The holiday season only comes around once a year, and it's easy to splurge and pack on a pound or two — or 10. But celebrating Thanksgiving does not mean you have to sacrifice your figure, which is something to be truly thankful for. With a few easy tips, you can have your favorite traditional foods and still enjoy a guilt-free holiday — without the weight gain.
Exercising at the beginning of your day will create a calorie deficit before you even indulge in mashed potatoes and gravy.
In general, eating less and exercising more is the key to preventing weight gain over the holidays, but if you can get active in the days before Thanksgiving and even the day of the big feast, your body will be better prepared to take on the stuffing.
Thanksgiving meals often include a beautiful table filled with family favorites and a huge bounty of food, but the holiday doesn’t have to be a day of overeating and stomach aches. Before you load up your plate, decide what you are going to choose and get reasonable portions. And try to resist the temptation to go back and fill up on second helpings. Portion control is a simple way to make sure you aren’t overeating — it’s the self control that is the hard part.
A good piece of advice is to fill your plate with your favorite foods or traditional dishes that only come around once a year, rather than foods you might have year round. Don’t waste calories on something you might eat next Friday night. Instead think about making your meal special and enjoyable.
It might seem like a good plan to save up for the big meal, but by eating a small meal in the morning you can gain more control over your appetite. Eating something packed with fiber and protein, like whole wheat toast with peanut butter, takes the edge off of your appetite and allows you to make better Thanksgiving meal choices.
In some cases, it might be best to choose one dish over the other. Opting for white over dark turkey meat will save you 50 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving. Choosing green bean casserole over sweet potato casserole will save you 124 calories. Surprisingly, gravy over cranberries is a better turkey topper choice that will save you 80 calories per serving.
Choosing a dinner roll with butter over 3/4 cup of stuffing will save you 231 calories and 14.5 grams of fat. And at 316 calories and 14 grams of fat per slice, pumpkin pie is a better choice over apple pie, which will cost you 411 calories and 19 grams of fat per slice.
If you are the chef, you can of course make your dishes healthier. Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make your own gravy. Use sugar substitutes like agave nectar or stevia instead of sugar; fruit purees instead of oil in baked goods; plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in dips, mashed potatoes and casseroles; and reduce the amount of oil and butter you use whenever possible.
There are tons of healthy recipes out there. Try one of these 17 stuffing recipes that range from low-calorie to vegan.
Eating your Thanksgiving feast slowly and really enjoying the taste each mouthful brings is another great way to enjoy a meal without putting on the pounds. If you eat slowly, you are more likely to feel satisfied after one full plate of food.
Try putting your fork down between bites. Adding foods with lots of water and fiber is also a way to add to your feeling of fullness so you are less likely to feel the need to eat it all.
Make the holiday fun by spending time with family and friends outside of the dinner table. Spread out the food and fun all day long by taking walks in between meals, playing a game of flag football in the backyard or setting up Twister in the living room. Create new traditions around activities to get the entire family involved.
Thanksgiving is around the corner and so are thousands of calories. But by following these tips, you can have a thinner Thanksgiving and focus on having a good time in the kitchen rather than how tight your pants might be the week after.
Joshua R. D. Martin is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (Go Bucky!) and became passionate about fitness and its life changing benefits while in graduate school. This led to him founding the boutique studio chain Orange Shoe Personal Fitness and now helping the world become a fitter place by connecting fitness professionals and clients as Head of Sales & Marketing at Find Your Trainer.