Thanksgiving is a great holiday. I love the high school reunions, the relaxed time with family and the familiar recipes. Full disclosure: I haven't eaten turkey in ten years but I still love how it looks on the table and the sense of togetherness it represents.
However, Thanksgiving can often be a minefield of healthy lifestyle-deterring obstacles. If you're one of those people who can get carried away in the mad crowd effect that somehow sweeps all your good intentions under a huge pile of turkey and pie, don't worry, you're not alone.
Here are nine simple strategies for having a great time, eating up a storm and still feeling healthy in your head and your belly the morning after.
1. Heap on the veggies.
Remember that broccoli only has around 90 calories in three full cups and is packed with fiber, while a cup of stuffing can have anywhere from 300 to 500 calories and is often full of empty carbs that will spike your insulin level. If you fill your plate with three to six cups of greens, you're unlikely to feel hungry.
2. Change your potato game.
Instead of having mashed potatoes or stuffing, roast baby purple potatoes. It's a great way to stay gluten-free and you avoid the typical mashed potato recipes that tend to be filled with butter and cream. You also get a shot of healthy vitamins and minerals.
3. Make cranberry sauce a condiment.
Cranberry sauce is a delicious Thanksgiving staple but it's usually packed with sugar. I often see people piling it on plates like a main course when it's really best as a garnish.
4. Pick your booze carefully or skip all together.
It's fun to sit in front of the game with a few beers, but the sludgy hangover feeling and the hit to your metabolism alcohol causes isn't the best combination on a big eating day. If you're drinking, a vodka soda with just a little dash of cranberry juice might be easier for your body to chew through by the next day. You can also support your ability to metabolize alcohol by taking a B-complex vitamin along with your cocktail!
5. Get moving!
Do some sort of physical movement the day of, whether it's a walk, jog or just stretching on your yoga mat. For the biggest metabolism boost, do 15 minutes of lifting free weights. Lifting boosts your metabolism for 24 hours even at rest and can make a big difference to how you metabolize your turkey dinner.
6. Don't forget breakfast.
Have a light, high protein breakfast. Eating protein boosts your metabolism throughout the day, keeps you satiated and by having some first thing, you're turning on the "on" switch of your metabolism. I recommend a low sugar protein shake, two fried eggs or a couple slices of smoked salmon with avocado slices on top.
7. Find an outlet for stress other than food.
The reality is a lot of families are stressful for people to come home to and holidays have a way of bringing out tensions. Or you might be running between family members and locations trying to keep everyone happy. If any of these sound familiar, notice if stress, irritation or anxiety is driving you to eat more than you might otherwise and go for a walk, meditate or call your best friend instead.
8. Plan a post holiday detox.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the perfect time to do a short detox. It gives you a chance to reset and preps you for the upcoming holiday party scene. I like to do a six-day detox program the week after Thanksgiving. It's not too long, but it's enough time to fully restore and I don't feel too deprived or too done in by the holiday season when it's all over.
9. Give more than you get.
If the focus on consumption feels like a little too much, take the opportunity to give someone a little love. It might be bringing a family a meal or just calling a person you know needs support and saying hi. It doesn't have to be grand to fill you up with gratitude.
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