Let me address the elephant in the room: it’s Thanksgiving and we are all going to eat, a lot. I enjoy my cranberry kale salad as much as the next Nutritionist, but when it comes to a special occasion, who am I fooling? Thanksgiving is more than just food, it’s spending time with family bonding over a hot meal. We all spend hours shopping and pouring our souls into a special dish to offer up to the table. We sit around laughing and toasting to a great time. We turn on the football game, take a long nap after dinner, and meet up again later for leftovers. James Beard once said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” Food nourishes more than just the body, it nourishes the soul. Records of bonding over food can be found hundreds of years ago, the Bible even referring to “breaking bread” with one another to nourish relationships. During a holiday that revolves around food, it can be difficult to keep your mind focused on health. Here are a few great ways to help you strike that healthy balance.
I know what you are thinking, but hear me out. I made a tradition of waking up on Thanksgiving for a little “me” time a few years ago, and it positively changed my relationship with Thanksgiving dinner. I’m not saying you need to run a marathon, but spending a little time to clear your thoughts before an overwhelming day is a great way to get you in the right mindset. Try scheduling a small amount of time to go on a nice walk with the dog, do some gentle yoga, or hit the gym for a quick cardio session first thing in the morning. You may even want to incorporate the family and create a new tradition. Staying active is a great way to release the “feel good” endorphins that we often look for in food. It also helps digestion and burns off those extra calories.
Eat a protein-packed breakfast
Protein is the magical, “I feel full” macronutrient. It makes us feel satisfied and takes a while to metabolize, unlike it’s slightly faster metabolizing carbohydrate counterpart. Eating a healthy breakfast that keeps you feeling full, helps to ward off the wondering hand that keeps sneaking mini marshmallows before they are melted on the sweet potatoes. You don’t have to spend the extra time preparing anything special, especially when you are going to be cooking the whole day. Just one single-serve container of Greek yogurt contains around 15 grams of protein. Mixing peaches in just a half of a cup of cottage cheese will provide you about 11 grams of protein. You can also spread some peanut or almond butter on whole wheat toast, or sprinkle a handful of chia seeds into a smoothie for an extra protein punch.
Save the best for last
It makes sense anyway! Save the best for last and focus on eating foods that will power you through the day. Seek the high protein foods first to start off with something filling (yes, you can tell the family your nutritionist told you the second serving of turkey is justified). From there, look for dishes with the freshest source of vegetables and fruits. If you know your family and friends don’t typically create these types of dishes, it’s never a bad time to start bringing a new favorite! Besides, a nice salad pairs well with just about anything. Lastly, start with small servings of the “other” dishes (you know the ones). Allow yourself time to feel full before going for seconds. As always, water is your friend!
At the end of the day, don’t forget to enjoy yourself and certainly don’t pass up the pumpkin pie. What are the holidays without a little fun? Happy Thanksgiving!