I don’t know about you but when it comes to Thanksgiving I get a “I can eat whatever I want, it’s Thanksgiving” attitude. Then I stop myself and think about what happens: that horribly full feeling you get after gorging yourself, and regret, wishing you hadn’t just devoured 3 plates of food in one sitting. Here are a few tricks I use to make sure I leave the table feeling satisfied and not wanting to fall into a food coma. Also, make sure to check out my suggestions in my post on how to survive buffets since most Thanksgiving feasts are buffet-style.
Eat before the main meal.
Many people have the idea that if they don’t eat all day and then chow down on whatever they want during the Thanksgiving feast, they will consume less calories. Although possible, it is highly unlikely. What is more likely to happen is that you starve yourself and then see all of the delicious food in front of you and your eyes suddenly become bigger than your stomach. You grab heaping spoonful after spoonful of each dish until your plate resembles a small mountain. Then you hastily devour it without ever stopping for a breath. You may even go back for seconds on that sweet potato casserole that was so satisfying. It isn’t until about 30 minutes have passed that you realize how bloated you are feeling and how you wish you had worn pants with an elastic waistband. You soon have those feelings of regret wash over you.
How do we prevent this? Make sure to eat beforehand. Depending on when your Thanksgiving meal is served (lunch or dinner) you may need to have two meals, breakfast and lunch. Of course, I’m not saying have a huge pancake, eggs, and bacon type of breakfast but at least something with a little fiber and protein to start the day off. Think oatmeal with eggs, half of a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese, whole grain toast and peanut butter. Both the protein and fiber will help to keep you full longer and you won’t feel the need to completely stuff yourself later. If Thanksgiving is a dinner, make sure to have a lunch as well. Again, it doesn’t need to be large, just satisfying so you won’t be tempted to gorge yourself at dinner.
Make a healthy dish.
We all know there are staple items that must be at every Thanksgiving dinner and they may not always be the healthiest (I’m looking at you sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows). Consider swapping old recipes with newer ones or add a completely new dish to your repertoire. I’ve experimented with spaghetti squash, brussels sprouts, parmesan mashed potatoes, acorn squash, and more. Some worked, some didn’t but it’s a way to keep things new and fresh.
Don’t overdo it on hors d’oeuvres.
My family likes to have snacks available such as pickles, olives, deviled eggs, crackers and dip while the food is cooking. Your best bet with this is to grab a small plate and take a couple of each and leave the room. By standing around the food you will be more likely to continue munching without really paying attention to what you’re eating.
Don’t keep plates of food on the table where you are eating.
So you ate before the main meal, made a healthy side, and didn’t eat too many appetizers. Good job! Now you’re at the table and passing around food, filling up your plate with each dish you’re handed. You’ve finished what was on your plate and start eyeballing that sweet potato casserole which tasted so delicious (can you tell I like sweet potato casserole?). Then those rolls catch your eye, and you grab a little more turkey and gravy while you’re at it. Before long you’ve basically eaten an entire second meal and, again, those feelings of regret wash over you.
How do we prevent this? Instead of keeping all of the foods on the table where you are eating, have a buffet line set up in a separate room, such as in the kitchen. This is actually very practical in multiple ways. First, if you cannot see the food, you will not think about getting more since it’s not just staring at you on the table. Second, if the food is in a separate room you are less likely to get up and grab seconds. I personally will munch on whatever is near me, whether I am hungry or not. By making the food less accessible, you are less likely to eat more. Lastly, it helps keep the food warm by keeping it on the stove on low heat and you can keep it in the pot it was cooked in instead of dirtying up more dishes. See? Less to clean later, even more incentive to do this.
Choose your drink wisely.
Many people have wine or some other alcohol infused liquid refreshment with their Thanksgiving meal. Keep in mind that this will not only add extra calories when compared to a beverage such as water but, more importantly, the more you drink the less inhibited you can become. This can increase the likelihood that you will continue to eat past the feeling of fullness. If you must have a drink with alcohol (I personally enjoy having wine with my meal), try to limit to 1 glass and then switch to water.
Ok, you went through the buffet line in the kitchen for your food and now you are at the table. You see the variety of foods on your plate and it looks so delicious that you dig right in. You have to have a bite of the freshly carved turkey, then a spoonful of mashed potatoes and gravy. Everything is so delicious and the whole room is quiet as everyone is busy feasting away. Before you know it, everyone is finished and you feel a bit of sadness as you think “I’ve been waiting all year for this and now it’s over.” Not only that, but you could again get that feeling of regret from being too full as you scarfed everything down in a matter of seconds.
How do we prevent this? Eat slowly. If your family is not the type to gab during meals, it’s time for a change. Try this, put your fork down in between bites of food. This gives you time to talk with your family and friends that came to spend this holiday with you. When you do take a bite, make sure to savor it. Think about each flavor you are tasting as you chew. If someone else made a dish, ask what is in it. This will ensure that you leave feeling like you had a great Thanksgiving catching up with the people you care about. It also takes a little time for your brain to realize you are full so by eating slowly you can sense that feeling before it’s too late.
Wait 15 minutes before getting a second helping.
This ties into the eating slowly tip in that your brain needs time to get the signals from your stomach that it is full. If you ate everything on your plate and feel like you may still be hungry, wait 15 minutes. Pass the time by chatting with family and friends at the table. If 15 minutes have gone by and you still feel hungry, then by all means, grab another plate. But make sure you are actually feeling hunger pangs and not just cravings. Plus, you still have dessert that you want to leave some room for.
Talk a walk.
If you’ve followed the previous tips then you should feel fine by the end of the meal. Make sure to help clean up, wash dishes, put away leftovers, etc. Once everything is taken care of, instead of the usual plopping on the couch to watch tv or taking a nap, take a walk. The weather should be nice this time of the year and making yourself move around can aid in digestion. Many people complain of heartburn after eating which could come from lounging after a large meal. Take this opportunity to bring the dogs too as they have likely been locked up all day while you were preparing the meal.
Hopefully you can easily follow these tips during your Thanksgiving meal. They are easy changes to make that can have a big effect on how you feel afterwards.