Do's and Don'ts of Thanksgiving
In no particular order....
-DO eat breakfast. Rather than going for the daily bowl of oatmeal, cereal, toast or bagel, think protein. Egg white omelet, whey protein shake, yogurt or lean/veggie meat. Although turkey is high in protein, there are is abundance of carbs on Thanksgiving and there is nothing worse than starting off your day with fluctuating blood sugar levels and feeling extremely starved when your thanksgiving meal is served. If your thanksgiving meal is before 4pm, aim for a decent sized breakfast (around 400-500 calories). If your thanksgiving dinner is after 4pm, stick to protein foods, at around 350-400 calories.
-Do not go long hours without eating. Again, stick to foods which will stabilize your blood sugar and will not digest too quickly. Choose foods such as deli meat, cheese, string cheese, nuts, PB, carrots, celery, cucumbers, apples, pears, yogurt or egg whites (hard boiled). Stick with snacks around 100-150 calories, every 2-3 hours.
-Do not go into the thanksgiving meal starving. Hungry, yes. Starving, no. Go for a small snack of your slow digesting foods around 1 hour -45 minutes before the meal. Pass on the heavy appetizers which can add 300-500 extra calories to your daily diet, before the meal is even served. Although I do not suggest this on a daily basis, a good choice before the meal would be a carbonated beverage such as a flavored water or seltzer. Even a 12 ounce diet soda will help to curb any cravings you are feeling as you are anxiously awaiting the meal. Especially if your meal is in the afternoon (ex. around 2 or 3) or in the late afternoon (4 or 5), a few sips of your carbonated beverage will keep your tummy from feeling empty.
-Do not use excuses. Just because it is Thanksgiving, you only have the day to enjoy a variety of foods you normally wouldn't prepare. Yes, the portions may be a bit bigger, but 200-30 extra calories is no big deal. However, giving yourself the excuse that you can eat however much you want will leave you feeling extremely full after the meal. Stay focused with your portions and try to overestimate your calories for each serving that you put on your plate. You'd be surprised that you could easily eat 1000 calories at a meal from just 3 oversized portions of the green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and a piece of pie.
-Do use strategy when serving yourself (yes-please serve yourself). Use big plates for any type of vegetable or salad and meat. Use smaller plates for deserts and side dishes. Or let your brain think you are eating a lot by using one plate for your meal and use 60% of the plate for the turkey, greens and veggies and then choose a little of whatever you want to make up the rest of the plate.
-Do exercise on Thurs morning. See this day just like any other day. Although your table may have a few more table settings and the fridge is packed with food, make sure you are portioning your calories during the day in order to eat a little bit more come the "real" meal. Having said that, give yourself some extra room to eat a variety of food. Burn those calories in the morning! Remember, it is the off-season and you don't have to train. It is ok to work out for a few hours (or be active for a few hours) and not have to worry about properly replenishing or reaching x-heart rate. Get in a good sweat even if it is just for an hour on the treadmill or a 90 min spin on your trainer. And, if you are choosing a protein-filled breakfast, you won't have to worry about feeling sore and lethargic all day.
-Do plan a workout for Friday morning. Plan ahead (like today) and know that you will do something active on Friday morning. You can sleep in and go for a 45 min or 60 min run on friday morning or wake up before your family gets up and go for a long bike ride (or a ride on your trainer or treadmill). Ever eat too much on the night before a race, sleep horribly the night before a race and then wake up on race day morning regretting that you had too much to eat? Thanksgiving is kinda like that. You feel great when you are eating but when the meal is over, you tell yourself you will never do that again. If you know ahead of time that you will exercise on Friday morning, you will be less likely to eat until you are stuffed (rather than satisified). You probably won't need to have a pre-exercise snack on Friday morning but just getting yourself out the door on Friday will help you burn those extra calories that you enjoyed on Thursday.
-Do not think all is ruined. Maybe you didn't lose the weight you wanted to this past season/year. Maybe you are "feeling" fat at the moment. Maybe you are dreading all the "unhealthy" foods that are going to presented to you at your meal. Although this is Thanksgiving, this is just another day. You still need to use all the wisdom, knowledge and education that you have to make good choices on Thanksgiving.
-Do have a go-to food. This is something I believe in for all events and functions. If you are holding Thanksgiving at your home, it is easy to plan what you will prepare, what you will eat and how much food you have to choose from. However, when attending Thanksgiving at a neighbors house, family members house or a friend of a friend's house, it is very hard to maintain your healthy eating plan if nothing healthy is available. And believe me, even though a bunch of athletes are reading this blog there are plenty of people who go to houses where everything is soaked in oil, fat or butter and there is absolutely nothing under 400 calories a serving and less than 10g saturated fat. No matter where you go for Thanksgiving, always have a go-to food/side item for you to feel good about. And, if you find that your go-to food is the only healthy food, be sure that you use your dish to help make up that 60% of your plate of veggies, greens and turkey. Maybe you choose to make your own healthy version of a sweet potato or green bean casserole or maybe you want to bring your own steamed veggies or a bowl of chopped hard boiled eggs and fresh chopped celery. Regardless of whatever you bring, you will have nothing to fear when platting your plate of a variety of foods (unhealthy and healthy).
-Do give thanks. I know it sounds cliche but it is a great holiday to give thanks to the people who you choose to be with in order to celebrate the holiday. Furthermore, we all have people around us that we should probably thank more. Specifically all the half ironman and ironman athletes out there....LOTS of thanks is given to the friends and families who put up with us and our long training sessions. Rather than thinking about all the food you will eat, take the time to email, call or visit those who have played an important part in your life. I am sad because this is only the 2nd Thanksgiving I have not spent with my parents (the first was because I was cramming my brain with info before my exit exams in grad school in Dec. 2005). Karel and I are thankful that we have great friends here in JAX to spend Thanksgiving with and we also look forward to meeting new people tomorrow.
I hope this all helps!