A friend asked me this week what my secret is for staying on track with my nutrition over the Thanksgiving holiday (and other upcoming holidays). To her dismay I replied that I don’t have a secret.
BUT after thinking about it for a couple of days, I realized I do have some basic principles that I follow on days that are typically associated with big feasts. I am sorry to say that I don’t have any magical advice. My wisdom is that I basically treat Thanksgiving like any other day of the year when it comes to what I eat. Don’t get me wrong—I will definitely be having some of my favorite sweet potato casserole that my mom makes. It might as well be called brown sugar casserole, but it is amazing. And life is too short to deny yourself amazing, home-cooked-by-your-mom, comfort food that takes you back to your childhood. Because it is a treat maybe twice a year.
So I thought I would share my thought process when it comes to Turkey Day (or any other holiday, or potluck day at work, birthday party, etc.). This is what works for me—it involves no food exclusions (except junk food), starving yourself for the week before or after, or any other crazy thing you may have heard of. You know I don’t do fad diets, and I don’t like to be hungry! So here they are:
- Plan your day accordingly. Say your Thanksgiving dinner is going to be in the evening. So maybe eat a little lighter for breakfast and lunch than you typically do, and since you know you will be having plenty of carbs (potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, wine, desserts, etc.), go easy on those the rest of the day.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Get in your workout early in the day, before the big meal. You know you won’t feel like it afterwards.
- Don’t eat everything. Haha! But literally, say there are 12 different dishes and sides and they ALL look good….pick the MAIN few that you want to eat and stick only to those. The more variety you eat, the more you will eat overall. For example, I love mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and homemade rolls. But I will pick ONE to eat. Maybe the next day I will choose one of the other choices if there is some leftover (there’s always leftovers, right??).
- Along the same lines, stick to the principle of filling half of your plate with veggies (think a green salad and green beans), 1/4 with protein, and 1/4 with whole grains or a small serving of carbs—like the aforementioned sweet potatoes or stuffing.
- Try your hardest to stick to correct portion sizes (per my favorite nutrition program 21 Day Fix: 1 cup for veggies, 3/4 cup for protein, 1/2 cup for carbs) . This will make a huge difference in your calorie intake and how you feel overall.
- This one might be the hardest, but over time I have just learned—STOP eating when you are full. The thing is, those food comas are hard to shake. I don’t like to feel miserably full for the next few hours. I especially don’t like when I ate SO much that it even carries into the next day—when you wake up you are still tired and sluggish and don’t feel like working out….it can quickly turn into a cycle.
- I feel like I should talk about dessert. I rarely eat dessert, except for during the holidays, birthdays, and weddings. Did I already say, “Life is too short to not eat pie?” Because truly, eating dessert a few times a year for special occasions is not going to ruin your health or bust your goals. But have a small piece. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, not gluttonous. But that is a WHOLE other topic.
It’s also important that on the next day, you go right back to your normal calorie intake. Maybe workout a little extra, but definitely do not give a second thought to all that delicious food you ate the day before. We are living a healthy lifestyle, not training for a bikini competition. One day of indulging is not going to make or break us, as long as you keep it within reason.
I hope this seems like practical advice that you can apply. The holidays are not a time to stress about what we eat, but we also can’t use them as an excuse that “anything goes.”