contrary to what the diet industry might have you believe, there’s no reason to go bonkers stressing over weight gain during the holidays, and especially not over what you eat on one single day. Of course, no matter how many pieces of grandma’s epic apple pie you really want to eat, your health is still important to you and just like everyone else, you definitely don’t enjoy feeling bloated and stuffed to the brim. Fortunately, it’s possible to avoid all of that and have a healthy Thanksgiving without feeling deprived; it’s a matter of enjoying yourself without overdoing it. With the help of certified health coach, nutritionist and personal trainer Justine San Filippo, we've rounded up some simple tips that you can use to make sure you'll enjoy your favorite Thanksgiving foods without going overboard.
Maybe this seems like an obvious piece of advice, but the holidays tend to be a busy time of year, meaning it’s easy to fall off the exercise wagon as your social schedule becomes more and more booked. “Just because it is a holiday doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to stop exercising,” says San Filippo. “Staying consistent is key. Do your usual workout so when you are watching football and nibbling on snacks, you’ll feel good knowing you already burned extra calories for the day.” If you’re hosting on Thanksgiving Day, she recommends putting the turkey in the oven and then going for a long morning walk to start the day.
“Instead of heating up processed, frozen snacks which are high in sodium, provide no nutritional value and are loaded with unhealthy fats, serve a raw vegetable platter with healthy dips or hummus as a healthier alternative,” says SanFilippo.
“Thanksgiving dinner is typically high in sodium,” explains SanFilippo. “So drink 8 glasses of water (or more) to reduce the excess water weight and bloat.”
Drink all the water you want, but SanFilippo recommends consuming beverages like wine, beer and liquor in moderation. “Excess alcohol adds empty calories and lowers inhibitions,” she said. “Save those calories for your favorite slice of pumpkin pie instead.”
Unless it’s your absolute favorite holiday treat, SanFilippo suggests skipping out on Eggnog. “Eggnog is extremely high in calories,” she explains. “One cup could have 360 calories and 60 grams of sugar.” This is one decedent dessert that she recommends avoiding all together, unless you’d rather swap it in for a different sweet treat.
“Even though your grandma’s pumpkin pie looks amazing and you could eat about three slices, you’ll regret it the next morning,” says SanFillipo. “Instead, enjoy a sensible portion or just take a few bites of your favorite foods.” This strategy will prevent you from overindulging without causing you to feel deprived or like you’re missing out.
Leftovers are arguably one of the best things about Thanksgiving; tons of delicious food to eat for days to come. However, SanFilippo says it’s a smart idea to make bigger portions of the healthier dishes (think veggies and lean protein) so that when you open your fridge and reach for leftovers you’ll have more nutritious options to choose from.
If you can, San Filippo recommends eating your big Thanksgiving meal as early as possible so that your body will have time to digest before you head to sleep. “Try to eat in the afternoon so that the heavy meal will digest long before bed time,” she said.
“Avoid feeling the need to eat all the leftovers in a few days before they go bad by freezing some of them,” SanFilippo said. As an added bonus, your fridge won’t be stocked to the brim.
“The purpose of the holiday is to relax, have fun and spend time with those you care about,” SanFilippo reminds us. “The food is important, but not nearly as important as being thankful.”