Don’t Overeat on Thanksgiving: 5 Tips for a Healthy Holiday

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and Americans are already loosening their belts for the biggest food holiday of the year, which is known to devastate just about any diet. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes close to 4,500 calories on the fourth Thursday of November, and that’s not even taking into account the next day’s leftovers binge.

It goes without saying that as the holidays approach, there’s an excitement that is palpable in the air. However, for many, there is also stress and dread involved, and that’s especially the case for those who don’t want to pack on “the festive 15.” Luckily there’s a way to have your turkey on Thanksgiving and avoid the food guilt, too – it just takes a little self-control and cognizance. Here are five tried-and-true tricks to avoid stuffing yourself like the iconic bird on Thanksgiving, so you don’t kick off the holiday eating season on the wrong foot. Keep these in mind and you’ll go to bed satisfied — but not stuffed — on Thanksgiving night, and will even have an appetite for leftovers the next day.

Turkey, thanksgiving, holiday, dinner

Source: iStock

1. Eat breakfast and normal-size meals pre-feast

This is perhaps the most important tip to remember, and one that Americans all too quickly accidentally (or deliberately) forget. Fasting before your Thanksgiving feast is a surefire way to end up in a food coma post-meal. Starving yourself until turkey time only leads to binging on the fattiest food at the dinner table.

Bistro MD recommends that you eat a substantial protein-based breakfast, and protein-packed snacks throughout the day. Those meals will keep you satiated, your blood sugar in order, and won’t leave you ravenous when turkey time finally arrives.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

2. Drink water throughout the day, and watch those calorie-heavy beverages

Another way  Americans rack up the calories on turkey day is by drinking them. And while everyone deserves to indulge a little on the holiday, it is still important to watch your alcohol consumption. Too much wine will not only put you in the calorie dog-house before the meal even starts – it can also activate your hunger signals. According to a study’s results highlighted by Livestrong, a hunger-increasing hormone, gelanin, is produced when alcohol is consumed. And gelanin not only stimulates your hunger, it specifically stimulates your appetite for fatty foods, which is bad news for your self-control potential on one of the fattiest food holidays of the year.

In addition, make sure you drink water alongside your other festive drinks, as water will not only keep you hydrated – it will keep you satiated, too.

Waldorf salad

Source: iStock

3. Fill up half your dinner plate with veggies or other low-cal options

We know the turkey and stuffing are what you typically go for first, but as dietician Danielle Omar tells Washingtonian, “Eat the veggies and salad first, probably the protein next, and last, the high-fat, high-calorie carbs.” You can only eat so much food before you pop, and it’s better to fill up on fiber-packed veggies than fat-packed carbs.

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

4. Healthify your favorite classic dishes

Thanksgiving food is rooted in tradition, and there are some dishes that should never change. But one way to eat your calorie bombs and enjoy them, too, is to substitute in healthier ingredients when you can, and see if you can spot the difference. Spoiler alert: A lot of the time, you can’t.

Jennifer K. Nelson, a registered dietitian and director of clinical dietetics at the Mayo Clinic, provided some ideas on and even pinpointed dishes that are especially easy to transform. Instead of adding loads of butter to your classic mashed potatoes, she recommends mixing in chicken broth, herbs, or roasted garlic. For dips, she encourages you sub in Greek yogurt for sour cream. And for casserole dishes, she says to swap out topper like fried onions (with the green beans) and marshmallows (with the sweet potatoes) for healthier alternatives like heart-healthy nuts.

Turkey Thanksgiving Dinner, stuffing, potatoes, gravy

Source: iStock

5. Don’t treat Thanksgiving as your last meal on Earth

The last thing you can do to avoid stuffing yourself like a turkey on Thanksgiving is simply changing your mindset about the meal. Because turkey day comes but once a year, many Americans treat it as their only chance to eat all the turkey, all the mashed potatoes, all the stuffing, and all the pie, when in reality, many consumers have leftovers for days, and there is no law demanding that you not serve turkey any other day for dinner. This year, if you’re trying to watch your calories around the holiday season, relax as Thanksgiving approaches, and simply treat it as any other meal you’re sharing with your family and friends. Leftovers will be there the next morning, and if you’re not eating your meal at home, request to take some home so you can eat with the comfort of knowing that this really isn’t your last bite of turkey for the next 364 days.

More from Life Cheat Sheet: