When I titled this post 10 tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving meal, I was thinking regarding managing nutrition expectations, and enjoying the holidays when you’re trying to eat healthily. I forgot all about the stress that comes from Uncle Tom’s drinking problem, your sister’s negative husband, and the political differences throughout your extended family. Sorry, I can’t help you with any of that, my family lives out of state. Haha.
This post is all about how to have a happy and stress-free Thanksgiving when it comes to nutrition because the truth is that when you’re trying to eat healthy, big holiday meals can feel stressful. There’s an abundance of foods that you feel like you shouldn’t be eating, there’s the pressure from Grandma to try her pie and to have seconds, and relatives who don’t understand your health and fitness goals.
You don’t have to lock yourself in the bedroom with grilled chicken and broccoli on Thanksgiving Day, because that’s not healthy either. Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to spend time with friends and family, bond over meals, and think about gratitude, all essential parts of a healthy lifestyle.
My advice is always to do the best you can with what is reasonably available. If you eat well most of the time, one day or one weekend won’t make much of an impact on our overall health. It’s what you do most of the time that matters. Thanksgiving is a chance to bond with the people you love. Focus on that.
Don’t Set Restrictions, Rather Aim to Make Better Choices
Rather than coming to dinner with a mental list of foods you can’t eat, merely try to make better choices. If you have a positive mindset, enjoy yourself with an intention to do the best you can with no judgment, it’s impossible to mess up.
Choose Whole Foods First / Prioritize Protein
Choose whole foods over processed foods when possible. It’s not about being perfect, but mindful. If everything served is heavily processed, then eat what is available. Eat your protein first. That’s easy to do on Thanksgiving. Fill up on the turkey and vegetables first, then if you have room, enjoy a treat.
Make a Healthy Dish
If there aren’t any healthy options at your family dinner, consider making and bring your own. Whether it’s a healthy dish (like this one from the Fit Nana) or a mixed fruit bowl, you probably won’t be the only one that is grateful for at least one healthier option.
Choose Homemade Over Store-Bought Treats
Homemade cookies from scratch are a better choice than Oreos. Enjoy dessert, but choose homemade treats when possible.
Eat Slowly and Mindfully
The key to not overeating is to eat slowly and mindfully. It takes time for your stomach to send the signal to your brain that you’re full. If you eat too fast, you don’t allow enough time for that communication. No matter what you choose to eat, eat it slowly. Try putting your fork down between bites or sipping water. Once you feel physically full, it’s easier to stop eating. If you eat too fast, you may overeat before you realize you’re full.
Be Mindful of Portion Sizes
Try a little bit of everything in proper portions. Consume alcohol in moderation (or not at all). An appropriate portion of any food or drink won’t be detrimental. I like to think of the Precision Nutrition hand guides for a visual reference.
Sign up for a local turkey trot or merely take a walk after dinner. If you can’t get in formal exercise, just make an intention to move around as much as possible. It helps with digestion and can help relieve some of that family stress I mentioned earlier. If you’re near Fort Worth join me Saturday after Thanksgiving for a track and strength workout outdoors!
Forget about trying to eat perfectly on Thanksgiving day, that’s probably a losing battle. But also forget about eating the entire dessert table. Find a healthy balance that makes sense for you. Choose a few treats that mean the most and taste the best instead of mindless inhaling cookies because they’re there. Healthy living is about balance. You can have the best of both worlds.
Remember to be grateful for the abundance of food. Not everyone is so fortunate. It’s what the holiday is all about. Focus on gratitude.
No matter what happens, move on without judgment or guilt. If you ate more than you intended or made poor health choices, just wake up on Friday morning with a mind for a fresh start. If you chose to make Thanksgiving your indulgence day, you don’t need to pay penance for your food sins with carrot sticks or extreme workouts, just go back to normal as soon as possible. One meal, one day or even one weekend will fade away once you get back on track. It’s not about how many times you get off track, but about how quickly you get back on. Move on. You have Black Friday shopping to do!
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of love and gratitude. My family does live out of state, so hubby and I make a small turkey and traditional sides and enjoy a quiet evening at home. We have a friend that sometimes brings us a pumpkin pie and we’ll start thinking about putting up our tree over the weekend.
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