a person holding a balanced plate of food on a table near an overflowing plate

How to Stick to Your Health Goals This Thanksgiving

While Thanksgiving may be your official start to the holiday season, it doesn't have to stop your health goals. But, navigating a table filled with turkey, endless side dishes, and tasty desserts for a nutritious balance is no small feat. So, this year stay on track for success with these easy-to-implement mealtime tips.

Don't under-consume foods to prepare for the Thanksgiving dinner

While it may feel intuitive to under-consume foods and "save calories" for Thanksgiving dinner, it's a strategy that's likely to backfire. Just like going to the grocery store hungry, you will probably leave the meal consuming more food than anticipated. After all, it's challenging to stay in touch with hunger cues when the body feels deprived of nourishment.

The behaviors of a hungry brain

Instinctively, if you under-consume foods during the day, you may eat more quickly and eat more than your body can physically handle when it's time for the anticipated Thanksgiving dinner. In other words, have you ever felt ravenous, like your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Most of us have had those moments at some point or another!

In addition to a greater quantity of food consumed, making healthy choices when ravenous may feel close to impossible. A hungry brain instinctively craves quick-to-digest and calorically dense foods to overcome feelings of deprivation or deficit.

Start with a hearty breakfast

So, instead of completely avoiding eating breakfast or a morning meal on Thanksgiving day, incorporate a nutrient-dense breakfast to help balance caloric intake and create healthy habits. Whip up a veggie omelet, protein smoothie, bowl of oats, or Greek yogurt parfait to help fuel your day and minimize overconsumption at dinner.

Movement can improve blood sugar control

To be clear, the idea is NOT to "earn" your Thanksgiving meal. However, a daily movement routine may improve blood sugar control, weight management, and overall health. Because of the extra stress of the holiday season, it's easy to make a habit of skipped workouts and an "I'll start on Monday" mentality.

To save time on Thanksgiving day, break up your movement into 15-minute increments throughout the day. By turkey time, your spaced-out workout will be complete! Staying active during the holidays can also help improve digestion and alleviate unwanted constipation often experienced with large holiday meals. So, get moving to keep your digestive system running smoothly!

Keep your plate balanced

Be mentally prepared for a tabled filled with seemingly endless food options. But, with more choices generally comes greater confusion on how to fill your plate. Remember the basics:

  • Aim for half of your plate to get composed of non-starchy vegetables.
  • Split the rest of your plate between carbohydrates and protein.

Ideally, your turkey day meal should involve a similar nutrient distribution to your everyday meals. While it may seem easier said than done, just do your best. Sometimes the options available at dinner won't be modified to be diabetes-friendly. If the meal doesn’t go exactly according to plan, allow yourself to enjoy the holiday without completely letting go of your health goals. Remember, it’s all about balance!

Save room for dessert

As the saying goes, "There is always room for dessert." Plus, there is bound to be a pie that catches your eye. Sticking to your health goals doesn't require complete restriction from all of your favorite treats. Instead, build your main dish with the consideration that dessert is not far behind. It may influence certain food choices knowing that there are more indulgent items along the way that you really want to enjoy.

Ask for some leftovers

Let’s face it: Thanksgiving leftovers are just as good as the day of. But, as a guest, it may feel as though dinner is a one-and-done type of meal. And, with endless options to enjoy at the table, it can promote a binge-like mentality to try everything.

Instead, forget the FOMO (fear of missing out) on a Thanksgiving favorite by asking the host to share the leftovers. That way, it will be easier for you to stick to more appropriate portions and mealtime selections, knowing that you can enjoy the remaining dishes another day.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes? Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving traditions? Talk all about Thanksgiving in this forum discussion:

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