family at meal

Have a Guilt-Free Thanksgiving

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By Robert Montenegro, M.D., Family Medicine Physician and Bariatrician

Thanksgiving comes around once a year; it is the one day that is remembered as a family day, a stuff yourself with turkey and all the fixings day, and the day that inevitably ends most diets.

Let’s face it. People hate limiting or completely avoiding many of the foods they love. That’s why it can be hard to eat right. Avoiding your favorite comfort foods is especially difficult during the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, because many of those foods are made only once a year. I want to assure you it is possible to enjoy a guilt-free feast and avoid packing on another pound or two into the next year, or permanently, without altering your grandma’s recipe.

Cheat meal, not a crazy meal

If you’re eating the right way 95% of the time, the other 5% isn’t going to make a significant difference in the grand scheme of things. It is okay to allow yourself up to two cheat meals a week. This includes eating the foods you love and often don’t get until the holidays. While you don’t need to measure exact servings or count every calorie on Thanksgiving, you still need to use some common sense and judgment to not go completely overboard. It is a cheat meal, not a crazy meal.

This year, make Thanksgiving the family holiday it is meant to be. Rather than focusing so much attention on how much of the rich foods you can eat in a short amount of time and leaving the table feeling like a stuffed turkey, put your fork down between bites and savor the flavor and texture of the food. It also helps to focus your attention on the conversation at the table and add to the discussion. This will slow down your meal and help you feel satisfied after one plate of food. Fill your plate with reasonable-sized portions of your holiday favorites you can’t live without and don’t waste your calories on foods you can have all year long. Skip the temptation to go back for a second helping. Keep in mind that some holiday foods are better choices than others.

Start a new tradition this year by being more active with your family. Make a point to add a morning or afternoon walk with your family that day, and increase your steps or length of your workouts the weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. I have a couple more practical tips for you. Eat a small meal for breakfast to give you more control over your mid-day appetite. An egg on a slice of whole-wheat toast is enough to start your day.

Also, don’t forget how quickly alcohol calories add up, so go easy on the drinks. Moderation is always a good idea and remember to drink water or sparkling water between drinks. This way you stay hydrated, limit calories, and stay sober.

Finally, shift from a mindset of weight loss to weight maintenance to hopefully avoid gaining any extra weight over the holidays. Remember it is a time to celebrate relationships with family and friends, not just the delicious bounty of food.