How to Conquer Thanksgiving (some assembly required)

Let’s be honest here, how can you possibly make it out of Thanksgiving week without switching to the “elastic dockers”, buying a new belt, or simply purchasing dress sweat pants.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, your meal contribution related anxiety is likely increasing to scary new heights (meltdown in aisle 4, I repeat, meltdown in aisle 4) as you try to figure out what is politically correct to dish out on the day of giving thanks to the inventor of spanks. As we all know, Thanksgiving is famous for its indulgences and, for many, an annual ritual to overeat and then lounge around like a beached whale for the rest of the day watching football games, napping, and spending time drinking with because of family and friends.

Thanksgiving is a little bit of a challenge for highly health conscious individuals. After all, if you show up to the feast with a dressing-free salad and whole wheat dry rolls, you might be picking salad out of your hair for the rest of the night.  And, honestly, a once-per-year day of overeating most likely isn’t going to sabotage your diet plans.  Though, sustaining this eating behavior throughout the holiday season could lead to a few extra unwanted pounds to lose in the New Year with you and your 6,000 closest friends at the gym on January 1st.

Here’s the good news: there are some simple options in the playbook you can execute that are guaranteed to save you some calories (without sacrificing taste or your reputation) and add some fun to your holiday.

1.              Fit it all on one plate. This doesn’t mean build the leaning tower of Turkey (although mash potatoes does make a phenomenal cement for building).  Prevent over-stuffing yourself by fitting your Thanksgiving feast all on one plate (This works best if you don’t use an oversized plate or a trough filled to the brim). Sample small portions and avoid going back for seconds. If you’re tempted to return for more, give yourself 20-30 minutes (about how long it takes to feel full) first.

2.              Eat slowly. Thanksgiving foods are likely to be richer and more filling than your everyday fare, so eat slowly and savor every bite.  By simply taking a breathe between every bite or even putting your fork down will cause you to slow down immensely and allow satiation to kick-in before  the food baby does.

3.              Enjoy the company of family and friends (soberish). Socialize during your meal and festivities. You can’t eat and talk at the same time — so the more conversation you enjoy, the less you’ll eat.

4.              Get moving. Sign up for a local Turkey Trot 5K or 10K and spend your Thanksgiving morning getting some exercise. Not only will you burn some calories, but you’ll also enjoy some holiday fun!

5.              Don’t skip meals, eat a healthy breakfast.  Unless you plan on competing with me at Coney Island next 4th of July, there is no reason whatsoever to skip out on meals to “make room” for the Thanksgiving feast.  By doing so you actually cause your metabolism (your internal calorie inferno) to slow down and this method will also cause you to eat twice as much than usual because YOU ARE STARVING.  No bueno.

5.              Make some easy Turkey day substitutions. For example:

  • Eat the white meat without the skin instead of the dark meat with skin and shave off 190 calories.
    Turkey — white meat, no skin (6oz): 180 calories, 3g fat
    Turkey – dark meat, with skin (6oz): 370 calories, 20g fat
  • Make your own cranberries rather than the jellied stuff and save 120 calories.
    Cranberries (boiled in sugar) (1/2 cup): 100 calories, <1g fat
    Jellied cranberry sauce (1/2 cup): 220 calories, <1g fat
  • Cut the marshmallows on your sweet potatoes and instead add a little bit of spice to save 100 calories.
    Sweet potatoes, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg (2/3c): 200 calories, 3g fat
    Candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows (2/3c): 300 calories, 3g fat
  • Skip the green bean casserole and instead just steam some green beans and cut 110 calories.
    Steamed green beans (1/2C): 20 calories, <1g fat
    Green bean casserole (1/2C): 130 calories, 7 g fat
  • Choose pumpkin pie over the pecan pie for dessert and decrease your caloric intake by 160 calories.
    Pumpkin pie (1/8 pie): 340 calories, 15g fat
    Pecan pie (1/8 pie): 500 calories, 25g fat
  • Add it all up and you find that you’ve saved yourself 650 calories.
    More Healthy Total: 850 calories, 23g fat
    Less Healthy Total: 1500 calories, 56g fat

There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, so if you calculate the calorie savings from these substitutions, you will find that you saved yourself nearly ¼ pound weight gain! That’s not including the other four tips above that will help you eat less and move more.  And if you need tips on how to properly carve a turkey, don’t ask this guy…

Bon Apetit!

– Corey


  One thought on “How to Conquer Thanksgiving (some assembly required)

  1. Melanie
    November 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Love it!


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