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How to Enjoy Thanksgiving Without Overindulging in Seven Steps

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The turkey. The stuffing. The mashed and sweet potatoes. And. The. Pies. Thanksgiving is designed to be enjoyed with family, friends, and a full plate of once-a-year-favorite foods. However, before you write off the day as a diet loss and give yourself free rein to stuff yourself full, consider that the average person consumes around 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving. For some perspective, the average athlete would need to jog for four hours to burn only 2,400 calories. This Thanksgiving, enjoy your time with family and friends—and your favorite holiday foods—but do so responsibly. Here are some tips to help keep you from overindulging this Thanksgiving.

  1. Don’t Skip Meals. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that skipping breakfast and lunch will allot you extra calories for an oversized dinner. Skipping meals will only leave you feeling starving come big mealtime, and you’re likely to overeat more than you would have if you had eaten healthily earlier in the day. Have a small breakfast high in protein (think eggs or Greek yogurt) and a reasonable, healthy lunch instead so that you can feel satiated before dinner.
  2. Be Mindful. Research shows that the first three bites of food are the most pleasurable. Keep this in mind when portioning out your favorite side dishes. You may love your Nana’s sweet yams that she only prepares once a year, but you don’t need to consume a jumbo-smoothie-sized portion. Serve yourself a healthy amount instead, and mindfully enjoy every bite.
  3. Take Smaller Portions. Thanksgiving Day meals tend to include more sides than an average meal. Consider a Thanksgiving Day portion as three to four bites in size, particularly if your side dish options consist of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cornbread, broccoli casserole, cranberries, and sweetbreads—and you intend to try them all.
  4. Eat Earlier in the Day. If you can control the day’s schedule, move up mealtime. Research shows that if you eat a large meal close to the time that you go to bed, your body may be more likely to store the calories as fat. Move up to a 1 p.m. start time. That way, everyone can focus on the evening’s football games after dinner.
  5. Skip the Carbs. When you eat carbohydrates at the start of a meal, your body releases hunger-stimulating hormones that may cause you to overeat. If you must eat bread, start your meal with lean turkey instead, but consider skipping it altogether. Do so, and you’ll have more room for pie.
  6. Slow Your Roll. Wait twenty minutes before going back for seconds. During this time, if you’re full (and you likely will be), your body will send that signal to your brain, and with that information, you can make a conscientious choice to take extra helpings home for the next day’s lunch instead of eating them then and there.
  7. Use Smaller Tableware. The average dinner plate has increased in size by over 20 percent over the decades. Consider serving your dinner on petite china or smaller seasonal tableware to keep from piling your plate too full with too much food.

Above all, remember Thanksgiving is about gratitude. Be thankful for your friends, family, and your health. Make decisions that will keep you on the path to optimal wellness and allow you to enjoy many more seasonal celebrations for years to come.

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