Your Thanksgiving Survival Kit

Does Thanksgiving usually spell the beginning of the end of your hard fought healthy eating efforts? Use these strategies to keep Thanksgiving a fun and healthy time of year!

By Mike Inglis

With Thanksgiving Day right around the corner, you may have begun already fretting about how much food you are going to eat. As we all know, it's a day famous for its indulgences and, for many, an annual ritual of overeating and then lounging lazily for the rest of the day watching football games, napping, and spending time with family and friends.

Thanksgiving Can Be Challenging
I'm personally gearing up for Thanksgiving mentally for the next couple of days. My mantra is "I won't overeat, I won't overeat, I won't overeat!!" Diana and I are going into an environment where food is pretty much available 24/7 for the next 3 days and it's so easy to fall into the old habits of not worrying about what I eat. We'll probably go out to eat on Wednesday and then Thursday will be a food fest that I usually dig into with gusto.

But that just doesn't cut it these days. My body doesn't REALLY enjoy it (even though my old habits say it's what I'm SUPPOSED to do at Thanksgiving) and the extra calories just aren't worth it. But most of all, I don't want the MINDSET that I can just let go and do what I want, not what I should.

Survival Strategies!
The good news is that there are some simple changes I am going to make to my Thanksgiving plans this year. It will save me some calories (without sacrificing taste). But more importantly, it will give me the self-confidence to continue thinking and doing what I SHOULD, and not just what I WANT.

So here are some easy strategies for keeping in the spirit of Thanksgiving without eating until you feel like a stuffed bird:

  1. Fit it all on one plate. Prevent over-stuffing yourself by fitting your Thanksgiving feast all on one plate (This works best if you don't use an oversized plate filled to the brim). Avoid going back for seconds. If you're tempted to return for more, drink a glass of water and give yourself 20 minutes (about how long it takes to feel full) first.
  2. Eat slowly. Thanksgiving foods are likely to be richer and more filling than your everyday fare, so eat slowly and enjoy every bite. This also buys you time for you to feel full.
  3. Enjoy the company of family and friends. Socialize during your meal and festivities. You can't eat and talk at the same time -- so the more conversation you enjoy, the less you'll eat.
  4. Get moving. Go for a long walk after eating or get a workout in before the party begins. Spend your Thanksgiving morning getting some exercise. Not only will you burn some calories, but you'll be able to get outside and enjoy the outdoors with family and friends!

And finally,
5. Make some easy Turkey day substitutions! Here are a few ideas to make traditional foods more healthy:

  • Eat the white meat without the skin instead of the dark meat with skin and shave off 190 calories.
    Turkey -- white meat, no skin (6oz): 180 calories, 3g fat
    Turkey - dark meat, with skin (6oz): 370 calories, 20g fat
  • Make your own cranberries rather than the jellied stuff and save 120 calories.
    Cranberries (boiled in sugar) (1/2 cup): 100 calories, <1g fat
    Jellied cranberry sauce (1/2 cup): 220 calories, <1g fat

  • Eliminate the marshmallows on your sweet potatoes and instead add a little bit of spice to save 100 calories.
    Sweet potatoes, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg (2/3c): 200 calories, 3g fat
    Candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows (2/3c): 300 calories, 3g fat

  • Skip the green bean casserole and instead just steam some green beans and cut 110 calories.
    Steamed green beans (1/2C): 20 calories, <1g fat
    Green bean casserole (1/2C): 130 calories, 7 g fat

  • Choose pumpkin pie over the pecan pie for dessert and decrease your caloric intake by 160 calories.
    Pumpkin pie (1/8 pie): 340 calories, 15g fat
    Pecan pie (1/8 pie): 500 calories, 25g fat

Add it all up and you find that you've saved yourself 650 calories.
More Healthy Total: 850 calories, 23g fat
Less Healthy Total: 1500 calories, 56g fat

Your Personal Victory!
There are 3,500 calories in a pound, so if you calculate the calorie savings from these substitutions, you will find that you saved yourself nearly 1/4 pound weight gain! That's not including the other four other tips above that will help you eat less and move more and save yourself from holiday weight gain.

But in addition to the calories, you will feel EMPOWERED about your ability to make small changes that are better for you. You can distance yourself just a bit from old, unhealthy cravings and realize that you CAN make changes that are good for you, even at Thanksgiving, without losing the fun of eating and celebrating with family and friends.

So try adding a few new traditions to your holiday this year by following these suggestions. You will save some unwanted pounds....but more importantly, you will achieve a Personal Victory that you can carry with you into the rest of the holiday season!

This article was written by my husband, Mike, for our friends and clients at Empowered Fitness in Half Moon Bay.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Christa Bigue November 21, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Very useful and practical tips, Mike! Your Thanksgiving survival strategies are actually something everyone can apply all year round to eating, not just on a gluttonous holiday. Thanks for the great information.
Mike Inglis November 22, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Thanks Christa...and so true that these ideas can be used year round! It's hard making these choices when you're in the moment. But you feel SO much better afterwards when you succeed in even making one small change.


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