Thanksgiving is probably one of our biggest food Holidays. The meal can take days to prepare and while we think it’s only one meal- many times it can go on all weekend (thinking leftovers, other celebrations). It also represents the beginning of the Holiday season and an excuse to the “throw in the towel” for the rest of the year mindset. But it doesn’t have to be.
How do you stick with your health goals and enjoy yourself all at the same time?
You’ll see my answer to many issues like this revolves around one thing- MAKE A PLAN.
Let’s talk planning.When we get off track with our wellness habits (particularly with food) it is usually due to unplanned events, situations, emotions, and so on. The thing Thanksgiving has going for it is that the menu is generally the same every year (even during a pandemic). We generally know what we are eating, what are favorites and least favorites are, how the day’s events will go and who will be there. This makes it so easy to MAKE A PLAN.
Plan your plate
Let’s start with the food since that’s the star of Thanksgiving. First things first, don’t skip breakfast (or lunch). Plan to eat small meals, with simple whole foods that are well balanced (protein, fruit/veg, carb). Not eating until your Thanksgiving meal is setting yourself up to overeat because you’ll likely be too hungry.
Stay hydrated. This will help with the rich foods, sodium and especially if you’re going to have a few drinks.
Next, think about appetizers. If that’s your favorite part of the meal, then go for it and eat a lighter meal. But if you are just buying to time to get to the main event, limit appetizers. Another good reason not to skip meals earlier in the day, then those appetizers won’t look as appetizing.
We generally know what the menu is going to look like. Plan for your plate to include what you love most and leave out what you don’t. Limit second helpings. And be able to see the bottom of your plate (don’t pile it as high as the sky all drenched in gravy).
*A note about Aunt Matilda’s famous Jell-O mold. Most people have foods that show up on the table that are not favorites, but we eat them out of obligation. Be strong …..if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it. If necessary, take some to be polite, but there are no prizes for a clean plate! Save the room for something you truly enjoy.
Eat mindfully. Slow down and enjoy, it’s not a race. This meal took a lot of planning and preparation plus we want to enjoy those foods that we eat once a year. Tips for slowing down: pace yourself with the slowest eater at the table, pay attention to the conversation, put your fork down in between bites, eat at the table.
Plan your activity
Plan to do physical activity on Thanksgiving Day. Think about your day and then schedule what you will do for activity. Be realistic and schedule according to your plans and who will be with you. Maybe it’s a family walk, maybe you do a virtual yoga class. Plan to move your body besides getting up for the dinner table.
Plan your mind
Holidays can bring up a lot of stress and emotion. This year especially we may be feeling extra emotions due to all that we have been through this year. And at times we turn to food to comfort ourselves. Think ahead about what feelings may come up for you. Make a plan so that you can get ahead of them. Set a time to reach out to loved ones who you may be missing. Or plan to do something that makes your heart feel full like watching a church service or taking flowers to a neighbor who you know is alone. Look into volunteer opportunities for the day of Thanksgiving. Activities where you reach out to others not only helps them but you as well.
Planning ahead can make a huge difference for Thanksgiving and at any time. When we have a plan, we can actually relax more, truly enjoy the things we love and those we love because we aren’t thinking about how we are losing site of our health goals. So start thinking about your Holiday, making a thoughtful plan and enjoy your Thanksgiving!