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5 Tips for Beating the Thanksgiving Bulge

Last updated: November 23, 2021

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.  

“Forgoing breakfast or lunch to ‘save room’ for Thanksgiving dinner could backfire,” Dr. Gonzales says. “Skipping meals will almost always cause ghrelin and other hunger hormones to surge and lead to overeating later in the day.” 

Forgoing breakfast or lunch to ‘save room’ for Thanksgiving dinner could have a negative result.

Krista Gonzales, MD, ThedaCare 

A good breakfast will help dampen the rise in these hunger hormones and stave off the urge to overeat. We suggest fiber- and protein-rich breakfast foods. Good options include 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. However, 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,” Dr. Gonzales says. “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,” Dr. Gonzales says. “In addition to using this time to visit and catch up with loved ones, enjoy the experience of eating. 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. 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,” Dr. Gonzales says. “The endorphins and fresh air can have positive psychological effects as well.” 

If you’re looking for fun ways to get everyone moving, try 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 don’t feel guilty if you end up exercising less self-control than you had 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,” Dr. Gonzales says. “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. 

Tags: exercise holiday weight management portion control

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