The following post was written by our Chief Dietitian Samantha Mark, RD, CDN
Whether your Thanksgiving is filled with family or football, there is always one constant: food!
The holiday is synonymous with turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and, of course, pie. And let’s not forget the millions of other side dishes everyone brings. So what does all of this mean for your diet and all the hard work you’ve put in at the gym? Trouble! Those calories add up fast.
According to the American Council on Exercise, the average American consumes 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat in one Thanksgiving meal. Really puts a damper on having seconds, huh?
So how does one enjoy Thanksgiving and not regret it?
Here’s my official Fit! Live! Win! 8-Step Turkey-Day Stay-Fit Plan:
Step one: Plan ahead of time. Knowing Thanksgiving is just a few days away, avoid “cheat” foods, starting on Monday. Save your indulgences for Thursday.
Step two: Exercise! Again, starting on Monday, hit the gym as hard as you’re going to hit the calories on Thursday. While trying to burn off every single calorie isn’t the sole answer to your dilemma (hence, the 8-Step Plan!), staying extra active this week will help keep that metabolism moving!
Step three: Make or bring a healthy dish–something you know is light in calories and fat. Remix some of your favorite classics in healthier ways. Instead of mashed potatoes (usually made with butter and cream), try baked potatoes or incorporate the potato skin into the recipe for added fiber. Another tip: choose lighter milk and a butter substitute whenever possible. Not only is a healthy dish a nice gesture, but it allows you to have at least one dish you know is a little healthier than everything else on the table.
Step four: Okay, T Day has arrived. You’ve avoided “cheat” foods, amped up your exercise regimen and made a healthy dish. Now, fill your plate with a gut-friendly combination of foods. Make half of the plate vegetables (no, potatoes do not count)–non-starchy vegetables like cabbage, salad, green beans (no, not casserole), or any steamed vegetable. Eat these first to help you feel full. Don’t save them for the end. And limit your starch to ¼ of your plate. If you can’t decide on just starch to choose, take very, very small portions of your favorites.
Step five: Make smart turkey choices! While there is a new trend of deep-fat fried turkey, it is obviously healthier just to bake the bird in the oven. Avoid the skin and dark meat. And maybe most important: Go light on gravy. Better yet, avoid it entirely!
Step six: Watch your beverages to avoid “empty,” unsatisfying calories! Choose water, seltzer and unsweetened or diet beverages over non-diet soft drinks, hard liquor and juices.
Step seven: Thanksgiving is not a competition, so eat slowly! Sometimes we forget to put our fork down between bites. Enjoy the taste of your foods and don’t rush to get it all in. Eating slowly will help you ingest fewer calories.
Step eight: Now comes the tough one. Pick just one dessert! In my house there is usually an assortment of pies, cakes and cookies. Pick one dessert and stop there.
Thanksgiving only comes once a year. It is something many of us look forward to. Make the most of this special holiday by eating your favorite foods, but be smart about portions and food preparation methods. You can do it!
Until next time,