include some stuffing, gravy and dressing on your plate. We get that and you should definitely partake in some of that deliciousness. Just remember to keep it at a minimum.
Stuffing is loaded with calories, fat, sugars and salts. A little certainly goes a long way. If you’re able to make the stuffing yourself, try a hearty veggie-based version with lots of kale and winter squash. Both of these veggies are delicious on their own so all you have to do is sprinkle on some pepper and you are good to go!
Special Turkey And Ham Hacks For A Healthier Thanksgiving Meal
So we’ve finally made it to the turkey and the ham: The most important part of the big day. It has to be perfectly basted with butter and the fat that has dripped off of the turkey. While the turkey is delicious this way, there are alternatives.
If you have to use butter, cut it down by half, and use a lot of other flavors with it as well. Citrus, onions and garlic are all perfect to roast with the turkey. The flavors will not only fill the turkey with a great taste, but your house will smell amazing too. Rub herbs and lemon all over your turkey. And, you could stuff apples and pears where you would put breadcrumbs. If you do it this way once, you will want to make it this way all the time.
We all know the best way to cook a ham is smothered in brown sugar and baked until cooked straight through with a light browning happening on the edges. But, this year you should use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar. You can also consider molasses and other spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger to give your ham that kick and sweetness you crave. This switch alone can cut out a bunch of unwanted calories and have your family begging for the recipe.
Make Dessert A Delight, Not A Disaster
After getting through the loads of food in the typical Thanksgiving Day dinner, you can’t stop with the last bite of turkey or mashed potatoes. You’ll also have to get some dessert and this could be the hardest part to avoid.
Be careful not to eat dessert right after your meal is done. This is a big mistake a lot of people make. Sure, that pie is delicious, but it can wait. Trust us, it will be there if you wait for an hour and you’ll be able to better enjoy it if you’ve let your dinner settle a little.
Your stomach needs time to properly digest all the food you just had. Stuffing yourself further with a piece of pumpkin or pecan pie, while delicious, won’t help a thing. Also, you have to resist the urge to cover your pie in whipped cream. This is an empty calorie. You don’t need it and you can still taste the delicious pie without it.
If you get to decide the dessert options, remember that there are also a ton of healthy alternatives to just making three pies for everyone to eat. Don’t hesitate to try something a bit different.
Baked apples are delicious. It’s a lot easier to make than you might think. Just core out some apples, fill them with oats, cinnamon, raisins and anything else you desire and then bake them for 15 minutes. These will taste like a dessert, but feel a lot less heavy on the stomach later. It also cuts out some of the dough you would be forced to use if you only made pies that are full of butter and empty calories.
The holidays are a scary time for our waistlines. The cooler weather always has us grabbing our big, warm clothes and hiding inside with cups of cocoa and sweet treats, watching movies and skipping workouts. Although it can be hard to stay on track during holiday dinners, just learning to substitute veggies in for a lot of different things can help a great deal.
In the end, the holidays are for getting together. Deleting a couple of high fat, high-calorie options on the table won’t hurt all your fun. In fact, it could make it more enjoyable and much more friendly to your waistline!
By Becky Bickel