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How to not overeat on Thanksgiving

USDA Dietary Guidelines
USDA Dietary Guidelines

You are all intelligent and know how to avoid overeating on Thanksgiving. There is no need to overthink this—it is not necessary. But you do need to plan, so keep it simple. To plan a day where you do not ache or feel stuffed, follow these steps.

1. There are about 48 hours to go before you sit down to the biggest dinner of the year, where people consume an average of 4,500 calories and 200+ grams of fat. To put that in perspective, if you are on a weight loss program, your daily caloric intake should be between 1200 and 2500, depending on your size and whether you are male or female. Your fat intake should be 25-30% or so of that total intake. Despite what some people think, you can eat turkey and dressing and green beans on any other day of the year besides Thanksgiving. The food will always be available!

2. Add an extra 10-15 minutes to today’s and tomorrow’s workouts. Fit in little exercises, such as marching while talking on the phone, or lifting a free weight while watching TV or on the phone. You will be saving an extra 200 calories.

3. Schedule a workout on Thanksgiving. The earlier you exercise, the more likely you will get it done. If you like to exercise later in the day, then plan a brisk half-hour walk after the big dinner.

4. Drink at least 8 glasses of water throughout the day, every day. Drink one glass of water just before you sit down to the main meal.

5. Eat every 2-3 hours—small, healthy snacks. On Thanksgiving, if you eat breakfast at 8 AM, and then have to wait until 2 or 3 PM for the main dinner, of course, you will be hungry. So PLAN your snacks that day, maybe a small 4-oz container of yogurt, an apple or orange, some nuts—something under 100 calories in the portion size you eat.

6. At the BIG meal, divide your plate as follows: the biggest portion should be for vegetables, a much smaller serving of mashed or sweet potatoes. If you like both, then one big tablespoon of each will suffice. It is the first bite anyway that holds the greatest flavor in the taste. If you want more, then omit a dinner roll. Make sure you get at least 4 ounces of protein, whether you are eating turkey or some other food. And chew each bite until it is basically macerated. For a Thanksgiving meal dinner plate makeover, check out the suggestions from the USDA.

7. Finally, dessert. Wait a good half hour or longer after eating your main meal before you dive into the dessert. If there are several choices, keep in mind that the dessert, too, is something you can get anytime, so it is not disappearing any time soon. Either decide on one and eat just a third or half of it, or take one small spoonful of two or three to satisfy your sweet tooth.

If you follow these steps, there is no reason to overeat on Thanksgiving, or to leave the table feeling like you will explode. Enjoying the Thanksgiving meal is more than just eating food that you can eat on any day of the year. It is enjoying the company of family and friends, and celebrating the many things we are thankful for and that we often take for granted. (And it is also about helping the cook afterwards, too!)

Happy Thanksgiving!

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