Best Practices for a Healthy (and Happy) Thanksgiving
On Thanksgiving, many of us will join family and friends for a day of relaxation and togetherness. We will tell stories, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company.
And we will eat. And eat. And eat some more.
According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day. To put that in perspective, it is equivalent to about 2-3 days of “normal” eating, based on the 2,000-calorie diet advocated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This figure is based more on ease of use than science, but that’s another story.
Still, there’s no denying that’s a lot of calories — enough to add an extra 1-2 pounds to that number you see on the scale.
Of course, this raises the question: Is it possible to have a great Thanksgiving — maybe even indulge a little — while, at the same time, keeping calories in check?
Absolutely. But it’s not as cut and dried as many think.
Thanksgiving Day Mistakes
Let’s start with the Thanksgiving Day don’ts:
1. Avoid Overexercising
Don’t go to the gym the day after Thanksgiving to burn the excess calories. This is like abstaining from drinking following a night of alcohol-induced fun at the company holiday party. It doesn’t even out.
When you overeat, the body reacts accordingly. Unless you’re exceedingly careful, all hyper-intensive exercise sessions burn muscle, whether that’s before or after the festivities— muscle you need to keep your metabolism revved up.
2. Cut Back on Alcohol
Speaking of metabolism, ease up on the alcohol. Yes, everybody loves your lamp-shade karaoke sessions, but here’s the deal: While a small amount of alcohol — one drink per day for women and up to two for men — can spike metabolism (at least in mice), it can also add a lot of calories and sugar.
Plus, alcohol has been linked to increased appetite, especially among women.
3. Control Your Portions
Don’t replace traditional favorites with less desirable substitutes. Every year, you’ll see articles advocating the same recommendation, and it’s silly. Your favorite pie can’t be replaced with pumpkin hummus. It just can’t. Invariably, you’ll have the hummus and the pie. So, practice portion control (read on) rather than depriving yourself of a favorite holiday dish.
Now, we don’t want you to think you have to stay home and eat tofu and bean sprouts for dinner. So, let’s look at some things you can do to have a great Thanksgiving without the prohibitive calorie cost.
Ways to Cut Thanksgiving Calories Without Feeling Deprived
1. Eat Before Thanksgiving Dinner
And not just a bunch of snack food either…
According to a survey from Basis Science, seven out of 10 Americans don’t eat regular meals before Thanksgiving. This may seem like a wise strategy — save all the calories for the big meal! But, let’s be honest: that’s not what generally happens. Instead, we grab everything and anything we can get our hands on, as we wait impatiently for the turkey and side dishes to finish cooking.
This method just adds more calories, and worst of all, they’re usually empty calories.
2. Make Substitutions When and Where You Can
Yes, we’re aware of the fact that this tip was also listed as a Thanksgiving Day don’t — but that was referring to complete food swaps. Here, we’re talking about less drastic, micro changes. For example, switching sour cream with plain yogurt — it tastes very similar — or using Splenda® instead of sugar in your favorite recipes.
By making these small, yet meaningful changes, you can shave hundreds of calories, along with unwanted fat and sugar, from your Thanksgiving Day meal.
3. Take Smaller Portions
This may seem obvious — and it is — but notice the word “take.” Most of us tend to eat what we are given (those claiming that a bag of Doritos has nine servings are the same people urging you to make a tofu turkey). So, part of the goal here is to at least start with smaller servings — you can always go back for seconds… or thirds.
As part of this, remember to chew. One of the easiest ways to overindulge is by eating too fast (which is another reason fasting before Thanksgiving is a mistake). Furthermore, try to be aware of what constitutes similar portion sizes.
For example, did you know that you can have almost twice as much pumpkin pie as pecan pie for the same number of calories? (Check out this great chart produced by Shape magazine.)
The Bottom Line on Thanksgiving Eating
For many of us, Thanksgiving is a special holiday, filled with tradition and history. By adhering to the do’s and don’ts outlined above, you can keep those cherished traditions intact, while also keeping your waistline intact.
Happy Thanksgiving! And remember to grab a Bang Energy® drink after dinner to help keep you awake when Aunt Clarice insists on telling stories about her latest trip to the doctor’s office.