Essential Sports Nutrition

11/21/17

4 tips for a satisfying Thanksgiving feast



Overeating and overdrinking. This doesn't sound healthy, right?

For many, Thanksgiving is a day to surround yourself with family and friends, all while consuming a smorgasbord of food in a short period of time. Although "a day of giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest and of the preceding year", Thanksgiving is a holiday that makes it socially acceptable to binge eat. Regardless if you have a meat or vegan feast, Thanksgiving is known to be the holiday in which you have the permission to indulge and eat with reckless abandon.

But knowing how binge eating and overeating makes you feel, is it really worth it to eat until you are stuffed on Thanksgiving? 

Maybe because I've spent the last 25 Thanksgiving's as a vegetarian, but this holiday doesn't make me think "food" but instead, "family." I think back to many Thanksgiving holidays with my mom and dad, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin and grandparents and it was always a fun time to catch up with everyone as it's difficult to find time in the year to get everyone together. Thanksgiving was always the day when we could count on a holiday gathering. And with my dad no longer with us, Thanksgiving is a holiday that brings back many memories with my dad.

For any individual who adheres to a restrictive (or low calorie/macronutrient) diet, Thanksgiving can be tough. When typical food restrictions are pushed to the side, it's easy to overeat on foods that have been previously off-limit. Thanksgiving is not just a "one day" feast as the entire holiday season is surrounded by food - there's not question why so many people feel the need to diet come January 1st.

Whether you plan to eat until satisfied or eat until stuffed, I find it important to eat mindfully so that you can have an enjoyable Thanksgiving experience.
  1. Don't "make room" for your feast - Starving yourself all day so that you can eat more at meal time will lead to overeating. When you are anticipating your feast because of your hungry/empty belly, there's a good chance that you will eat fast, taking on more helpings than you need and inhaling all of your food in less than 15 minutes. Instead of saving up for the big meal, go into your feast well nourished by eating small nutritious mini meals every few hours, starting with a healthy breakfast. The best part about eating is feeling better after you eat than before you started. By arriving to you meal slightly hungry, you will eat in a controlled manner, making a conscious decision about what and how much you want to eat.
  2. Use the hunger scale - I love the idea of using a hunger/fullness scale to help you check in with yourself before your feast and during your feast. Because many people are not well trained to eat mindfully, a scale can help you identify where you are at with your eating decisions. I suggest to start your feast around 3-4 on the hunger scale and to finish your meal at 5-6.  If desserts are the mouth-watering highlights of your feast, I recommend to finish your dessert portions around 6-7. Give yourself time to digest the food that you have consumed before going in for seconds. If something is "oh so good" on Thanksgiving, plan to have your second portion on Friday. You may even enjoy your second helping even more the next day!

  3. Choose wisely - Anytime a food is off-limit, it becomes very appealing when you allow yourself to eat "just a bite" of it. With so many different food choices available, it's easy to overeat on everything, even if you don't like the taste of something. It's recommended to serve yourself so that you are in control of what and how much you eat. You can practice mindful eating by observing food before you serve it to yourself and pay attention to any emotional reactions to the food. For me personally, I like "homecooked over store bought." Unless you just love gravy from a jar or instant mashed potatoes, make your food decisions based on the story behind the food, the smells, textures and presentation. If you aren't sure what you will like to eat, start with small portions so that you can take note of what excites your taste buds and if you really love something, go back for another small portion.
  4. Savor your food - Have you ever noticed that food becomes less appealing as you become more full? Does food suddenly become unappetizing when you are stuffed? Eat slowly so that you can really taste and enjoy your food. You may find that the pumpkin pie with vanilla bean ice cream was calling your name all day but after two delicious bites, the pie became "too sweet." There will come a point in your feast when eating is no longer enjoyable......don't let yourself get there. Be thankful for what you have for many are without.