If, like me, you want to eat healthy at Thanksgiving without feeling confined to the vegetable tray, then you might consider these five simple strategies I plan on using to eat healthy at Thanksgiving dinner.
1. Eat a healthy snack shortly before the actual dinner begins. Nothing fancy here. Perhaps a small plate of vegetables or some fruit and yogurt with a glass of water an hour before go-time. I know me well. If I “save my appetite” for when a buffet of sweet and savory dishes is set out before me, I’ll be so hungry, I’ll overeat. This year, I plan on coming to the table mildly full so that I can choose to eat the foods that appeal to me without feeling the need to prepare for a yearlong famine.
2. Fill your plate with meat and vegetables first. Preventing another year of overeating will be made easier if I start with food that will satiate my appetite. Jello salad and chocolate dipped strawberries aren’t them. This part of the meal is all about protein and fiber. As a good rule of thumb, I plan on filling one-third of my plate with some sort of meat and the remaining two-thirds with healthier vegetables. This isn’t designed to be some sort of punishment. It’s more of a healthy head start towards sensible eating.
3. Wait at least 5-minutes before dishing up desserts. I’ve read in a number of places that your body takes so long to register that it is full. This strategy has little to do with that. Rather, this 5-minutes of wait time is for you to consciously decide which desserts, if any, you want to enjoy (notice I did say enjoy). One habit that I am currently working on changing is my gut-reaction to sweets. I’m now at a point where I don’t eat them as often as I used to. One way I did that is instituting a period of waiting as a form of impulse control.
When you see that pumpkin pie, candied yam, German chocolate cake, or what have you, quietly tell yourself to wait 5-minutes. If, after those 300-seconds are up and you still want the dessert, have at it. It’s no longer a spur-of-the-moment indulgence. Instead, it is you controlling what you put into your body, which is a win no matter how you look at it.
4. Drink mostly water. Notice I didn’t say only water. If I’m being honest here, I’ll be the first in line if anyone shows up with some eggnog. You can bet that I’m pouring myself a cup! But I’m definitely going to start my meal with water and have plenty of it. One benefit to this strategy is that it ensures that most of the calories you consume are from actual foods. But another benefit is that drinking water fills you up. I’m not encouraging anyone to fill their stomach with water to avoid eating too many calories (counting calories can suck it!). And that’s just not smart. Often, being thirsty can mask itself with the same feelings of being hungry. Only, your body needs water, not food. Drinking enough water at the dinner table will ensure that you don’t overeat and under-hydrate, a bad combination that leaves you still feeling hungry.
5. Mentally prepare yourself for dinner. If these strategies were in order of importance, this one would be first. To emphasize it’s importance here, I saved it for last. Starting now, think about all the foods and drinks that might be served for Thanksgiving dinner (Bonus, call the cook and ask what the menu includes). Decide whether there are any foods or drinks that you just won’t eat because of the physical, emotional, or psychological consequences those foods or drinks bring with them. Deciding how you will respond to it now rather than in the moment is a big proactive step in the right direction.
Thanksgiving, along with the rest of the holiday season is a time to enjoy the company of friends and family. Don’t let what you do and don’t eat distract you from the time you have with those whom you choose to surround yourself. At the same time, know that you can still be in control of how you choose to celebrate when it comes to the food you put into your body.