Thanksgiving is a holiday that focuses on eating. Come Christmas, you can distract yourself with presents, during Valentine’s Day you can forego candy for love, but Turkey Day is a calorie-laden free-for-all, where there is nothing more important than piling plates high and going to town on drumsticks and gravy.
While Thanksgiving just might be the most delicious holiday, it can also be a nightmare for those of us who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle, one meal at a time. Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season, and it can be a slippery slope from having just one more sliver of pumpkin pie to polishing off an entire sleeve of holiday Oreos.
According to Jacqueline Gomes, nutritionist and owner of CKO Kickboxing, one key way to avoid setting a dangerous pattern of holiday gorging followed by seasonal guilt is to choose a special food and enjoy it (while continuing to exercise moderation in other foods) rather than going wild over the whole holiday spread. “The special dish on my Thanksgiving table is empanada, which is a Spanish stuffed bread, typically with meat or fish,” says Gomes. “My aunt makes an empanada that is so savory, delicious, and so special to me I simply can’t do without it — it only comes around once or twice a year for me.”
Dr. Janesri De Silva, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Northridge Hospital, agrees that the key to having a yummy Thanksgiving without overdoing it is moderation, along with knowing when to quit. “Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal,” says De Silva says, “but fill half your plate with vegetables and salad. [Instead of seconds], save a plate for tomorrow and go for a walk.”
Between tasting as you cook, appetizers, and the hours-long meal itself, Thanksgiving can seem like a throwaway day in terms of watching what you eat. But if you stick to some of the basic tips we’ve gathered from nutritionists, come Black Friday, you’ll still feel like a million bucks.
Enjoy Thanksgiving a Little at a Time
De Silva says that the best way to avoid gorging on the big day is to start enjoying Thanksgiving indulgences before Turkey Day. Toast some pumpkin seeds, or make a green bean casserole or a special pumpkin soup. That way, come Thanksgiving dinner, you won’t be craving all those once-a-year foods as badly.
Make a Plan
Gomes says that it’s important to “think about where you’ll be, who you’ll be with, and what foods will be available” before dinner so that you can make a game plan and stay focused on health.