Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is this week. And while it’s a holiday centered on gathering with family members and giving thanks for blessings, it’s also a holiday that’s built largely on food. If you’re trying to lose weight this time of year, that big Thanksgiving feast can feel overwhelming. Even if you’re not on a diet, the temptation to overeat is definitely there, which is why it’s important to consider a few healthy eating strategies before you sit down to that big family meal.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Whitney Roberts says eating too much on Thanksgiving can have consequences beyond that immediate post-meal feeling of having eaten too much. “Most Americans gain approximately 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s,” Roberts said. “If there’s one meal each year we overindulge in, it’s definitely Thanksgiving. The consequence is holiday weight gain that can add up each year if we’re not careful. There are a few key strategies, however, that can help you avoid overdoing it. For instance, I recommend people start Thanksgiving with breakfast that includes some protein,” she explained. “This will give you better appetite regulation, which helps you make more selective eating decisions throughout the day. Don’t skip breakfast just because you know you’re going to have a big lunch or dinner. This will help keep you from feeling starved at the big meal and overindulging,” she added.
“Next, you want to be selective,” Roberts continued. “When it’s time for Thanksgiving dinner, survey what’s available, pick your favorites and stick to them. For instance, if you love sweet potatoes, but only sort of like corn, consider leaving the corn off your plate. If you pick something that doesn’t taste as good as you thought it would once you start eating it, don’t eat it anymore. There’s no need to feel pressure to clean your plate, especially if you’re watching your weight,” she said. “Another strategy is to use the ‘plate method.’ This is where you set aside certain portions of your plate for certain items. The ideal ‘plate method’ is to use half of your plate with produce, a quarter of your plate for protein and the final quarter for starches,” she explained.
Finally, Roberts says, take your time. “Try to be the last person finished at the dinner table,” she said. “This means you should try to savor your food and eat slowly. Remember, it takes 15-20 minutes for your brain to receive fullness cues from your stomach. You’ve waited this long for Thanksgiving, so why not take a little time to really enjoy it? Also, when you’re trying to decide what to contribute to the big dinner, think about the foods your family members usually bring. Do they lean heavily on meats or starches? If so, you can take it upon yourself to add some color to the meal by creating a dish that uses fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said. “The more these things are made available as options, the more likely you and your family members are to choose them. These are just a few steps you can take to maximize your enjoyment of the Thanksgiving holiday and minimize the chance of overindulging, feeling bad about it later and spending weeks or months trying to lose the extra weight next year,” she added.