The holiday season can be a perilous time for people who are trying to avoid weight gain or simply make healthier food choices. As the official kickoff of the holiday feasting season, Thanksgiving is just the first of several back-to-back holidays on which overindulgence is not only sanctioned but expected. Admit to others around the Thanksgiving table that you’re watching your waistline, and they’ll practically make it their duty to ply you with irresistible foods! But “falling off the wagon” on Thanksgiving could very well start you on a downward spiral that erases all your healthy gains quicker than you can say “cranberry sauce.”
Here are some simple tips that will help you stand your ground and enjoy holiday dining without the guilt:
Remember what you’re thankful for
A good job, a sturdy house, a decent car, and a child’s good grades are all things you should be thankful for. But you should also be grateful for having the fortitude to persevere with a nutritious diet. After all, eating healthier means you’re more likely to be around to experience all the wonderful blessings and exciting milestones life has in store for you. Don’t let a single meal undermine all your efforts!
Don’t fast in anticipation
It’s not uncommon for people to consume an entire day’s worth (or more) of calories at Thanksgiving and other holiday feasts, so it would seem logical to skip breakfast and lunch in anticipation of the big meal ahead. But this all-too-common mistake will leave you feeling famished—and virtually certain to overindulge—by the time you’re sitting down for dinner. Eat a wholesome, sensible breakfast and lunch ahead of the feast, and you’ll have much more self-control come dinnertime.
Beware Deadly Double Duty!
As most couples can attest, “Double Duty”—having to show up for two holiday meals in the same day (one with both sets of parents)—often comes with the territory of a committed relationship. However, on a day when overeating is the norm, Double Duty can equal double jeopardy to your waistline. That means you have to be doubly vigilant against overindulgence.
The key in this situation is to be very selective in the foods you eat at each meal and keep your portions very small. For instance, you might choose to eat stuffing at your mother’s but forgo it at your mother-in-law’s or vice versa (depending on whose dish you prefer). Of course, dessert should be enjoyed at only one location, as well.
Use the “sampler plate” approach
Fill approximately half of your plate with healthy vegetables and fruits and the rest with a sampling (just a small spoonful) from each of your favorite dishes. That way, you’ll have an opportunity to enjoy a taste of all your favorites without overdoing it. If there are sides on the table that you aren’t particularly interested in or that you know will trigger an urge to overeat, don’t feel you need to eat them just to be polite. Also, be sure to fill your plate only one time—no going back for seconds!
Soda pop and alcoholic beverages contain a lot of empty calories. Why not opt to drink water instead? For a little zing, you can always squeeze a little lemon juice into it. Add a packet of granulated stevia to the mix and you’ve got a refreshing, calorie-free lemonade. Drinking water will also increase your sense of satiety—or fullness—so you will be less inclined to eat as much food.
During dinner, take small bites, chew slowly, and savor what you have in front of you. Occasionally, put your fork down and just enjoy the conversation. This will give your brain time to receive the message that your stomach is getting full.
Be mindful of “extras”
Continually circulating around every holiday table is a basket full of bread, rolls, biscuits, or croissants—often liberally buttered to make them even more tantalizing to the taste buds. Be aware of how many calories these little “extras” can add to your holiday meal. Your best bet is to enjoy one helping the first time around and then just pass the basket along whenever it comes your way again. ❦