Thanksgiving is just days away, and if you’re like us, your mouth is already watering for the delicious dishes and desserts that await. Fortunately, you don’t have to totally cut out everything that makes Thanksgiving great just to enjoy a healthier holiday this year. Here are five simple tips for making the most of the day without overdoing it.
Start with Realistic Expectations
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that Thanksgiving only comes around once a year. For most people, the portion sizes and food selections seen on Thanksgiving would be otherwise incompatible with their everyday diet — and that’s OK.
Before you ever get your first helping, set some realistic expectations about what you want to eat and what you’ll try to avoid. We say “realistic” because we know how hard it’ll be to resist a piece of pumpkin pie or an extra serving of mashed potatoes. Do your best to avoid poor eating choices, but no matter what, don’t let one day of indulgence ruin your healthy eating habits altogether.
Eat Breakfast Beforehand
It might seem like a good idea to skip breakfast altogether on Thanksgiving to save your calorie intake for the big meal later in the day, but that may actually make you more prone to overindulgence.
When you wake up on Thanksgiving Day, eat a light, nutritious breakfast as you normally would. And if you get hungry a little bit later before Thanksgiving dinner, don’t be afraid to grab a healthy snack. By getting enough to eat throughout the day, you’ll be far more likely to enjoy more reasonable portion sizes later.
Look for Lighter Ingredients
If you’re going to be helping out with preparing the food for everyone, you’ll have a good opportunity to make the meal healthier for everyone. When possible, try substituting some of the more high-calorie ingredients in your recipes with lighter options. It could be as simple as using a lower-calorie alternative to butter in your baked items or as intense as swapping mashed potatoes for mashed cauliflower. Either way, the little things you do when you put together your menu can add up in a big way at mealtime.
Load up the Veggies
Let’s face it, Thanksgiving is about big appetites. Unfortunately, satisfying that appetite with things like mashed potatoes, stuffing, or desserts comes with the price of an extraordinary amount of calories.
It’s okay to eat a little bit more than you’re used to on Thanksgiving, but you can limit the number of calories you eat by opting for nutrient-rich sides such as green beans, asparagus, carrots, baby corn, and squash. Load up your plate with these non-starchy vegetables — they’re filling, they’re tasty, and they’re far better for you than most dishes served on Thanksgiving.
With football on TV and plenty of food to enjoy, the temptation to stay on the couch is real. Fight the temptation and get to the gym for a quick workout or take part in one of Maryland’s many “turkey trots” before Thanksgiving dinner. Or you can go for a brisk walk after you’re done eating with your family.
It’s not just about burning calories because there are so many health benefits of exercise. Just do what you can to add some extra movement into your day so that you can enjoy a guilt-free Thanksgiving.