The weather is getting colder, the leaves have turned orange, and the holiday ads have already started on TV… Which means that Thanksgiving must be right around the corner!
Though it’s full of friends, family, and food, Thanksgiving sometimes gets a bad rap.
For many, this fall feast is the official start of the holiday season – which also means the beginning of belt-loosening season, as millions of Americans prepare to pack on the pounds due to heavy seasonal foods.
But here’s some news that you may be thankful for: Gobbling down Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to mean giving up on your healthy eating habits!
Here are our seven habits to stay healthy, even on Turkey Day:
1.) Eat Before You Eat
While it may be tempting to put off eating and build up your appetite for that big Thanksgiving dinner, most experts agree that “saving your calories” will actually only cause you to make less healthy choices in the long run.
Instead of making yourself hungry, eat a small, nutritious breakfast early in the day, and don’t be afraid to enjoy a healthy snack, such as fruit, nuts, or raw vegetables, before the big party begins.
Taking the edge off your appetite with a light meal or snack high in protein and fiber will allow you to exercise greater control when you do finally sit down at the Thanksgiving table. As a result, you’ll be more discriminating with your food and drink choices – and your family may be spared from the grumbles that come with an empty belly!
2.) Get Active
You don’t have to give up on your exercise regimen, just because it’s a holiday!
Even if you’re traveling, or if your local gym is closed, you can still squeeze in some physical activity on Thanksgiving Day.
Try leading your family and friends on a brisk walk around the neighborhood early in the day, and then again after the holiday meal. Or, you could take advantage of having a big group around to play your favorite sport, whether that means starting a little game of pick-up basketball or tossing the football around.
Having fun while burning off calories? Now that’s something to be thankful for!
3.) Cook Lighter
Traditional Thanksgiving favorites can be heavy hitters, loaded down with fats and sugars that will leave you feeling sluggish.
While many of us look at the holiday as our chance to throw our diets out the window, there are actually all sorts of easy ways you can make healthier choices while cooking your holiday favorites. A few easy ways to start:
- Swap yogurt or fat-free sour cream for butter, cream cheese, and mayonnaise in creamy dips and casseroles
- Reduce your use of oil or butter wherever possible
- Consider replacing processed white sugar with honey or fruit when you bake up a holiday treat
If you get creative, there are all sorts of ways that you can make these dense, unhealthy holiday foods feel a little lighter. We’d love to hear about some of your favorite Thanksgiving healthy hacks!
4.) Watch Your Portions
Of course, eating well at Thanksgiving is about two things – what you put into the dishes you prepare, and how much you eat over the course of the meal.
To stay healthy and feel satisfied with your Thanksgiving dinner, the important thing to remember is portion control.
At the end of the day, you’re in charge of what you eat, and there are all sorts of ways that you can make healthy choices without sacrificing on flavor! For instance, most experts recommend filling up half of your plate with plain fruits and vegetables, and then dividing the rest between your protein and the Thanksgiving favorites you just can’t live without.
Be practical! You don’t have to go without your holiday favorites, but you don’t need to overindulge, either. Can you go with a smaller slice of pie? One scoop of cranberry sauce instead of two or three? You’d be surprised how much of a big effect these little choices can have.
Health professionals also advise skipping seconds whenever possible. The upside to that? Thanksgiving leftovers are definitely much better the next day!
5.) Take Your Time
One way to control your intake? Pace yourself!
It takes time for our brains to recognize that our stomachs are full, so slowing down can make a huge difference when it comes to overeating. There are plenty of practical ways that you can adjust your pace!
For one, focus more on family and friends, rather than on the meal. You may be less tempted to wolf down seconds if you’re caught up in a great conversation (though it’s up to your family to decide what topics are off-limits).
Experts also recommend putting your fork down between bites, which may help you slow down and savor your plate of food.
Similarly, leaving the table right after you’ve finished eating may help you avoid snacking on leftovers or grabbing that second helping.
With that in mind, you may even want to consider breaking up your meal, so that no one is tempted to overindulge at any one stage. Taking a break to play a game or head to a different room between dinner and dessert, for instance, will give your body time to recognize that it’s full – and let you spend even more quality time with your family and friends!
6.) Drink Plenty of Water
Beer, wine, soda, cocktails – all of these can be delicious (and festive) beverage choices.
But when it comes to keeping you hydrated and feeling great, nothing beats good old water! Why should H2O be your drink of choice this Thanksgiving?
For starters, much of what we interpret as hunger is actually just our minds misinterpreting thirst. So, if you feel yourself craving a pre-dinner hors d’oeuvre (or three), you may actually just need to drink some water in order to feel just as satisfied.
Even better, filling up on water will actually help your stomach stay fuller longer, which may help prevent you from overeating.
And, finally, the more water you drink, the less you’ll be tempted to overindulge on sodas or alcohol, which can pack a ton of calories, sugar, and carbs on top of your already-heavy holiday meal (not to mention packing one heck of a hangover the next day).
7.) Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Holiday
While it’s important to consider your diet during this gut-busting holiday, let’s remember that Thanksgiving is a time for relaxation and celebration, as well as feasting.
Focus on the people and things that you’re thankful for, and you may find yourself thinking less about the meal – and indulging a little less heavily, as a result.
Even better, savoring this special day could give your mental health a boost! Studies show that spending time with friends and family helps reduce your stress levels, as do traditional Thanksgiving pastimes like napping, playing games, or watching your favorite movie or holiday special on TV.
Enrollment Specialists, your health and life insurance consultants want to know: What healthy habits will you incorporate into your holiday routine? How will you keep an eye out for your health this Thanksgiving? If part of your holiday health plan involves insurance, Enrollment Specialists is here to help! Drop us a line today with any of your questions or concerns… or even just a great pumpkin pie recipe!