Thanksgiving brings to mind a plentiful bounty of indulgent foods. From mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole, to apple cobbler and pumpkin pie, this is one holiday that is hard on the waistline. Many people struggle with maintaining a healthy weight during the holiday season, and feelings of frustration can cause individuals to ditch their healthy eating habits altogether. Instead of sabotaging your healthy weight, there are some simple steps you can follow that will help you cut those Thanksgiving calories.
1. Use Portion Control
Many people run into problems when they mistakenly confuse portion control for serving size. They are not one and the same. The term portion refers to the amount of food that you eat in one sitting. A serving size is the measurement of the food that you eat as determined by cups, tablespoons, ounces, etc. For example, the portion of corn bread you put on your plate may be two 4-inch squares. The serving, however, is only one square, which would mean you are consuming two servings of corn bread in your portion. By exercising good portion control and limiting the amount of food you add to your plate, you can decrease the overall calorie intake of your meal.
2. Choose Lean Cuts
Unfortunately, many people prefer the juicy, flavorful taste of fatty meat off of their Thanksgiving turkey. These fatty cuts will do a number on your waistline. If you are used to reaching for dark meat from the turkey and devouring it, skin and all, then choosing leaner cuts may take some getting used to. The leanest cuts of turkey are white meat that comes from the breast, with the skin removed. Avoid dishes that contain ground turkey, such as turkey meatballs, as they often contain just as much fat as ground beef, thanks to the addition of dark meat and skin.
3. Eat Fresh, Avoid Artificial
If you are hosting the Thanksgiving feast this year, try to add as many natural, whole food ingredients to your shopping list as possible. Opt for fresh vegetables when possible. Frozen is another healthy alternative because these vegetables are usually flash frozen when they are at their nutritional peak. Steer clear of canned varieties, which are packed with artificial flavors, chemicals and preservatives, and are often very high in sodium. Buy fresh baked breads or bake them yourself, rather than frozen premade breads. If you will be a guest for Thanksgiving, scan the table for fresh food selections such as corn on the cob, green beans and even homemade mashed potatoes. Fill up on these healthier choices and shy away from overly processed foods.
4. Snack All Day
Snacking is probably the furthest thing from your mind when thinking about avoiding weight gain on Thanksgiving. In reality, snacking on light meals every few hours throughout the day prior to the big meal can actually be a good way to prevent yourself form overeating later on. Healthy snacks such as nuts, veggies and dip or fresh fruit can help to stabilize your blood sugar, preventing those large dips in insulin that result in extreme hunger pangs. Eating often will also help keep some food in your stomach, so that you are not starving when you arrive at the dinner table.
5. Hydrate With Water
Apple cider, wine spritzers, pumpkin spice ale - these are common beverages that people consume on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, these drinks are heavy on the calories. If you drink several over the course of the day, you can easily consume 500 to 1,000 calories or more just in beverages alone. But that doesn't mean you have to skip these tasty drinks altogether. When you are feeling thirsty throughout the day, skip the high calorie options and reach for a zero calorie glass of water instead. Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice in for added flavor or for a lower calorie treat, try some fresh raspberries in sparkling water. Save the wine or other holiday beverages for during the meal or as an after dinner treat.
6. Fill Up On Vegetables
Filling up on vegetables throughout the day will leave less room in your stomach for heavier, higher-calorie foods. When preparing pre-dinner snacks, place out trays of fresh veggie appetizers such as carrots with dip, celery slices coated in peanut butter or cream cheese and topped with raisins, or just a good old vegetable platter. Whether hosting the dinner or dining out, make sure you fill your dinner plate with plenty of vegetable dishes. Even dishes such as bakes yams, creamed corn and sweet peas with butter, though not as light in calories as fresh vegetables, will still be gentler on your waist than hearty dishes like stuffing or pasta salad.
7. Choose Fresh Fruit Desserts
Everyone saves room for dessert. This is especially true on a day such as Thanksgiving, when the array of specialty dishes at dinner is followed by a table full of mouthwatering desserts. You probably already know that topping off your meal with a sampling of cherry cobbler, pumpkin pie, apple crisp and pecan cheesecake is not a good idea. But neither is depriving yourself of some of your favorite holiday desserts. A better option lies somewhere in the middle. Fill your dessert plate with plenty of fresh fruit if it is available, then half a small helping of a more decadent dessert. If there is no fresh fruit to choose from, watch for healthier fruit options, such as strawberries dipped in dark chocolate, mixed fresh berries topped with whipped cream or poached pears. Making these types of fruit dishes the main focus of your after-dinner treat will prevent your form overindulging on unhealthy deserts that pack on extra calories.
8. Reduce Fat Intake
As mentioned above, one way to cut calories is to choose lean cuts of turkey. Another option is to choose foods that have been baked, broiled or grilled rather than fried or sautéed. Fried foods are full of unhealthy fats and oils that pile on the calories. Even sautéed foods can sometimes double their calorie count, depending on how much butter or oil is used during cooking. Choosing a healthier way to prepare your meals can have a tremendous impact on your calorie intake, sometimes cutting them by almost half. If you are dining out for Thanksgiving, be sure to ask your server how the meal is prepared if you do not see the cooking method on the menu.
9. Drink In Moderation
The holiday season is a time for celebrating with the family and loved ones. It's no wonder that with all of the holiday parties and festivities, people consume more alcoholic beverages than during any other time of the year. And overdoing it is a major cause for Thanksgiving weight gain. To cut back on alcohol-related calories, alcohol does not have to be avoided completely, just used in moderation (as it should always be, anyway). After every alcoholic beverage you consume, follow it with a tall glass of water. This will cut your alcohol-related calories in half, as well as help prevent you from drinking too much. Also, when selecting your alcoholic beverage of choice, choose lower calorie options. For example, choose light beer over regular, and stick with Chardonnay at 90 calories per glass as opposed to port 180 calories per glass.
10. Go For An After-Dinner Stroll
After the meal is over and the table is cleared, think twice before you claim your permanent spot on the sofa for the rest of the evening. Of course you want to relax a bit and allow your body time to digest after eating, but remaining sedentary for hours is not a good idea. While no one says you need to change into your jogging pants and hit the pavement running for an hour, going for a leisurely after dinner stroll is a great way to burn off some of those extra Thanksgiving calories. Not only will it help you with calorie cutting, but it can help bring back some of the energy that was zapped when your body was working overtime to digest the big meal.