Thanksgiving is finally upon us and for many, our mouths have been salivating for months waiting for the big day to come. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and all the fixings that come with your big meal. It’s enough to make you feel like a little kid waiting to open presents. However, that one day could be enough to unravel some of the hard work you put in this year when it comes to your physique. For 331 straight days you’ve been focused on your nutrition and training to achieve your goals and improve your health and fitness – why should the big day (Thanksgiving) be any different? In this article, I want to share with you 12 tips to eat healthier this Thanksgiving so you don’t fall off the wagon.
1. Skip the skin
Regardless if you decide to go with white meat or dark meat on your turkey (more on this next), remove the skin. Without even knowing it, consuming the skin could, alone, add hundreds of calories to your meal.
2. Choose the white meat
While both white and dark meat will provide you with some quality protein, the white meat has slightly fewer calories than the dark. Therefore, if you’re truly trying to keep calories to a minimum and eat healthier this Thanksgiving, choose the white option.
3. Go light on the gravy or opt for a lower-calorie condiment
Do I really even need to talk about this tip? We all know that the gravy we put on our turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes is full of calories. In fact, there isn’t much of anything in there that nutritionally makes sense to consume. Go light on the gravy or use a lower-calorie condiment like hot sauce if you’re trying to better manage your calories this Thanksgiving.
4. Keep passing the fried items
You can look at fried items the same way I mentioned to skip the skin on your turkey. Fried items are going to be higher in fat (unhealthy fat) and carbohydrates. Consuming fried items will shoot your calories for the meal through the roof. A simple thanks but no thanks and pass it along to the next person.
5. Load up on the protein
Protein is your friend and your muscles will thank you for making it a priority. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the main dish or the appetizers, always load up on protein whenever you can. This will not only help you feel fuller for longer, but it’s a much better option compared to loading up on items high in carbohydrates or fats.
6. Pile on the vegetables
Carrots, broccoli, celery, green beans, peppers, cauliflower, etc., are all great choices to pile on your plate when you are trying to eat healthier this Thanksgiving. Many are loaded with fiber to help keep you full and satiated and are also a lower in calorie food item that you don’t truly need to be concerned about eating in quantity. One extra tip, however, would be to skip the ranch dressing or other dippable condiments that compliment your vegetables.
7. Show some restraint with the rolls and cornbread
Warm rolls or cornbread smothered in butter… it’s like being in a dream. But it’s also a great way to easily add nearly 1,000 calories to your meal when you go overboard and eat too many. I’m not going to be the party pooper and tell you to consume neither, but limit yourself to one or two at most and if you can show some restraint, skip the butter.
8. Choose healthy appetizers
Many holidays will have snack-type appetizers that involve chips, pretzels, sweets, etc. If you want to eat healthier this Thanksgiving, skip them all. Look for healthy nuts like almonds, cashews, peanuts, or better yet, look to see if there are any sources of protein like shrimp cocktail. Shrimp is a great source of protein and will help you bypass all the unhealthy carbs, fats, and sugar that are surrounding the appetizer area.
9. Water is going to be your best friend
One of the most important things you’ll consume during the entire holiday is going to be water. If you want to keep yourself from overeating, water needs to be part of your game plan. Not only will it help you stay hydrated, but it will also help keep you feeling full and satiated. Before a meal, drink a glass of water and it will help fill up your stomach so you can essentially trick your brain into thinking you’re full. If you’re going to have an alcoholic beverage (assuming you’re of age), follow it up with a glass or bottle of water.
10. Always grab a salad to start
One of the best tips to eat healthier this Thanksgiving is to make sure you eat a salad. Be mindful of what you’re putting on it (don’t load up on cheese, croutons, and dressing) and your salad will play a pivotal role in helping you feel full and help prevent you from overeating. The nice thing about a salad is that you can eat it in volume and the calories don’t add up quickly. So, you can make yourself a nice big salad (heck, even throw some turkey in it) and start filling up on something healthy that won’t have you starring at the scale the next morning wondering what happened.
11. Portion control will allow for a small piece of dessert
One thing many people don’t know is that out of all the pies out there, pumpkin is one of the lower in calorie options. Now, I’m not saying to eat the whole pie, but if you want to eat a sliver with everyone else, do so without guilt. However, if you want to keep the calories low, skip the whipped cream.
12. Liquid calories from alcohol count
I don’t know why I always have to be the fun police, but you know alcohol should be consumed in moderation. I’m not going to tell you not to have a drink with your family or friends (assuming you’re 21), but keep it to a minimum. Liquid calories and alcohol still count on holidays despite what your Uncle Mike says. Alcohol goes down easy and before you know it you’ve downed a six-pack yourself or drank a few glasses of scotch or bourbon. Everything adds up. And if you drink, don’t drive home.