Surviving “T-DAY”

21 Nov

Enjoy time with friends and family

Well tomorrow is Thanksgiving and while many Americans are planning on gorging themselves on turkey and stuffing, I wanted to take a moment to tell you how to best survive “t-day”!  Thanksgiving at its core was never about seeing how many pieces of pie you could stuff down, but rather it was supposed to be about enjoying time with friends and family and joining together to give thanks for the many blessings in your life.  Somehow, it’s become all about food, football, and the Macy’s Parade.  Here are some tips to keep your health on track during this holiday weekend.

Exercise

Get out and move with your family!

Now you don’t have to spend 5 hours in the gym, but make sure you continue to move throughout the day.  Maybe go for a family walk before or after dinner. Many local running clubs around the country have “Turkey Trots”, which typically range in many distances from a 1 mile fun run/walks all the way to half marathons.  Many Turkey Trots raise money/food for local food banks to help feed hungry families.  Get a group of family and friends together to enjoy the crisp autumn air, get some heart pumping exercise, and help the needy!

If a Turkey Trot isn’t your thing, gather the gang and head outside for some touch football or any sport of your choosing.  You’ll bond a lot more over good-natured competition, than watching the competition on the tube.

If watching the parade is a family tradition, then create a new tradition as well this Thanksgiving.  Select an activity as a family and then during every commercial break execute that activity.  Some examples could be: do 10 jumping jacks, run/walk 5 flights of stairs, or, if you’re of the competitive spirit, race around the outside of the house and first one back in gets some sort of prize.

The key here is to get up and move throughout the day!

Food

Now here’s where things get tougher, socially-accepted convention is that Thanksgiving is the day of no judgment, where you can stuff yourself to the point where you enter a massive food coma that lasts until the midnight snack of turkey legs and stuffing.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I will be enjoying the feast as much as the next, but with a twist.

First, fill half your plate with veggies! The first thing I do is reach for the veggies and load up half my plate, the fiber will fill you up faster and since they are the lowest in caloric value at the dinner table (but drop that creamed spinach please!).  Now I love mashed potatoes as much as the next, but when made with whole milk and globs of butter, they take a nutrient-rich food and turn it into a fatty mess.  Try using fat free milk and less butter, or if you’re feeling particularly healthy, halve the amount of potatoes and swap in steamed cauliflower, which will reduce the caloric density while increasing the micronutrients!  Also don’t drown your potatoes in gravy; a little goes a long way!

Mouth-watering turkey and stuffing!

Stuffing is delicious, but incredibly fattening.  Use less breadcrumbs (and switch to whole wheat!) and swap in a higher ratio of chopped veggies (I especially like butternut squash, YUM!).  Reduce the amount of butter you use (typically half will do the trick) and use a smaller ratio of meats to cut down on saturated fats.  I promise that making these small changes to your stuffing will reward you on the scale the next morning and you won’t see a huge difference in flavor.

When you’re selecting your turkey, dark or white is fine, however, you should only have a few bites of dark meat and have the rest of your turkey as the white variety.  Regardless of dark vs. white, you should NEVER eat the skin, it’s not good for you and frankly I don’t think it adds much in terms of flavor.

Cranberry sauce is another staple of the holiday table, but steer clear of the canned variety and try to make it yourself or buy cranberry sauce that actually has cranberries in it! The store-bought variety typically is full of needless sugar and artificial flavors. Here’s a great homemade recipe!

Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum; enjoy a good glass of wine with your meal, but after that stick to tea, coffee, and flat or sparkling water.  You really don’t need to heap on extra empty calories do you?

Finally, pass on the bread; you’re getting enough carbs already.  The only exception I’d make is if they’re your grandmother’s rolls that she makes from scratch only for Thanksgiving, then take just one and really enjoy it.

I almost forgot dessert!  If it’s store bought, I say skip it, but if it’s homemade, I say savor it!  Use the three bite rule on dessert and if you want to try more than one, make those bites really small.  You just want to get the flavor and enjoy it, rather than wolfing it down and concluding with a good plate lickin’!

Make sure to fill half your plate with veggies!

Now all of the above information is irrelevant if you’re going back for third and fourth servings.  First, fill half your plate with a variety of the veggie dishes. Then try little portions of all the other available dishes.  Remember the first three bites taste the best, so focus in on those first three bites of each dish. Chew slowly and savor the wonderful flavors that are bursting in your mouth.  Make sure you’re evaluating it and if you decide that “eh, the stuffing isn’t really that good this year (for whatever reason)”, then don’t feel compelled to finish all the stuffing on your plate, there’s no point in consuming empty calories just because it’s there.  If and when you’re finished your first round (ignoring whatever is left on your plate, because you weren’t feeling it), sit back and wait a while.

Sip water, use the restroom, and most importantly, enjoy the conversation and company.  It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to yell up to your brain “hey I’m full!”  After a while, if you’re still feeling the need to eat some more, go ahead and repeat the food selection process, starting with veggies and only selecting the food that you enjoyed the most (2-3 items).  This time, put smaller quantities on your plate than in your first round.  Repeat this process over again, each time with smaller quantities, until your brain signals you’re full.  Frankly, you should be full after your first or second helping.

Now some people hold to the rule of not eating anything all day, so that they “have room” or are “saving calories” for the main event. I would strongly advise against that method of thinking.  Starving all day slows your metabolism, and your body is more likely to store the “main event” as fat as opposed to energy.  Make sure you eat a small, but protein rich breakfast and a small lunch if you don’t eat Thanksgiving till later in the day.  If you eat around 3, then it may be okay to skip lunch, but go by what your stomach is saying.

Moderation is key here, just like every other day. Enjoy your time with friends and family and don’t just make the day all about the food.  Get your metabolism going with a little exercise and breakfast in the morning and enjoy in moderation and you should be able to avoid the dreaded food coma.  Also, make sure you go back to your usual exercise and eating routine on Black Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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One Response to “Surviving “T-DAY””

  1. Tom November 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    First of all I would like to say superb blog! I had a
    quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.
    I’ve had trouble clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Many thanks!

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