Do you struggle with post-Thanksgiving food guilt? Are you already worried about the number of calories you will consume over the holidays? If the turkey is too tempting and the mashed potatoes and gravy sound too delectable to ignore, there are ways you can fight the urge to overeat, but still enjoy a great Thanksgiving.
Here are a few basic mindful eating tips to help you on Thanksgiving.
Take Home Leftovers
Bring your own Tupperware. If you overeat because you enjoy good food, come equipped with your own doggie bag. No need to eat mindlessly if you know that you can savor it again later.
Learn How to Handle Leftovers
Other than the massive meal you will be forced to face, there always comes the dilemma of when to eat those leftovers.
“One of the biggest problems that comes from our desire to overeat at Thanksgiving is the stack of leftovers in our fridge,” says Christy Shatlock, MS/RD, and one of the lead dietitians for bistroMD. “Eating leftovers every day after Thanksgiving can make sticking to your diet difficult; more of the wrong foods in the wrong portions.”
If you still want to eat leftovers after Turkey Day, there is a way to do it that won’t mess up your diet.
“When Thanksgiving is over, take your leftovers, and portion them out for the rest of the week using several different sizes of containers or Tupperware,” says Christy. “For your main protein, (the turkey), put in several medium size containers and label them on the days you are going to eat them. Do the same with your sides; portion them out and label for each day.”
If this seems like too much work, just use a small plate the next time you need to reheat. Eating these leftovers on a smaller plate will tell your brain that you’ve eaten enough, so you won’t eat too much!
Also, think of new, healthier ways to enjoy your leftovers. Slice up some of your leftover turkey, and put it on a salad the next day. You could also make a great soup with a lot of your leftovers. Just freeze it, reheat, and enjoy it later in the holiday season.
Don’t Skip Meals, and Chew Your Food Slowly!
On Thanksgiving, most people make the mistake of rushing through their meal. However, if you are trying NOT to overeat this holiday, it’s important that you chew your food slowly.
“When you chew your food slowly, this makes your meal more satisfying, and can actually help you feel fuller, longer,” says Christy. “Even with all of those different foods being passed your way, don’t take a serving of something else, if you haven’t finished what’s on your plate. This will also help keep your portion sizes under control.”
Also, don’t starve yourself the day before or on the actual day. Make sure to eat a good protein-based breakfast, and make sure to have good protein-based snacks during the day.
Thanksgiving is also about family time, so make sure you put your fork down every once and a while, and join in on the conversation. This will also help control your urge to eat more.
You can’t exactly have a conversation with food in your mouth, right?
Stick with Tradition, but Give it a Makeover
“Most people tend to overeat at Thanksgiving, simply because they don’t want to give up the traditional foods,” says Christy. “There are healthier alternatives to some of your traditional meals; foods that will leave you feeling satisfied, but will help you avoid the temptation to overeat.”
When it comes to the turkey and the potatoes, you can make a great-tasting Thanksgiving dinner that is still traditional, but also tasty.
“There are traditional turkey recipes that are healthy, you just have to do your research,” says Christy. “There are also traditional sides, like Parmesan mashed red potatoes that have half the calories and regular fat than typical recipes.”
If you are going to Thanksgiving at a friend or family’s house, choose wisely when it comes time to dine. Choose white meat over dark, roasted sweet potatoes over candied yams, and eat your vegetables. For dessert, a small slice of pumpkin pie is okay, just avoid the whipped topping.
Also, avoid finger foods. These tend to be the highest in calories and fat.
It sounds simple enough. But, how many of us take a plate of food and nibble on it until you’ve found a seat? It’s hard to really enjoy food when you are standing up, balancing a plate. Don’t take a bite unless you are sitting down.
State Out Loud Three of Your Favorite Thanksgiving Foods
It’s likely that you named foods you only get once a year like cranberry dressing, Aunt Beth’s sweet potato pie or turkey. Consider what it is about these foods that give you pleasure. The texture? Taste? Smell? Focus on the foods you really love. Savor them. Consider whether you really enjoy filler foods like rolls, things you can get all year. Stick to what you know you love.
Take a Game or Photos
When food is the only event at Thanksgiving, it makes it too easy to mindlessly overeat. Bring your favorite board game or cards. Or, tote along photos from the year to ooh and ah over.
Find Ways to Soothe and Comfort Yourself
Holidays are exciting and stressful. Find ways to calm and soothe yourself so you don’t turn to calories for comfort. You might want to check out our new product, Dial the New You. It may be just the thing to help you.
Perhaps we need to change our perception of the holiday before we can change our behavior. In many ways, Thanksgiving is just like any other meal. When isn’t there an abundance of food? So, think of this meal like any others. Seeing Thanksgiving as “different” or “special” seems to imply that there is a different way we eat. Yes, it is a holiday, but Thanksgiving is about spending time with those you care about, not eating everything in sight. Remember, mindful eating is not a diet. You don’t have to avoid good food. It just means eating it slowly, with full awareness.
It’s likely that you can pinpoint some of your most common mindless eating triggers. Do you tend to pick mindlessly at food when it is sitting directly in front of you? Does eating next to an annoying relative lead you to stress eat? Make a list of things that sabotage your mindful eating and strategize around how to address them. For example, pick your favorite person to sit next to and grab the seat. If you tend to pick at food, commit to passing food out of arm’s reach as soon as you sit down.