Thanksgiving- How to Stay on Course With Your Nutrition


Thanksgiving is one of my all time favorite holidays. I love getting the family together, catching up, and of course… the food.  At my home on Thanksgiving we make enough food to feed an army and I always worry about packing on a few extra pounds.  Lucky for me (and for you) I’ve always been able to prevent weight gain on thanksgiving (and you will too) because I have a few tricks up my sleeve!  Read on to learn my tips for having fun and staying on the nutrition and fitness track this year at your Thanksgiving day meal.

1.  You know thanksgiving is coming, so prepare a little.  Be extra careful with your nutrition the entire week leading up to your thanksgiving day meal.  Make sure to eat balanced meals and go “clean” with your foods (to learn more about eating clean, see the blog, “What does it mean to eat clean?”).  Try not to have any “off” meals for the entire 7 days or so leading up to the meal.  This way your blood sugar is stable all week, breaking down fat and protecting your metabolism leading up to your meal.  Another way to prepare?  Add a little extra cardio the week leading up to Thanksgiving.

2.  Help with the cooking.  I help my family prepare the thanksgiving day meal year after year.  After hours of cooking, I’m always alot less hungry by the time we sit down to eat.  I’m not sure why this happens, but every year without fail, it does!  So help out in the kitchen, and you may just eat less at dinner.  Another idea is to bring a healthy dish to the meal.  Volunteer to prepare the sweet potatoes or the green beans.  Instead of covering the sweet potatoes with marshmallow, mash them with cinnamon, nutmeg and a small amount of butter. Then season to taste with salt and pepper.  Prepare a green bean casserole with fresh green beans, and low fat milk and low fat mushroom soup.  Go light on the fried onions.  Make mashed potatoes with low fat milk in place of whole milk or cream and jazz them up with roasted garlic and herbs.  Get creative and choose lower fat options when possible.   Offer to bring whole grain rolls in place of white rolls. You can even find healthier versions of your favorite dishes online ahead of time and share with the “chef” in advance to see if you can work together to create a healthier meal.

3.  Remember to balance your plate.  Choose a protein, carb and fat at dinner.  Load up on white meat turkey (protein) and healthier sides like sweet potatoes and veggies.  If you must indulge, take small amounts of the carbohydrates to keep blood sugar from spiking too high, and fill up on the lean turkey. 

4.  Eat slowly and enjoy.  Focus on your family and friends, not just the food.  Before going for seconds, ask yourself if you’re really -hungry.  If so, wait 15- 20 minutes and see if the feeling passes. 

5.  If you want dessert, have it, just have a smaller portion than what you would normally choose.  If dessert if your favorite part of the meal, go lighter on your carbohydrates with dinnner.

6.  If you have alcohol, choose a small glass of wine or light beer.  Drink a glass of water inbetween to keep from bloating.

7.  If your hosting the meal, try to give away the not-so healthy leftovers by making to-go plates for your guests.  Save the healthier stuff like the turkey and vegetables to have on hand for meals later in the week.  If your a guest, take a to-go plate of the turkey and vegetables and skip the heavier sides.

Generally the least healthy options at thanksgiving are:  Gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and desserts.

The healthier options are typically: White meat turkey, vegetables and cranberry sauce.

Lastly, most of us do overindulge a bit on Thanksgiving.  The key is to get right back on track 3-4 hours later with a balanced meal to stabilize your blood sugar.  Make an effor to just “let it go”.  Focusing on the fact that you overindulged is never a good idea.  Just pick back up where you left off and get your cardio in the next day.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Valerie Cogswell

Head Chef and Nutrition Coach



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