The average American gains five to seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. And once that weight is on your frame, it is a challenge to lose—especially during the cold winter months, when warming comfort foods are calling your name. Planning, forethought, and a few tricks and tips are all you need to find a happy balance between holiday indulgence and maintaining your health and wellness objectives.
Moderation is the key word to remember this season. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without stuffing and pumpkin pie! Knowing that no food is off-limits allows you to indulge without feeling that you have completely blown your wellness goals and therefore might as well go on an all-out binge. In fact, little indulgences are what make life special, so enjoy these special once-a-year foods.
To stay focused on consumption in moderation, try swapping your dinner plate with a salad plate and a saucer plate for dessert. Studies show that the bigger the plate, the more you eat. A smaller plate helps you keep portions under control and your weight in check. Another “plate trick” is to imagine your plate as a peace sign; the two side portions are each thirty-five percent and the bottom triangle is thirty percent of your dinner plate. Put lean protein like chicken, fish, and beans on one side, and vegetables like dark leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, squash, and cauliflower (or a combination of all of these!) on the other. The starchy sides (like potatoes, bread, or pasta) are placed on the smaller bottom section of the plate. This division of the dinner plate allows you to indulge without getting out of control.
Moderation not only applies to the amount of food you eat but also the duration you celebrate Thanksgiving. This is a one-day holiday—not a week. Treat it as one day. Don’t sabotage all that you have worked for by overindulging beyond the day. Enjoy yourself, but then go right back to your normal healthy eating plan.
- Arrive at the dinner table with a mild appetite. Extreme hunger prior to a holiday meal is a recipe for disaster. Substitute plain fat-free Greek yogurt like Fage or Chobani for mayonnaise, sour cream, or cream in your dip recipe, and serve alongside raw fiber-rich vegetables. The protein in the yogurt combined with vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower makes for a satisfying appetizer. Eat as many vegetables as you want and dip appropriately.
- Start your meal with soup and salad. A big salad and hearty soup (such as a carrot or cauliflower-spinach soup) as a first course fills you up with nutritional goodness. The more satisfied you feel when dinner is served, the less likely you will be to overindulge in the more decadent main course food options, like mashed potatoes and stuffing.
- Eat desserts that are not disastrous. Baked apples, fruit salad, or chocolate-covered fruit are easy desserts that are still healthy, especially compared to pies and cakes. Try making these delicious, easy-to-prepare, and health-friendly desserts for your family or offer to contribute them to a holiday meal outside your home.