Healthful Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving Feasting

I look forward to Thanksgiving above all other holidays every year. That’s why I would never tell you to avoid the family dinners and holiday buffets to sit home and wallow in a bowl of brown rice and steamed veggies.

If you’re watching what you eat, surviving Thanksgiving is all about your approach. So don’t wave the white flag of defeat in the face of the first round of cornbread stuffing. No, it’s all about being proactive…and by that I don’t mean wearing a pair of elastic pants to dinner. Take that healthful frame of mind you’ve been exercising lately to dinner with you alongside your apple crisp.

Here are 10 tips for surviving Thanksgiving—without the excess calories…

Make Breakfast Hearty and Nutritious

Begin Turkey day with a healthful, nutritious breakfast that is low in calories and fats, but high in soluble fiber to ward off early-afternoon snack attacks. Soluble fiber in oatmeal will keep you fueled and energetic until lunchtime. So try a ½ cup of quick oats with some fresh berries and plain, non-fat Greek yogurt.

Fill Up at Lunch With Complex Carbohydrates

Skip the starchy lunch options—such as the pasta, sandwich buns, and fries. Instead, opt for filling complex carbohydrates, like lentil salad, black bean soup, or chicken breast and steamed veggies over brown rice or quinoa to keep you fueled and satiated all afternoon.

Eat More Greens

Incorporating more green veggies into your daily diet will help you fill up on healthier foods to, hopefully, decrease your intake of calorie-laden, fatty foods. So jam pitas with baby spinach, arugula, and kale, and on Thanksgiving pair that Turkey, an excellent source of low fat protein if you stick to white meat, with steamed spinach, green beans, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts.

Opt for Lean Proteins at Turkey Dinner

You can choose the cornbread stuffing with sausage, buttery mashed potatoes, and gravy at dinner—or you can opt for a few slices of lean white meat, baked salmon, quinoa (which is the highest protein grain), along with healthier sides, like veggie-based salads for a lighter meal.

Use Smaller Plates

I always opt for a dessert or appetizer sized plate when I’m faced with a smorgasbord of a feast. That way, I cut down my portion sizes considerably. The only other option is to load a mountain on my plate and risk embarrassing myself—gasp!

Don’t Skip Meals to Save Calories

There are people out there that have the idea if they skip breakfast or lunch; they can just move those calories over and consume them all at dinner. The only thing you’ll do by saving up the entire day’s allotment of calories for an evening gorge-fest; is overeat at the party because you’re starving.

Snack Smart

When it comes to snacking, particularly the days ahead of Thanksgiving, I’m sure to have a plethora of healthy, high-protein, high fiber, low-sugar snacks on hand to avoid a rush to the nearest donut hole on the way home from work.  Smart snacking requires you to be proactive. Have a selection of healthy snacks tucked into your desk drawer—i.e., low fat granola bars, rice crisps, melba toast and pack almond butter, a hardboiled egg, or fresh fruit to tackle those sugar cravings.

Say No to Dessert and Alcohol This Week

With the big feast less than a week away, do yourself a favor and refrain from binge drinking and eating desserts this week. And if you do need a bit of sweetness to tide you over, opt for a fresh fruit salad topped with some low fat vanilla yogurt. It’ll satisfy your sweet tooth in a pinch!

Bring a Healthy Dish of Your Own

The only way to be sure there will be a healthy selection of side dishes for you to sample at the potluck feast is to bring a few of your own. I always know there will be turkey, so I’m set on the white meat front. However, for potluck affairs, I bring a healthy green salad and a steamed veggie side (i.e., usually asparagus or kale) so I know that at least I will eat them.

Eat Mindfully

Be mindful of what you consume at dinner. It’s easy to get lost in mindless eating when you’re faced with a table of creamy, cheesy hors d’oeuvres while you’re catching up with family or friends. Instead, make a small plate of health nibbles and move your conversations into another room that’s away from the appetizer table.

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.