It’s pretty hard to beat Thanksgiving. I mean, what other holiday revolves around eating as much as you want, day drinking and sitting on your ass watching football and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? It’s genius. I love it.
BUT...the indulgent nature of Thanksgiving is a slippery slope that can lead to packing on the pounds throughout the holiday season. The average American might consume 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat during a typical holiday gathering. That’s insane. And it guarantees that you'll wake up Friday morning with a sugar hangover and a belly that shakes like a bowlful of jelly.
Don’t despair. There is another way. Here are my top 10 tips for making it through Thanksgiving feeling (semi) healthy.
Get a good workout in. Thanksgiving morning is a great time to work up a sweat, especially since you (hopefully) don’t need to go into the office. Every year, I run the 5-mile Turkey Trot through Golden Gate Park with my brother and husband – it burns calories and starts the day in a healthy way (plus it’s fun and they have snacks at the finish line).
Eat a healthy breakfast (and lunch). Skipping meals will only set you up to gorge later, so make time for a filling breakfast that incorporates healthy protein, fat and carbs. Think scrambled eggs with avocado and wheat toast, oatmeal with almond butter and berries or a green smoothie with protein powder. If your Thanksgiving meal doesn’t start until later, add a soup or salad for lunch too.
Wear tight clothes. Let’s be clear – I’m not advising you to wear a Herve Leger bandage dress to your family gathering. But do keep in mind that anything boxy, baggy or elastic-waisted will make you that much more likely to overeat. Skinny jeans or a pencil skirt will force you to take notice when that belly starts to get full. And no, unbuttoning is not recommended.
Bring a guilt-free side dish. You can’t control what your family or friends serve, but you can bring your own healthy contribution. Options like a green salad, a loaf of crusty whole-grain bread, or a veggies-and-hummus app are easy and will earn you major kudos from your host. I usually roast butternut squash and apple wedges in coconut oil with a little cinnamon and maple syrup and serve warm. It’s healthy, festive, fast and delicious.
Go slow on the hors d’oeuvres. Trust me: you will not go hungry. There will be plenty of food at the main meal, including dessert, so resist the urge to stuff yourself with deviled eggs or spinach and artichoke dip. If you must nibble, choose something with satiating protein like roasted nuts or a shrimp cocktail.
Load up on healthy choices. Once you’re seated in front of piles of mouthwatering food, it’s easy to get overexcited. Calm yourself. First, survey the scene to know your options. Then fill the 3/4 of your plate with healthy picks like salad, roasted brussels sprouts and lean turkey breast. That will leave just a little room for fun extras.
Indulge wisely. Go ahead, treat yoself – this is a holiday, after all! Just choose the guilty pleasures you really love and leave the rest. Not obsessed with creamy mashed potatoes, but drooling over the cornbread? Go with the cornbread. Choosing between store-bought sugar cookies and your grandma’s famous pecan pie? Go with the pie. You get the idea.
Drink water. It will keep you hydrated, fill you up, and slow down your food and alcohol consumption throughout the day. Try to drink one cup of water for every glass of wine/beer/champagne/eggnog.
Just say no to leftovers. I know it’s hard. But this will prevent one day of unhealthy eating from turning into a weekend-long binge. If you gotta take something home, choose turkey or vegetables. And no, pumpkin pie does not count as a vegetable.
Schedule a workout for the next day. Book a class you love, meet a friend for a bike ride, or take advantage of the practically-empty gym...whatever it is that gets you moving. My plan this Friday is to head up to Marin for a hike, work off some of my aunt’s amazing stuffing and start the weekend off on the right foot.
I’ll be doing my best to follow these tips on Thursday (hey, I’m only human). Let me know how they work for you in the comments below...and have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!