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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Helpful Hints to Avoid Overeating Throughout Thanksgiving Dinner

Nov 01, 2014 01:26AM ● By Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

As the holiday season approaches, many of us probably have food on the brain. Baked goodies and rich, savory fare are hallmark traditions during this time of year; however, this indulgent feasting frequently comes at the expense of our waist lines.

No festivity is more notorious for packing on the pounds than Thanksgiving. So, in preparation for this delectable yet potentially diet-derailing occasion, strive for moderation and follow these simple and effective tips for enjoying the day without getting a too-early start on “holiday weight.”

  1. Don’t deprive yourself by skipping meals leading up to Thanksgiving dinner. This is a common rookie mistake and frequently backfires when you sit down to a smorgasbord of tempting morsels, after having eating nothing all day. It’s perfectly logical that intense hunger pangs increase the appetite, resulting in overindulgence or loss of control when you’re staring down large quantities of food. So, instead of restricting your intake, only to feel ravenous at the first glimpse of turkey and stuffing, choose light yet filling options for breakfast and lunch. For example, Greek yogurt or oatmeal topped with fruit is both a hearty and healthy start to the morning, and a green salad loaded with colorful vegetables is ideal for staving off afternoon cravings.   
  2. When the time for feasting finally arrives, serve yourself small amounts of each dish. An average portion size equals roughly the size of your fist, so apply this general guideline when charging through the buffet line. Resist the natural urge to pile your plate high with every delicacy in sight, even though your relatives may be doing exactly that. While it’s understandable that you want to fully enjoy this labor of love, which your grandmother has been slaving for hours over in the kitchen, pace yourself. Sure, you can’t wait to taste everything; however, all you need to appreciate a dish’s flavor profile is just a few bites before moving onto the next tasty tidbit. Think of this meal as a marathon rather than a sprint, and remember, dinner is not the only course.  
  3. Fill up the majority of your plate with low-calorie foods and eat those first. Before you dig into that fluffy cornbread, brown sugar-dusted yams or the quintessential butterball, consume those nutritious and often overlooked side dishes, such as green beans, beets, broccoli, winter squash and, of course, the relish tray. Starting your meal with nutrient-dense veggies will curb your initial appetite; therefore, by the time you’re ready for the carbs, fats and high-calorie items, instead of wolfing them down, you may just manage a few cursory nibbles. After all, as is typically the case with this food-centric holiday, your eyes will probably be larger than your stomach.         
  4. During the meal, make a point of chewing slowly and pausing between each mouthful. Don’t devour the contents of your plate with such record speed that you’re barely able to taste the deliciousness. Instead, savor every aspect of these traditional comfort foods and allow the familiar aromas, flavors and textures to remind you of childhood memories from holidays past. Actively engage in table conversations with family members, friends and loved ones; rather than letting this meal revolve solely around your taste buds, catch up with the people sitting across from you and create new memories, which you’ll fondly look back on next year. Also, deliberately set your utensils down after swallowing a bite and wait awhile before resuming the graze-fest.    
  5. Unless you’re legitimately still hungry, avoid sneaking to the buffet for seconds. Practice self-restraint by repeating the following mantra in your head: “I’m saving room for dessert. I’m saving room for dessert. I’m saving room for dessert…” This will give you enough motivation to ride out the wave of temptation until it subsides. Meanwhile, stay occupied in the interim between courses by leaving the table and participating in a physical activity. This will jumpstart digestion, prevent any further pit-falls and enable you to burn calories from dinner. Take a brisk walk around the block, organize a backyard touch football scrimmage, gather some friends together for an abridged Turkey Trot race, even volunteer to wash dishes or help with clean-up.  
  6. Finally, while nobody expects you to deny those sugary cravings, limit yourself to a small pie sliver. Pumpkin, pecan, apple, sweet potato – the eye candy seems endless; how can you choose just one? Well, in the seasonal spirit of gratitude, practice being grateful for will-power. Have that cake and guiltlessly eat it too, but make sure you’re only consuming enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. This is another instance where portion control becomes key. Fight the tendency to shout “YOLO!” while gorging yourself to a level of discomfort, but don’t steer clear of the dessert station altogether. Like with dinner, allow the palate to experience a few spoonfuls of your favorite treat, then recognize when it’s time to back away. And, consider this promising prospect: chances are there will be leftovers for the week ahead! 
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