By Lauren Denos: 11/24/2014 (Nutrition)

The holidays are approaching and everyone goes through a crazy amount of stress over multiple things. There is prepping meals and traveling; others are worried about gaining too much weight. Because of this sometimes people think they need to start their diets before the holidays begin and to get a head start on things. Instead of going crazy and stressing yourself out during what should be a great time of year, let’s look at what you can be doing to make the holidays healthier and less stressful.

  1. Do not start dieting right before the holidays! If you normally eat healthy then keep up with that. Making big changes to your eating right before the holidays is asking for a major fall off the bandwagon. If you are thinking of giving up soda or other small step in your health that is probably a good step. But, if you love cheese and rely on sandwiches for lunch, and must have coffee every morning to get going, and then decide to give them all up, that is going to be a tough road. I say this because you will just be getting in the grove of being without these things when Thanksgiving Day happens. All of a sudden, you notice that there is gourmet coffee being brewed and your favorite cheese is laid out. In a scenario like this, the temptation is to binge. Reducing bad things in your diet is a good healthy thing to do anytime of the year, but many people decide around the holidays that they are going to completely cut all of the junk out of their diets 100%. This is drastic and will cause undue stress that you do not need. Be moderate. Lower the amount of junk you are eating gradually instead of going full throttle.
  2. You can take home leftovers. You do not need to gorge on food on Thanksgiving. That’s what leftovers are for. Take a little of those home with you. This is not the only time you can eat turkey or ham or whatever Thanksgiving food you like. Instead, you could make this stuff year round and freeze it; thus, allowing you to have a delicious, moderate amount of Thanksgiving food whenever you want it.
  3. Enjoy everything that is available but do not go overboard. Understand that you can enjoy all the things you love for Thanksgiving, but remember to use portion control. You do not need a whole plate of stuffing. Have one moderate spoonful and leave some room for other foods.
  4. Eat some good protein. It is tempting to eat nothing but stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and gravy; yet you want to make sure that you are still getting a balanced meal. Eat some lean meat and vegetables along with all those starchy wonders. You will feel better afterward.
  5. Create healthier versions. When you are the one doing the cooking, or you are bringing a dish to share, you have the power to create what you would like to eat. Create a tasty vegetable dish that does not rely on heavy cream and butter. Make an awesome salad to go with your meal. You can even make a healthy soup as an appetizer instead of tons of bread and butter. For the meat, cook a ham that is not crusted in sugar or bake your turkey instead of frying it. When it comes to appetizers, there are tons of things you can do. Put out salsa instead of creamy onion dip with your chips. Apples and yogurt dip can make a great sweet appetizer as well. Deviled eggs are a favorite appetizer. A great thing about them is they do not cost much and have a lot of good protein. What’s more, you can even make a leaner version of them by substituting more mustard for some of the mayo and adding fillers like onion! The possibilities are endless and if you cannot think of anything a web search can give you all the suggestions you could want!
  6. Don't skip meals just because it is Thanksgiving. Many people do not eat all day so that they can gorge on their holiday meal. This is not a good thing to do to your body because it can make you cranky and tired. When you do something like this your body is so hungry you can wind up eating way too much too fast, and then are miserable with how uncomfortably full you are. Like we said above, this is not the only time you can eat this food. You can take home leftovers or cook meals like this throughout the year, so do not feel like this is the only time you will eat this meal. If you go to your Thanksgiving dinner starving, you may not even get to enjoy the food as much as you would like because you will be so hungry you inhale your food.
  7. Go do something after your meal. Create some activities that will get your blood moving after that big holiday meal like a walk or a physically-active game. Not only will this help all your food digest, but it will also be a fun way for the family to spend some time together. Not to mention this is a good way to start teaching the kids of the family how to live a healthier lifestyle.
  8. Move around at the gathering. There is nothing saying you have to get to your destination and just sit the whole time. Move around! Mingle. It may seem like you are not doing much, but you are at least doing something and keeping your blood moving a bit. That is more productive and healthy than just sitting on your butt!
  9. Give some of your leftovers away. There are a lot of great things to do with some leftovers that are very healthy: turkey soup, ham quiches for breakfasts, etc. The less than healthy food like pumpkin pie and stuffing can also be eaten in a better way. Instead of cramming it all in on Thanksgiving, save amounts in Ziploc bags or Tupperware and let it stretch it for a week or two. Also, hand out these containers to other family members as they leave.
  10. Don't hang around the appetizers if you can help it. In many families the action happens around the appetizers, but if you are hosting then create an atmosphere that makes it harder to just hang around the appetizers. Put it all in a smaller corner and make the comfortable area to mingle in the other room. When you are done eating, whether it be leftovers or the main meal, put the food away so you are not tempted to keep grazing.
  11. Don't over-do the desserts. If you are a dessert lover then do a small bit of each dessert instead of a full-size piece. You can have dessert anytime of the year, this is not the only time you will ever have dessert again, so do not eat all of it at once. When you have your dessert then walk away from the table or counter that has the rest of the desserts on it. This can help your willpower against getting more.
  12. Your drinks add calories. Many people do not think about all the calories their drinks have in them. Coffee with cream and sugar, the sparkling cider, the beer - they all add up. You could wind up drinking your way to a full day’s worth of calories or more without even knowing it. Be mindful of what you are drinking.
  13. Drink plenty of water. This is just a good thing to do year-round. When you are dehydrated it can feel like hunger. If you are not dehydrated the water can still help fill you up a little bit so that you may think twice about that second helping of everything.

Remember that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. Keep the true meaning of the holiday in mind so that you do not think the whole point is a binge-fest. Be thankful for your healthy body and treat it like you actually appreciate it, instead of the punishment so many people dole out. Thanksgiving should be enjoyed and you should be able to have some of the foods you like so much, but it is a balance. Do not be too restrictive so that you are miserable, and also do not overeat so much that you are being gluttonous and torturing your body. This year, test out not going to either extreme and enjoy it without guilt.



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