Thanksgiving is all about friends, family, and of course, food. If you’re wondering how to gather with loved ones, give thanks, and celebrate the occasion – without compromising your balanced diet – you’re not alone. With the help of Dr. Krista Gonzales, an endocrinologist at ThedaCare certified in obesity medicine, we’ve rounded up a few tips to help you enjoy the festivities, without going overboard.
1. Eat a Good Breakfast
Not what you were expecting? It might sound counterintuitive, but starting Thanksgiving day with a well-balanced breakfast is a great way to avoid temptation later.
“Foregoing breakfast or lunch to ‘save room’ for Thanksgiving dinner could have a negative result,” said Dr. Gonzales. “Skipping meals will almost always cause ghrelin and other hunger hormones to surge and lead to overeating later in the day.”
A good breakfast will help dampen the rise in these hunger hormones and assist you in staving off the urge to overeat. We suggest fiber- and protein-rich breakfast foods, such as egg whites, Greek yogurt, whole-wheat toast, or oatmeal with ½ cup of fruit.
2. Pay Attention to Portions
Portion control and Thanksgiving don’t typically go hand-in-hand, but you might be surprised how little of each traditional holiday dish you need to feel satisfied. Instead of heaping servings of all your favorites, aim for smaller portions of a variety of foods.
“Ideally, your dinner plate should consist of half non-starchy vegetables like green beans or salad, one-quarter protein, such as turkey, and one-quarter carbohydrates, which in this case is typically mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes,” said Dr. Gonzales. “This way you get to try a little bit of everything while consuming mostly low-calorie dense foods.”
Equally important, skip the seconds and high-calorie dense leftovers. Remember that Thanksgiving dinner is one meal on one day.
3. Savor Your Food
Thanksgiving is a great time to practice mindful eating. By savoring each bite, not only will you enjoy the meal more, but your brain will identify when you’re truly full.
“Be present at your Thanksgiving meal,” suggested Dr. Gonzales. “In addition to using this time to visit and catch up with loved ones, enjoy the experience of eating as well. Focusing on the taste and texture of your food can help you reach more satisfaction in fewer bites.”
4. Get Moving
That turkey takes a while to cook, so instead of watching football or grazing on appetizers in the meantime, why not get everyone moving? Is the movement going to counteract an entire Thanksgiving meal? Not always, but it can help. Chances are you’ll feel better.
“Incorporating some physical activity into your holiday isn’t just great for burning calories,” said Dr. Gonzales. “The endorphins and fresh air can have positive psychological effects as well.”
If you’re looking for fun ways to get everyone moving, we suggest some the following family-friendly activities:
- Play a game of flag football
- Participate in a local Turkey Trot
- Take a walk/hike
- Organize a scavenger hunt
5. Give Yourself Grace
No doubt you’ll feel proud of yourself if you resist overeating, but you shouldn’t feel guilty if you end up exercising less self-control than you hoped. After all, Thanksgiving only comes once a year. Keep the day in perspective, and remember that one day of merriment won’t derail an otherwise healthy lifestyle.
“Food is often a huge part of celebrations with family and friends,” admitted Dr. Gonzales. “It’s ok to enjoy the occasional indulgence over the holidays – especially following a year with fewer gatherings – but if you go into the day with some guardrails in place, it might just help you stay on track.”
Thanksgiving can be an especially challenging holiday for those suffering from diabetes or pre-diabetes. Our certified diabetes educators can help with meal planning to help you keep blood sugar levels under control.