The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year. Time with family and friends, holiday parties, good food and festive decorations warm the season. It’s also the time of year when is more difficult to resist all the pumpkin treats, pies, cakes and in the African-American community, the baked macaroni and cheese. Thankfully for me, I can’t eat most of what’s on the table since I am gluten-free. However, as mentioned in the last blog post the holidays can pose a challenging time to eat healthfully. And I know this affects many out there. With about a week left for Thanksgiving, it’s fitting to talk about ways to enjoy the day without overindulging.
1. Before Thanksgiving
Plan ahead for success. Good habits start first in the mind and our behaviors then follow. So resist the urge to starve yourself leading up to Thanksgiving with the hope of engaging in an eating marathon on the holiday. Binge eating is neither good for the brain or the belly. Commit now to continue eating well leading up to the holiday to help with eating sensibly on the day of.
While working out typically increases hunger, get a work out in before the holiday celebration to get some movement in and burn some calories before enjoying your Thanksgiving meal later
3. Eat Breakfast
Go ahead and have breakfast on Thanksgiving Day. Skipping breakfast will only lead to overeating later. If you worked out as stated above you would have worked up a good appetite anyway
4. Drink Water
Drink plenty of water throughout the day prior to your Thanksgiving celebration. Once mealtime comes you’ll be less likely to overeat.
5. Start with a Salad
It is easy to head start for the holiday favorites like dressing/stuffing, mash potatoes or macaroni and cheese. However, consider starting with a salad. While there are pros listed for eating a salad before a meal and pros for eating a salad after a meal, eating a salad before a meal is suggested because its high water and fiber will take up space in the stomach. This will leave less space for richer, main course dishes. And if there are vegetable available, eat some!
6. Use Small Plates
Research shows using smaller plates leads to less food consumptions. Foods on smaller plates also often appear to be more than it actually is, tricking the brain into subconsciously eating less.
7. Portion control
Put less on your plate. Taste it. Eat it. And if you want more go back for seconds.
8. Eliminate or Reduce Bread
There’s often bread in the dressing or stuffing and sometimes in other dishes. So consider skipping the bread and rolls altogether. If you just must have some bread, consider enjoying a half size piece.
9. Skip Added Extras (butter or sauces)
Many holiday dishes are already cheesy, buttery, saucy, sugary, etc. Enjoy them as is and forgo the extra empty calories.
10. Limit Sugary Drinks
Sodas, juices and other sugary drinks do nothing to provide nutrients to fuel the brain and body. They are loaded with added sugar that is bad for the teeth and liver and turns into fat. Sugar is also addictive and leads to inflammation in both the body and brain that can cause diseases.
11. Engage with Others
Talking with others while we eat slows down the eating process. It makes us more present in the moment and thus more mindful in our eating, giving us more time to digest food and allowing our brains to let us know when we have had enough.
12. Take a Break
Before immediately going for seconds and for dessert, take a break. Taking time between servings and slowing down the eating process, as mentioned above, will allow more time for our brains to tell us if we have had enough or if we, in fact, need more
13. Taste Portions of Sweet Treats
Have a sliver of pie or cake. Take only one cookie. A taste versus full a portion will allow you to enjoy sweet treats without indulging in too much sugar. And if fruit is available, consider it for a dessert instead.
14. Mind Your Take Home
I know many will disagree with me here but I recommend enjoying whatever you will while at an event and not taking anything home with you. Yes! I said it :). A way not to derail your health goals and progress is to enjoy an event and the food it has to offer without bringing any of it home with you. By all means, if you love your Aunt’s greens or green bean casserole take some with you to enjoy. So if you must take a plate with you, be sure to include some nutrient-rich foods on your plate as you take a little of our favorite dishes with you to enjoy at another time. Of course, if your take home is a plate of salad and vegetables, have at it but if it’s all the heavier, less nutritious foods, eliminate it or limit it so you aren’t eating much more of it throughout the rest of the week than you typically would.
15. Resume Healthy Habits Afterwards
The days after the holiday, resume healthier habits like those listed on the previous blog.
Life is all about balance. So go ahead and enjoy some of your holiday favorites. Just remember not to completely abandon all of your healthier habits. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.
Healthy Brain. Healthy Body. Happy Life.