Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Worried about how the big meal today will affect your health goals?

Yesterday I read in Women’s Health that after you eat something, your body takes days to process the nutrients that are burned for fuel, and it’s then that it stores excess calories as fat.  So if you are panicked about gaining a few pounds in one day, fear no more.  Women’s Health assures us that we will not turn to jelly overnight because it takes a bad eating streak to really make a difference.

Of course that doesn’t mean go stuff as much as you can on your plate and head for thirds in a matter of minutes.  I personally think that today is definitely a day for splurging, but Thanksgiving dinner does not need to sabotage your weight goals or interfere with maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some of my own personal strategies for how to still indulge in your favorite holiday traditions but also remain mindful of your choices, and most importantly – guilt free!

1.  Move a little
Try and incorporate some type of exercise into your Thanksgiving Day.  It doesn’t need to be your longest and most challenging workout of all time, but burning off some extra calories before you eat is surefire way to feel better about that piece of pie for dessert.  Shoot for a shorter workout (20 Minute Treadmill Blast or 20 Minute Legs & Arms Tone), jump some rope, or take a class if your gym is open.  Anyone running a Turkey Trot?  Even if it’s just going for a brisk walk – that will help.  My family usually walks around the block a few times at my grandfather’s house after we eat.  Be creative with your workout options, and make it fun!

2.  Eat Breakfast
One of the biggest mistakes you can make on Thanksgiving Day is showing up hungry.  That may seem counter intuitive, but if you arrive ravenous you will be more likely to eat whatever is in front of you (think – unnecessary appetizers) without being mindful of the choices you are making.  You will also be more apt to scarf down your meal and head for seconds without taking a minute to realize whether you are full or not.  I recommend a small, heart healthy breakfast such as a whole grain English muffin with some almond butter, a plain yogurt with sliced banana, or some low-fat cottage cheese with cinnamon and blueberries.

3.  Skip the Usuals
Don’t waste your calories on the food you can have all year long!  If you are going to treat yourselves, at least choose those options that you don’t get to enjoy very often.

4.  Veggies First
Eat your vegetables first!  This way, if you do get full you’ll already have eaten the healthier options than the stuffing, buttery dishes, etc. 

5.  Portion Control
Avoid heaping huge piles of food onto your plate.  Before just digging in, assess the table and how much food can realistically fit on your plate.  Just remember – small and manageable, or my favorite “in moderation.”  Plus, if you keep your dinner portions under control, you might actually feel like you do have room for dessert without needing to unbutton those pants!

6.  Slow Down
Don’t scarf!  Take the time to savor the food you eat and its flavor.  Cut your food into small, manageable pieces and enjoy it.  Did you know you should chew each mouthful somewhere between 20 and 50 times?  Another thing you can try is putting your fork down between each mouthful.  If you eat too fast, your body won’t register that you actually are satisfied, and you will be more likely to head for round two when you may not need it. 

7.  Go Lighter
If you are cooking or bringing a dish, try to opt for some lighter options.  For example, try out the mashed cauliflower that my roommate Slesh made in lieu of mashed potatoes.  Use wheat flour instead of white when you bake.  Substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour creams and mayos.  Maybe even try applesauce instead of butter!  You get the idea.  Not everything has to be bad for you, you know. 

8.  Dessert
Make it your goal to limit the desserts.  Go into the day being pumped about ONE specific dessert.  Just saying to yourself, “I can’t wait to have Mom’s apple cake” will mentally prepare you for less dessert eating than “I am pumped for pumpkin pie, pecan pie, baklava, and Grandma’s cheesecake.”  When it’s actually time for dessert, pick and choose what really looks good and enjoy slow bites!  There really is no need to try every single sweet that is served.  If there is, have half servings and sit yourself far away from the serving plates so you avoid mindless picking and unwanted second servings. 

9.  Stay Hydrated
Drink lots of water.  Sometimes it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger!  Keeping hydrated with H2O can also make you feel more full, aka will allow you to eat less. 

10.  Be Realistic
As hard as we try, sometimes it’s just really hard to stick to these concepts on a holiday.  That’s okay!  Be realistic and don’t get down on yourself.  Just unbutton your pants and be thankful for being able to enjoy a good meal for Thanksgiving – there are thousands out there who can’t.  Set your goals for tomorrow (post turkey workout coming soon!) and accept things for what they are.

Bonus Tip:  Wear stretchy pants and loose shirts so you don’t have to “V-Neck” it in front of your family! 😉

Question of the Day:  Do you try to eat in moderation on Thanksgiving?  Or do you go big for the holiday?  Do you have any tips of your own?  Please share!

Be Thankful Challenge:  I am thankful for all my blog fans and followers!  You guys are the best.