It’s all so good, I know why we over eat on Thanksgiving!
Those comfort foods are full of rich ingredients and conjure up the tastes from our youth. But Thanksgiving is the biggest food holiday of the year, which is known to devastate just about any diet. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes close to 4,500 calories on the fourth Thursday of November, and that’s not even taking into account the next day’s leftovers binge.
It goes without saying that as the holidays approach, there’s an excitement that is palpable in the air. However, for many, there is also stress and dread involved, and that’s especially the case for those who don’t want to pack on the pounds. Luckily there’s a way to have your turkey on Thanksgiving and avoid the food guilt, too – it just takes a little self-control and mindfulness.
Here are five tried-and-true tricks to avoid stuffing yourself like the iconic bird on Thanksgiving, so you don’t kick off the holiday eating season on the wrong foot. Keep these in mind and you’ll go to bed satisfied — but not stuffed — on Thanksgiving night, and will even have an appetite for leftovers the next day.
1. Don’t skip breakfast pre-feast
This is perhaps the most important tip to remember, and one that Americans all too quickly accidentally (or deliberately) forget. Fasting before your Thanksgiving feast is a surefire way to end up in a food coma post-meal. Starving yourself until turkey time only leads to binging on the fattiest food at the dinner table.
I recommend that you eat a substantial protein-based breakfast (preferably a healthy, nutritious smoothie), and protein-packed snacks throughout the day leading up to the big feast. Those meals will keep you satiated, your blood sugar in order, and won’t leave you ravenous when turkey time finally arrives.
2. Drink water throughout the day, and watch those calorie-heavy beverages
Another way Americans rack up the calories on turkey day is by drinking them. And while everyone deserves to indulge a little on the holiday, it is still important to watch your alcohol consumption. Too much wine will not only put you in the calorie dog-house before the meal even starts – it can also activate your hunger signals. According to a recent study, a hunger-increasing hormone, galanin, is produced when alcohol is consumed. And galanin not only stimulates your hunger, it specifically stimulates your appetite for fatty foods, which is bad news for your self-control potential on one of the fattiest food holidays of the year. In addition, make sure you drink water alongside your other festive drinks, as water will not only keep you hydrated – it will keep you satiated, too.
3. Fill up half your dinner plate with veggies or other nutrient dense options
We know the turkey and stuffing are what you typically go for first, but if you eat the veggies and salad first, the turkey next, and last, the high-fat, high-calorie carbs, you will create a balance. You can only eat so much food before you pop, and it’s better to fill up on fiber-packed veggies than fat-packed carbs.
4. Healthify your favorite classic dishes
Thanksgiving food is rooted in tradition, and there are some dishes that should never change. But one way to eat your calorie bombs and enjoy them, too, is to substitute in healthier ingredients when you can. Instead of adding loads of butter to your classic mashed potatoes, I recommend mixing in chicken broth, herbs, or roasted garlic. For dips, I encourage you substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream. And for casserole dishes, swap out toppers like fried onions (with the green beans) and marshmallows (with the sweet potatoes) for healthier alternatives like the recipes I shared in last week’s blog found here.
5. Don’t treat Thanksgiving as your last meal on Earth
The last thing you can do to avoid stuffing yourself like a turkey on Thanksgiving is simply changing your mindset about the meal. Because turkey day comes but once a year, many Americans treat it as their only chance to eat all the turkey, all the mashed potatoes, all the stuffing, and all the pie, when in reality, many of us have leftovers for days, and there is no law demanding that you not serve turkey any other day for dinner. This year, if you’re trying to watch your calories around the holiday season, relax as Thanksgiving approaches, and simply treat it as any other meal you’re sharing with your family and friends. Leftovers will be there the next morning, and if you’re not eating your meal at home, request to take some home so you can eat with the comfort of knowing that this isn’t really your last bite of turkey for the next 364 days!
I tend to buy a big turkey because I LOVE leftovers. I’ve made tetrazzini, tacos, turkey sandwiches and even turkey salad. But I also realized that I always have a ton of leftover celery, carrots, cream, onions, fresh sage and fresh thyme from all the sides, stuffing and pies. So this after-Thanksgiving soup was born…
Turkey Pot Pie Soup
- 3 T. butter
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 small potato, peeled and diced
- one onion, diced
- 3 ½ cups bone broth (more info on my homemade bone broth using your leftover turkey bones can be found here)
- 2 cups shredded turkey
- 1 tsp. of thyme
- 1 ½ tsp. dried sage
- 1 cup heavy cream (raw, organic or grass-fed is best)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a big soup pot. Add the onions, carrots, potato and celery.
- Let cook until onions are soft (about 7-8 minutes).
- Add the broth and cover the pot, letting it simmer for about twenty minutes, or until the carrots have softened.
- Add the turkey and herbs. Let them heat through.
- Add the cream last. Stir and simmer for another 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.