Thanksgiving is around the corner, and it’s the perfect time to start preparing for the holiday. But don’t limit planning to the basics, like travel arrangements, table settings and recipes. This year, make eating well and getting the most out of the holiday part of your plan. Let this Thanksgiving be happy and healthy.
Make Thanksgiving A Time of Thanks, With No Regrets
Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude and celebration when we gather with friends and family to enjoy a special meal. We all have our Thanksgiving feast favorites — whether it’s the amazing dish someone brings every year, the crowd-pleasing recipe you love making, or that traditional plate that’s always on your holiday table.
There’s no doubt this holiday centers around food, which can make it challenging for anyone worried about overindulging or making unhealthy choices. But, with a bit of planning, you can put your worries to rest. Believe it or not, it’s possible to enjoy Thanksgiving — and the foods you look forward to — and feel good about yourself and your eating choices afterward.
Make a Thanksgiving Meal Plan to Stay on Track
When you want to succeed, you make a plan. Healthy eating is no different. During the holidays, it’s even more important. That’s because holidays take us out of our routine and include more social events — often, with plenty of overindulgence.
Consider what derails your healthy eating track. Is it eating too much of something you can’t resist? Is it snacking throughout the day? Is it feeling deprived and deciding to throw caution to the wind and deal with it tomorrow? Think about strategies to beat whatever sabotages your healthy-eating efforts. Visualize yourself making a good choice in these situations.
And remember: If your plan doesn’t succeed, that’s OK. It gives you a chance to explore what how you can handle it better next time. When your plan succeeds, give yourself credit, and consider what worked well.
How to Go in Strong (and Smart) Before Your Thanksgiving Meal
Start Thanksgiving Day out right by practicing some healthy habits. When you’re feeling good, you’re more likely to make positive choices.
- Eat before dinner. When you’re hungry, it’s hard to make good choices. Try this:
- Eat a healthy breakfast and lunch.
- If you’re spending the day preparing or helping someone else, make sure there are veggies to snack on, so you’re not tempted by other, less-than-ideal choices.
- If you’re traveling, bring your own snacks, so you aren’t caught hungry without a healthy option.
- Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Exercise. Exercise burns calories, relieves stress and boosts self-confidence. When you feel healthier and better about yourself, you’re more likely to make better eating choices. Do a Thanksgiving turkey trot, run around outside with the kids, or go for a walk after dinner. Don’t have time? Do a 10-minute walk a few times during the day.
- If you’re cooking, make healthy modifications. Look for recipes online that offer lighter, healthier versions of your favorites. Substitute low- or non-fat dairy products for whole-milk versions, nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream or apple sauce instead of butter in desserts. If you over-sample while cooking, chew gum.
Food and Drink Tips Around the Table
Once you arrive at your destination or your guests arrive at your house, try these strategies to eat well.
- Avoid or limit alcohol. When you drink, the first thing to go is judgment. Drinking can also stimulate your appetite. Together, these can sabotage even the healthiest eater. If you drink, try to limit yourself to one, and then sip on sparkling water.
- Choose portions well. Take smaller servings of heavy, high-calorie foods and fill your plate with healthier foods like salads and veggies. You don’t have to skip your favorites — just enjoy them in moderation.
- Know your temptations. If you can’t resist chips, don’t stand next to them. Be honest with yourself about the foods you want to avoid and plan how to do that. Or, give yourself a small portion to enjoy in moderation.
- It isn’t “now or never.” Don’t justify overeating because you can only get that favorite treat once a year — pumpkin pie, cookies and other holiday treats are available year-round. You don’t have to eat them now as though there won’t be another chance.
- Take it slow and enjoy. It takes more than 10 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full. Slowing down can help you eat less. Savor and enjoy every bite. If you want seconds, wait 10 or 15 minutes, drink water, and focus on the conversation. After a break, you may not want seconds after all.
It’s the People, Not the Food
The Thanksgiving feast may be the center of the table, but it’s not the most important part of the event. This holiday lets you reflect on what you’re thankful for and connect with people you enjoy and cherish.
Before the day, set a few nonfood-related goals, such as:
- Connect with someone new. Talk to someone you don’t typically interact with or meet someone new and get to know them.
- Find commonalities. Find something in common with that eccentric in-law of yours.
- Get the conversation going. At the table, ask a fun, engaging question like: Where’s the worst place you’ve ever slept? What was your best memory this year so far? Or, ask some Thanksgiving-focused trivia questions.
Make this holiday an event you look back on with joy and gratitude.