Even if you’ve been good all year, the winter holidays provide enough cheer and baked goods to break the most hardened diet and exercise plan. The surplus of sweet breads, spiced beverages, and decorated cookies are enough to wreak havoc on moderation. It’s a wonder you don’t make it out of the holidays gaining more pounds than you do.
This year, though, will be different. This year, you will celebrate with nutritious meals that will keep you just as sated without the fat and empty calories lamented during this time of year. This Thanksgiving, start the 2014 holiday season off right with these simple guidelines for a healthy feast.
If you earned an advanced degree in nutrition, you’ll know that allowing calories alone to dictate your diet is a disaster any time of year. All calories aren’t worth the same and around the holidays it can be particularly dangerous because sugary and fatty foods are highly available and expend your daily calorie allowance without supplying other vital nutrients. A better way to keep yourself healthy is to monitor your intake of sugar and fat. It is easy to substitute low-fat, low-sugar ingredients in dinner, and absolutely no one will notice a difference in the outcome. Some simpler substitutions are:
- Fat-free chicken broth for basting the turkey and making gravy
- Alternative sugars, like Stevia or agave nectar, in baked goods
- Fat-free sour cream or yogurt in dips, mashed potatoes, casseroles, or toppings
Don’t “Save” Calories
In our calorie-centric culture, most dieters firmly believe in the “calories in, calories out” method of losing weight: If you don’t consume as many calories as you burn, you’ll stay trim. Unfortunately, the human body is much more complex than this. If your body doesn’t receive regular doses of energy, it goes into starvation mode and begins to hoard the calories it has in the form of fat and cellulite in all the least desirable areas.
Thanksgiving is a huge meal, and it might be tempting to save up you daily, or even weekly, calories to account for the surplus you’ll be taking in on the big day, but this would be a mistake. Make sure you eat every meal and even snack appropriately in between. You don’t need to eat much — a breakfast of a single egg and slice of toast will suffice — but if you keep eating, your metabolism won’t slow down and all your Thanksgiving calories won’t go right to your thighs.
Go Slow and Steady
When eating Thanksgiving dinner, it can be difficult to savor the flavors when there is so much to sample. Most feasters tend to rush through the courses and sides to taste everything while it’s warm and fresh. However, moving quickly without paying attention to what or how much you’re eating contributes to overeating and weight gain. Shoveling food in prevents your stomach from knowing when you’ve consumed too much, and you end up feeling too full too late to stop. If you slow down and savor your meal, your brain will be able to receive accurate signals so you can stop before you burst.
If you are sticking to the second tip (eating throughout the days before the meal) you shouldn’t be starving by the time dinner is served, which will help you eat slowly. Concentrate on experiencing the taste and texture of the food. Thanksgiving occurs once a year for a reason, so the flavors should be more thrilling than your average meal.
Take It Easy
Ultimately, Thanksgiving is about more than the feast. If you spend the day worrying over whether you can or can’t eat dessert, you’ll miss the magic of the holiday. This Thanksgiving, don’t stress about your diet, and devote yourself to learning more about your family and friends. You don’t have to be cooped up in the kitchen surrounded by temptation; instead, go on a walk with your parents, or play a game with your younger attendees. There are many ways to keep your mind off the impending meal or tempting treats around the house and almost all of them involve greater connection with your loved ones.