Who doesn’t love a holiday dedicated to food, family, and thankfulness? While Turkey Day is a great opportunity to gather with people we love, it’s also easy to overindulge and delay our diet or fitness plans.
But you can make better food and drink choices while still enjoying the day (and some of your favorite treats). Read on for our five tips for a healthier Thanksgiving!
*Just a note: If you gather with family and friends for the 2020 holidays, make sure to quarantine before and after spending time with them to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19. Small gatherings are best, provided that your loved ones are healthy and willing to spend extended time together indoors.
1. Get active ahead of time and the day of.
We spend a lot of time sitting and eating on this holiday, but you can get moving to prepare! Increase your steps or lengthen your workouts in the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. The groundwork you laid before Thanksgiving will make it even easier to squeeze in a walk or some exercise on the day of the holiday. Creating that calorie deficit will help you account for the extra calories you’ll probably eat at dinner.
You can keep the activity going after your meal, too. Invite your family for a post-dinner walk, or go alone and take time to reflect on what you’re thankful for. A gentle walk will help you digest your food much more than laying on the couch will!
2. Eat breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.
This tip is a bit counterintuitive; after all, shouldn’t you save calories for the big meal? It’s a common misconception, but showing up extra hungry to Thanksgiving will tempt you to overeat. This can make digesting all the food difficult, not to mention lead to guilty feelings.
Instead, try eating a small breakfast to curb your appetite. Start your day with lots of protein and fiber, which you can get from meals like whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk. A healthy breakfast will help you make better food and beverage choices throughout the day!
3. Be thoughtful about what you eat.
Thinking about your eating choices may sound obvious, but it’s so easy to overdo it on Thanksgiving when there’s a ton of yummy food around us. Before filling your plate, take a moment to survey all your options. Then, because it’s a holiday, feel free to enjoy all your favorite dishes in small portions.
Other ways to be thoughtful about your choices include eating slowly and putting your fork down between bites. This will let you savor the delicious food, as well as talk with others more! It also helps to use a smaller dish. Research shows that reducing your plate size by 30 percent leads to eating 30 percent less. This will help you put the quality of your food over the quantity.
4. Don’t deprive yourself or feel guilty.
Just because you’re eating healthy, that doesn’t mean you have to skip dessert! You can celebrate with a small portion of pumpkin pie, or a few sips of your favorite wine in between glasses of water. Thanksgiving is not the time to stress out about dieting or avoid your favorite foods. You’re allowed to have yummy treats in moderation, especially during the holiday season!
And don’t beat yourself up if you overeat; it happens to all of us! Just make it a point to leave the table as soon as you’re done eating. You can go for a walk, sit down for the football game, or chat with family members. Doing something other than eating (or thinking about all the food you just ate) may help you push away those guilty feelings.
5. Put family and friends before food.
Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to be grateful for our loved ones and plenty of food before us. Some of these people may be family members we only see once a year, or friends who are visiting from far away. The main event of this holiday really should be quality time with others — not the meal.
To make the holiday more people-focused, you can go around the table and tell each other what you’ve been thankful for that year. Or, invite a family member you don’t talk with often to go on a walk with you after dinner. Not only will you digest your food better than if you just sat all day; you might have a great conversation with your loved one.
Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful and celebrate with the ones we love most. And you can make smart choices without depriving yourself! By following these tips, you’ll have a healthy Thanksgiving and enjoy quality time with family and friends.
The Lafayette Family YMCA is a community dedicated to healthy living and social responsibility. For more fitness tips and to stay up to date about YMCA events, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, or visit our website here.