Strategies to Take Control of Your Thanksgiving Feasting

Strategies to Take Control of Your Thanksgiving Feasting

By Joan Salge Blake | Article Featured on US News

Avoid overindulging during the holidays with these simple, nutritionist-approved strategies.

Ditch the now-or-never mentality.

We do it to ourselves every year. Each year we approach this beloved family feast as though it were only time that we will ever eat turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. This motivates us to inhale these seasonal foods as though we aren’t going to see them again for another 12 months.

My goodness, the makings for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner are available at our local supermarkets every day of the year, so if you want to repeat the stuffed bird and sides in March (which I highly recommend), with or without your family (maybe another plus), go for it. In fact, if we all got in the habit of repeating the “Thanksgiving meal” a couple of times a year, it would lessen this impulse to furiously gobble it up to an excess on this one day.

So in addition to planning a new Thanksgiving-in-July tradition, here are my strategies that can help you break with the tradition of overdoing it on Thanksgiving and still allow you to deliciously enjoy it all:

Carve out an earlier time to eat.

The time of day that you eat your dinner may have an impact on how your body stores the excess calories from your feast. Research is suggesting that eating a higher percentage of your daily calories closer to the time you go to sleep may increase your body fat. It appears your metabolism is at play here. Your metabolism is impacted by the body’s circadian rhythms, which is the biological processes that the body follows over a 24-hour cycle.

Circadian rhythms are the 24-hour rhythms in your body that are driven by the master clock in your hypothalamus, which are in lockstep with your everyday light and dark cycle. Because these circadian clocks can influence the activity of enzymes and hormones that regulate your metabolism, eating the majority of your calories later in the day fouls up these rhythms in your body and a pertinacity to store fat in the body. Thus, the time of day that we eat, especially if we eat a lot at night, can have an impact on your metabolism and the way the body stores fat.

Rather than serving your Thanksgiving feast at 6 p.m. or later, move the starting time to a 1 p.m. launch. Bonus tip: An earlier starting time for your Thanksgiving meal eliminates the need for high-calorie appetizers and alcohol that are typically served to hold you over until the bird is carved.

Downsize the menu.

Make an executive decision to serve less, especially those side dishes. Research suggests that increasing the number of food options available at a meal, increases the amount of food and calories you’ll likely consume. Is it really mandatory to have both mashed and sweet potatoes, or to serve both whole cranberry sauce and the gelatinous, sliceable kind?

Keep this in mind also when you plan the dessert menu. How many varieties of pies do you really need to cover the table for it to be Thanksgiving? If there are five different pies available, you will be more likely to eat a slice of most, if not all, of them rather than just being satisfied with one slice of a single dessert. Decrease the number of desserts you traditionally serve by 50%, and you could possibly cut your dessert calories in half.

Set the table with grandma’s china.

According to research, the average size of a dinner plate has increased by over 20% over the decades. This year, pay homage to grandma and serve your Thanksgiving dinner using her petite china. (It’s likely stored in a family member’s attic so start the hunt early.) The smaller the plate, the less food you are likely to heap on and eat. Plus, grandma will be proud as a peacock at the dinner table.

Take the food out of the spotlight.

Research suggests that staring at platters of food, especially enticingly yummy favorites, can motivate you to unconsciously eat more, even if you’re not hungry. This is what happens when the meal is in the middle of the dinner table, teasing you to consume more and more.

Rather, serve dinner buffet style. And fill the dinner table with flowers and candles instead of platters of food. My festive favorite is to carve out the center of a medium pumpkin and a few mini pumpkins and fill them with fresh flowers or candles. Feast your eyes on these seasonal beauties rather than the food during dinner.

Bonus tip: Having the food at a separate table will also force you to get up and move to get seconds.

Couch the couch potato mentality.

Instead of watching football on the couch all afternoon, why don’t you gather up the crew for a family scrimmage in the backyard or take a long group walk? If you implement hack No. 1 (eating earlier in the day), you will have all afternoon to walk off the mound of stuffing you ate. A one-hour trek through the neighborhood could burn off over 200 calories (about the number of calories in that sliver of pumpkin pie).

Freeze leftovers immediately.

Break with the habit of pulling all the turkey fixings out of the refrigerator on Thanksgiving night to have a second helping of hefty leftovers. Put the goods immediately in covered containers in the freezer to re-enact the celebration next month, rather than piling it all on in one day. Or send food home with guests, so you’re not tempted by the mountains of leftovers.

If you’re a fan of the cranberry-stuffing-turkey-sandwich – or any version of leftover sandwich – then portion out just a small amount to enjoy later in the week. Freeze the rest to avoid late-night snacking.

Nix the online shopping.

Sure, there are plenty of good sales. If you feel you’ve got to get that deal, head to the brick and mortar stores on Black Friday (or on the weekend) instead.

While you may be tempted to sit and shop online for the sales, drag yourself to the mall and walk for hours. Yes. Shopping can be physically active if you are walking for hours scouring the sales from store to store. Your step counter will appreciate it too.

Strategies to Avoid Overindulging at Thanksgiving

  1. Repeat Thanksgiving – in July or whenever.
  2. Carve out an earlier time to eat.
  3. Downsize the menu.
  4. Set the table with grandma’s china.
  5. Take the food out of the spotlight.
  6. Couch the couch potato mentality.
  7. Freeze or give away the leftovers.
  8. Nix the online shopping for in-real-life shopping.

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