Thanksgiving is around the corner, and with it comes lots and lots of delicious food. Often we celebrate this holiday by overeating and—quite frankly—indulging to our heart’s desire. What’s the harm in a little weight gain anyway? Actually, quite a lot!
The State of the Nation
According to the National Institute of Health, most Americans never lose the weight gained over the holiday season. You don’t have to fall victim to this vicious cycle, however. It will take some planning, mindfulness and determination, but it’s quite possible to enjoy your Thanksgiving while keeping the extra pounds off.
Here are 7 ways you can avoid the annual weight gain at this time of year:
1. Plan Ahead
This means thinking through the Thanksgiving menu and establishing ground rules for yourself. It can be a powerful method of keeping yourself on track.
- Find out what foods are on the menu and choose one or two that you definitely want to eat.
- In exchange, think of some of the foods you can go without. For example, if you know you’re going to want to eat pumpkin pie, decide ahead of time to eat only one small slice. To make up for this, you can skip the sugar-filled cranberry sauce.
Avoiding sugary foods is particularly important for anyone living with diabetes and trying to follow a health diabetic diet.
2. Be Careful of Mindless Eating
Watch out that you don’t grab foods just because they are in front of you. It’s easy to nibble candies and nuts from random bowls, but “grazing” like this throughout the day quickly adds up in calories, making weight maintenance extra challenging.
3. Practice Portion Control and a Colorful Plate
- Keep portion sizes small, particularly when it comes to cheesy, creamy foods.
- Choose lean meat. Skinless white turkey breast is an excellent choice, especially if you go easy on the gravy.
- Focus on dishing up lots of nutrient-dense, brightly-colored veggies for yourself, and make it a goal to fill three-quarters of your plate with foods that are low in calories.
4. Skip the Second Helping
Make a point to fill your plate once and be careful not to stack your food too high on the plate.
Try not to go back for seconds, no matter how tempted you are, and don’t fool yourself that you can have more because your first portion was small.
5. Enjoy Your Food
Eat slowly and savor each mouthful of your food. By pacing yourself and focusing on eating, you’ll make the meal last longer. It will also help you to notice when you’re starting to feel full. Make it your aim to stop eating when you feel satisfied, instead of waiting until you feel stuffed. A good technique to try is to make your meal last a full 20 minutes. We often speed through our meals and our brains do not have enough time to realize we are actually full. Timing your meals can help.
6. Get Moving
Increase your activity level with a walk in the morning and another after your meal. Get your family and friends to join in. You never know—perhaps you’ll start a new holiday tradition!
7. Keep a Food Diary
Record everything you put in your mouth. This is a powerful tool to help you stay accountable and keep you aware of what you are eating. Of course, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for your family, you can choose healthy alternatives to the regular heavy fare. With some great alternative recipes available there’s no reason why you need to stick to tradition.
Don’t let food dominate your thoughts this Thanksgiving. Enjoy the holiday, be mindful of what, when and how you eat, and you’ll manage to avoid weight gain that sticks around long after the holidays are over.