Succulent meat, gravy-sopped stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, and carmelized pie — it’s enough to have you reaching for your boyfriend jeans before the holiday party season even gets rolling.
Skipping out on Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings can be next to impossible, but giving in can also result in packing on difficult-to-shed pounds.
Fortunately, there’s no need to choose between celebrating and maintaining your weight. With the proper approach, you can have your turkey and wear those skinny jeans, too.
Beverly Hills-based celebrity health counselor Carina Sohaili has developed a master plan for surviving the holiday season without tossing aside your weight goals:
Preparing before the meal:
1. A huge mistake people make is fasting or eating very little until the big meal. This is a recipe for disaster. Make sure your breakfast and lunch combine protein and healthy carbohydrates. When you starve yourself during the day in preparation for a megameal, your body has a much harder time acknowledging when you are actually full. Cravings for sugary, carby sweets also will be intensified.
2. Ditch the all-or-nothing diet mentality. Some people have “cheat” days followed by deprivation days. This causes them to overeat when they “let themselves go.” I always hear “I am starting my diet tomorrow.” You should erase the term "diet" from your vocabulary. Indulge in a balanced way; if you are craving a serving of stuffing, opt for a small portion, not three servings. Ever notice that the first serving of an amazing food tastes the best? The food is not as good the second or third time around.
3. Remember why you are at the table in the first place. It's not to stuff your face with food! Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks and be grateful for the people you are surrounded by. Focus on friends, family, and conversation. The dinner is only one part of the equation.
4. Make time for physical activity even if it is a 20-minute fast walk around the block before dinner. Whether it's a morning jog, a brisk family hike, or a football game, do something to get your sweat on and ramp up your heart rate. Everything counts and something is better than nothing. Make it a family event. Everything is better with a buddy.
What to eat:
1. Fill up on protein … turkey! Go for the light meat instead of dark and skip the skin. Light meat has less saturated fat (the unhealthy kind) than dark meat. Filling up on protein increases your feeling of satisfaction, stabilizes your blood sugar and keeps you fuller for longer. It also prevents you from having thirds, fourths, or fifths of the bad stuff. If you are vegetarian make sure there is a healthy protein option so you don't stuff yourself on stuffing or candied yams.
2. Get creative. Open your mind to alternatives. Find some healthy swaps. Consider turkey stuffing with acorn squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes rather than cornbread. Add celery for the crunch factor. Instead of marshmallows, add Greek yogurt to the yams.
3. Spice up your dishes with cinnamon, garlic, and nutmeg instead of extra butter and oil. Spices are incredible; they curb cravings, liven up any dish, and increase post-meal satisfaction levels.
4. Get your green on. There is always a healthy basic side dish at Thanksgiving whether it's steamed green beans or roasted Brussels sprouts. Just make sure the vegetables aren't soaked in butter or excessive oils. Do not be shy about asking how food is prepared. You should be proud you care about your health.
5. Cranberries! Cranberries are amazing, health-wise: They're rich in anti-oxidants and in their natural state, have no fat. Go for real, all-natural cranberries. Most canned cranberries and cranberry sides have tons of sugary preservatives.
6. What about dessert? Easy breezy! If you are unable to bring a healthy dessert like baked apples or fruit salad, simply indulge in a balanced way. Guess what? If you did fill up on protein you will not crave the same amount of dessert you do normally. Take time to catch up with loved ones. Always have an activity besides just eating dessert. The crust in the pumpkin pie is the killer. Have the inside of the pumpkin pie and skip the crust, as well as the whipped cream. I am also a huge dark chocolate fan. Be the healthy relative and bring some dark chocolate to the meal. Post dinner have a square or two.
7. You can live your life, be healthy, and have a great Thanksgiving without packing on the pounds. Have a plan for the day: what you are going to indulge in, what you are going to pass on, and how you are going to get your sweat on. Everyone is different so it is really important to understand what your weakness is and be aware of it. Keep yourself in-check and focus on the bigger picture of why you are together in the first place.