Thanksgiving is a special holiday where we give thanks and express our gratitude for all that we have in life. It is a time of year to gather with loved ones around the table and enjoy decadent Thanksgiving dishes such as turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie, and other festive foods. This holiday is centered around food, and it can be easy to overeat to an unhealthy extent. While it is ok to enjoy Thanksgiving indulgences, it is important to be mindful of what and especially how you are eating. When we overload on calories, our blood sugar spikes and then drops, which results in feeling tired and sluggish. By design, our bodies crave food for energy when we are feeling fatigued. High amounts of salt, sugar and saturated fats can make us bloated and uncomfortable. All of these effects carry over into the next day, and contribute to weight gain.
Eating healthy at Thanksgiving does not at all mean opting out of your favorite foods! Private Home Health Care always encourages striving for balance, and though Thanksgiving is a day of indulgence, it is possible to find a middle ground. The key to doing Thanksgiving right is mindfulness and having a strategy. By mindfulness we mean focusing on how you are eating and celebrating the holiday. Here are some strategies for Thanksgiving:
-Do not skip breakfast. We repeat – do not skip breakfast or any meals! When you miss a meal, you are more likely to overeat later. By eating a nice, healthy breakfast with plenty of protein and fiber, blood sugar is stable, and the metabolism keeps running at a normal speed. The metabolism slows when you skip meals and does not burn calories as effectively. We recommend a plant based breakfast that is light but filling, such as oatmeal with nuts, a JuicePlus smoothie or tofu scramble.
-Stay hydrated! It can be easy to forget to drink water throughout the busy day, but it is so important for healthy digestion, energy levels, and overall well being. This is especially so when consuming alcohol, try to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage. When we are dehydrated, we are more likely to overeat because the body can confuse thirst with hunger.
-Slow it down: take your time when eating. Enjoy every bite, savor the flavors and textures of a delicious Thanksgiving meal. Take small bites, chew slowly and put your fork down often. Breathe deep and let yourself relish the moment. Sip water throughout the meal. You can even wear a watch to remember to pace yourself.
-Half and two quarters rule: Aim to load up half of your plate with veggies, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with carbs. Also, no matter how hungry you are, try not to fill up on bread or appetizers!
-Bite-sized is best: With so many delicious options, it can be easy to overload your plate. For those who have eyes bigger than our stomachs, serve yourself a two-bite sized portion of everything. If you really enjoy it, have another two-bite sized serving.
-Second (or third) is not always best: Additional helpings leads to overeating. If you are tempted, wait at least 20 minutes before refilling your plate because that is the amount of time it takes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you are full.
-Walk it out: Try your best not to pass out on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner, but rather to go for a light walk. This helps with digestion, gives you a break from eating, and distracts in case you are tempted to overeat. It can be a good idea to even get two walks in on Thanksgiving day – one in the morning to give you a break from cooking and prepping, and one after.
-Tea party: With so many delicious options, it is not hard to go overboard on dessert. Make yourself a hot cup of tea right before beginning the dessert course. It can help both with pacing yourself while you indulge in pies, cookies and cakes, as well as aid with digestion. Peppermint or ginger tea are great options.
-No pressure: do not let anyone pressure you to have another serving, a bigger serving, or eat more than you are comfortable with. Some homes and cultures emphasize finishing your entire plate, but that is where mindfulness comes in – start with a two-bite serving of everything, that way no one is offended that you did not eat. Another strategy to try if there are comments made is to change the subject and politely offer to refill drinks – everyone will take you up on that. If Aunt Carol keeps insisting that you try her (questionable) hot dog jello salad, kindly say that you will try it in a little while because you are so full, after some time passes she will most likely forget.
-Leave it for leftovers: If you really loved something but are full, save it for later. There are always plenty of Thanksgiving leftovers and they are just as tasty the day after!
-Keeping drinking: Sip water throughout the entire day, especially in the hours following the meal. Continue to hydrate the day after for healthy digestion and to keep your system fresh. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water throughout both days, but more is better.
-Stay smiling: You tried not to, but ended up overeating this year at Thanksgiving, and that is ok! Do not beat yourself up or feel guilty about it, this happens to everyone occasionally. Stay smiling, remember gratitude in that you were able to enjoy such a delicious feast, and move on! During the next day or two, make extra effort to hydrate, get plenty of rest, and go for light walks.