November is here and Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. For most of us, the beginning of the holiday season starts the decline of our eating habits that continue through December and well into the New Year. This year, let’s start the holiday season off on the right foot with a Thanksgiving that doesn’t go completely overboard.
- Remember the Healthy Plate Model, even at the Thanksgiving table. The Healthy Plate Model is a simple way to visualize how to put together an ideal meal, even without knowing details about each and every food available.
- Half of the plate is reserved for fruits and vegetables. On Thanksgiving, this can include sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberries and any other traditional dishes where the fruit or vegetable is the main star. Don’t stress too much about what extra calories or fat may have been cooked into the dishes. After all, this is a holiday.
- The other half of the plate should be divided into two portions. Half of that side is for protein: turkey!
- The other half is for whole grains. Here, you may place stuffing, rice or a roll. Hopefully, the cook has selected whole grain options to serve. If not, place mashed potatoes here and choose an additional vegetable for the other side.
- Portion control is key on Thanksgiving. As a coworker of mine once said, “Thanksgiving is one meal, not one week.” Treat this meal as you would any other. Make one plate and eat until you are nearly full, rather than stuffed sick to your stomach. There will surely be leftovers for the next meal. If you make one plate by following the Healthy Plate Model, you should be in good shape.
- Don’t pour your calorie intake down the drain, or throat, that is. Liquid calories can pack a really big punch and are often found to be a primary cause of weight gain for both kids and adults. Due to the large quantities of sugar it requires to make a beverage sweet, this usually implies many more calories being consumed. High-calorie sugary drinks are easy to gulp down without realizing how much sugar you are consuming. Be mindful on Thanksgiving of what beverage options there are. Stick with water or tea rather than punch or alcohol.
- Watch out for the desserts. Desserts have their place and a holiday is one of them. Consider sharing your favorite dessert with someone else and only choose one. If you are really watching your calorie intake, visualize your dessert as taking the place of the “whole grain” section on the Healthy Plate Model. As both desserts and whole grains are actually carbohydrates, following the Healthy Plate Model can save the overall calorie and sugar intake.
- Take a stroll before and after the big meals. Going for a walk with family can be quite relaxing, peaceful and definitely healthy. When we participate in physical activities such as walking, our cells open up and help eliminate sugar from the blood stream for energy. This puts that meal to good use!
As someone who loves food, I believe it is important to enjoy eating with friends and family on holidays such as Thanksgiving. At the same time, no holiday is fun when we end up becoming sick and physically exhausted from eating too much.