The holidays are a time to enjoy food, family, and indulging a little. Yes, we said it — indulge a little! The operative words here being “a little”. While having a slice of pumpkin pie or a scoop of buttery mashed potatoes won’t ruin your weight management or health efforts, you don’t want to finish any meal feeling so full that you’re lethargic, or even sick. Stuffing yourself regularly throughout the holiday season can leave you carrying extra weight (and research shows we tend to keep holiday weight on for the long-term) and feeling blah. Here are 5 tips you can follow to make sure you end your Thanksgiving (and other holiday meals) satisfied and not stuffed.
#1 Follow the plate method: A great way to keep your turkey day dinner in check is to make sure you’re getting the right balance of foods on your plate. Here’s how it works: Fill 1/2 of your plate with non-starchy veggies (roasted broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, etc.), 1/4 of your plate with a starch/starchy veggies (sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes, a roll, etc.), and 1/4 with protein (a slice of turkey or prime rib, a piece of ham, etc.) Since many of the foods on the holiday table are made using butter and oil, your fat serving for the meal is already factored into the other foods on your plate.
#2 Don’t save (too much) room for dinner: Many people arrive to special holiday meals famished because they’re saving up calories to gorge at the big meal, or they’ve been so busy cooking they forget to eat anything beforehand! In either scenario, you’re setting yourself up for an overstuffed Thanksgiving. If you arrive at Thanksgiving dinner ravenous, you’re going to have a much harder time controlling your portions and actually enjoying your meal. Make sure to eat breakfast within an hour of waking up and plan at least one snack before the big meal.
#3 Trick your eyes: Our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. Research shows that we feel more satisfied with a plate that looks full than one that appears sparse. Instead of filling up the largest dinner plate you have, aim for an appetizer or smaller-sized dinner plate instead. You’ll feel just as satisfied but end up eating less. Win-win!
#4 One and done!: Avoid going back for seconds. It’s easy to lose track of portion sizes when you’re making multiple trips to the casserole dish. Put enough food on your plate to feel satisfied (follow the plate method above!) and once you’re done with that plate, focus on conversations at the table and remind yourself that you’re saving room for dessert!
#5 A little of this, a little of that: The Thanksgiving day table is likely filled with many of your favorites (more than you’d find at a regular dinner table), so you may find yourself wanting to taste everything. Take super small portions of a wide variety of items (about 2 tbsp of each) so that you can try everything without overdoing it overall. When it doubt, go back to tip #1 (Follow the plate method.)
Do you find the holidays to be a tough time to eat healthfully? What strategies do you use to avoid getting stuffed at holiday meals?