6 Mealtime Hacks to Prevent Overeating on Thanksgiving

6 Mealtime Hacks to Prevent Overeating on Thanksgiving
By Joan Salge Blake | Article Featured on US News

Why do we stuff ourselves silly on the last Thursday in November? Because we think we’ll have to wait another whole 12 months before we can indulge in such a feast again.

But wait. Thanksgiving isn’t really the Last Supper. After all, if you want a turkey with stuffing and apple pie a la mode in July, those ingredients are yours for the asking in any supermarket all year-round. In fact, if we all got in the habit of repeating this Thanksgiving meal a couple times a year, we’d be less likely to furiously – and excessively – gobble it up on one November day.

Here are my six tips that can help you break with excessive consumption on Thanksgiving, while still enjoying the delicious day:

1. Carve out an earlier time to eat.

When hosts serve Thanksgiving dinner late in the day, guests tend to skip lunch in an attempt to make room for a few extra dinner calories. Does this ever really work? Not in my house. By the time dinner finally rolls around at, say, 4 p.m., the smell of roasting turkey has permeated every pore of my skin, and I’m transformed into an uncontrollable eating machine.

To avoid this forgivable tendency, enjoy a light lunch to help you keep to more civilized portions at dinner. Better yet, move up the start of dinner to 1 p.m., which is soon after Santa brings up the rear of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

2. Trim the amount of food you serve.

Take a head count. How many people are you really feeding? I bet it’s a lot fewer than the number of feasters at the first Thanksgiving. Sure, leftovers are the best part of the whole holiday, but do you really need a 20-pound bird for a party of six? I don’t think so.


You can also make an executive decision to serve fewer side dishes. It’s not mandatory to have mashed and sweet potatoes; whole cranberry sauce and its gelatinous sibling.

And what about those pies? How many varieties have to be served for it to be Thanksgiving? Does anyone actually eat mincemeat pie? Cut back on the amount of desserts served – guests probably won’t even notice.

3. Set the table with grandma’s china.

Research suggests that the average size of a dinner plate has increased by over 20 percent over the past several decades. This year, pay homage to grandma and serve your Thanksgiving dinner using her petite china. The smaller the plate, the less food you are likely to heap on and eat. As a bonus, you’ll make grandma grin from ear to ear.

4. Delay the alcohol.

A glass of wine can be enjoyable with dinner, but we all know that alcohol adds more calories to your turkey day feast. On top of that, spirits can weaken your willpower – especially when you throw them back on an empty stomach. Save the first sip for when the carved turkey is on the platter. Use a smaller wine glass – grandma might have those too – to help you keep to more reasonable amounts.

5. Trim the picking.

While your first plate of turkey might be moderate and sensible, it’s the third and fourth helpings that get ridiculous. But it happens – particularly when the food soaks up the spotlight in the middle of the dinner table and teases you to consume more.

To avoid that temptation, serve dinner buffet-style and fill the dinner table with more flowers than edibles. My favorite decoration is a carved pumpkin filled with fresh flowers. Feast your eyes on these beauties – rather than the food – during dinner.

But making it through dinner without going out of control doesn’t mean all’s clear. Beware of post-dinner cleanup when you might be prone to mindless nibbling. To avoid this, serve the food in covered serving dishes on the buffet table. This method will not only keep the food warm, but it will also allow you to put the leftovers directly into the refrigerator with little cleanup and temptation.

6. Cut out loafing.

Instead of watching football on the couch all afternoon and eating the leftovers during the timeouts, why don’t you gather up the crew for a family scrimmage in the backyard after dinner or take a long walk with the group?


Taking a 45-minute walk could use up almost 250 calories – a moderate chunk of the calories you just consumed. Even if quitting less healthy traditions isn’t in the cards for your family, an annual walk is probably the best tradition to start.

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