Tips for Staying in Control and Sticking to Your Goals
Eating on Thanksgiving:
Tips for Staying in Control and Sticking to Your Goals
By Courtney Rayppy, RD, LDN
Ah, the holiday season…The weather gets colder, the hours of daylight get shorter, the food-filled work holiday parties seem like they’re one after another and the all of a sudden, you notice that the motivation and energy that lit you up inside all throughout Spring has somehow vanished and has been carried away by the crisp, fall wind. Let’s face it. When it comes to holiday season, it almost always feels like we somehow lose track of our health and fitness goals somewhere down the road. While it can be frustrating, know that you are not alone when it comes to struggling with maintaining healthful habits during the holiday season. While I am all for enjoying yourself during the holidays, eating those tasty home-made goodies and making memories with family and friends, I think it’s also equally important to keep yourself accountable when it comes to your health goals, especially during large holiday meals like Thanksgiving. Now, I’m sure you’re probably thinking, “But, there’s no way I can keep my health goals AND enjoy myself on Thanksgiving! There’s no way it can be done.” Fortunately for you, I have come up with a handful of helpful and easy tips to help you get though the holiday season while still making your nutrition goals a top priority. Below I have outlined a few “dietitian-approved” recommendations that you can incorporate into any holiday meal setting.
Tip #1: Hydrate. I’ll be honest, I rarely ever pass up a nice glass (or two) of Pinot Noir during the holidays, but know that it’s important to keep in mind that you should shoot for one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you drink. Not only will this help you stay a little more hydrated (and a little less intoxicated), water is calorie-free and can help you feel fuller if you drink throughout the evening instead of loading up on extra portions of food. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram and on average, the standard serving of an alcoholic beverage has about 150 calories alone!
Tip #2: Fill up on veggies! As a dietitian, the easiest recommendation I can offer to people wanting to boost their nutrition is for them to experiment and find as many different types of vegetables as possible that they like and to incorporate them any way they can. If you can make just half of your plate a side salad and some green beans, you are doing yourself a major solid by adding in extra fiber, vitamins and antioxidants with hardly and calories or fat content. If there are options for steamed or fresh vegetables (like a fun veggie plate or salad bar), these options will be the best bet compared to the cheesy broccoli dish or green bean casserole with fried onions and mushroom soup. That being said, if you fill up your plate first with veggies, definitely save some room to go for the good stuff like stuffing, mashed potatoes and turkey with gravy so that you still get to eat what you want without feeling like you’re missing out.
Tip #3: Take 10 before going in for seconds. Sometimes your stomach just needs a little extra time for your body to release the hormones that tell your brain, “I’m full.” Waiting just ten to twenty minutes after your last bite can save you from overeating and over consuming those additional calories that you didn’t need. It many cases, many Americans struggle with over eating which can not only lead to unwanted weight gain but also can decrease the functionality of the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which help control your hunger and fullness cues. Taking smaller bites, engaging in conversation at the table and waiting before adding more food to your plate are all methods to help prevent overeating. (2)
Tip#4: Walk it off! Oof. Feeling just way too full after all that food? While I totally understand that the couch and football game are calling your name, see if the family is up for taking a quick walk around the block to help digest some of the food you just ate. In fact, research has shown that just a 15-20 minute stroll post-meal can improve blood sugar levels and increase stomach acid secretion to help break down the food you ate a quicker rate than it would if you were to lay down. Walking isn’t an option? Even just standing up and walking around the house while you make conversation with family can help reduce that “uncomfortable” full feeling. (1)
Tip#5: Take a break from counting. While calorie and macro counting has been shown to be successful for wide variety of people, tracking during the holidays can often lead to stress, guilt and can often be overwhelming trying to find the “exact” recipe for a home-made casserole that Aunt Cathy brought. Researchers found that on average, more people actually over ate while trying to count calories during the holidays as opposed to losing weight because they felt guilty after tracking high-calorie foods, which ultimately led them to stop tracking all together. (3) If you think about it like this, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner account for only TWO meals a year. If you ate 3 meals a day for a year, those meals account for 2/1,095 meals- that’s 2% of your total intake all year. Holiday meals are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed, taking the math out of it can make for a far more relaxing evening.
Tip #6 Forgive yourself. The last and most important word of advice I can offer is to remind yourself that this is a time that should be remembered for all the good things going on in your life. Spending quality time with those around you is just as important as reaching those nutrition goals in my eyes. Remember that what really matters is that you aren’t feeling stressed and anxious about the food around you by knowing that You have the control, power and knowledge to make healthful choices this year. Getting your family and friends on board by offering to make a healthier version of a family recipe is another great way you can enjoy Thanksgiving while still keeping those goals in mind.
I hope you found these Thanksgiving tips helpful and reassuring and that above all else, you enjoy your holiday season to your heart’s content. Laugh with friends and family, eat some veggies and save room for that ever so scrumptious pumpkin pie!
Courtney Rayppy is a Registered Dietitian, located in beautiful Reno, Nevada. She received her Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics and completed her dietetic internship at the University of Nevada, Reno. Courtney currently works at Roundabout Meal Prep as the Assistant Program Director and is working towards becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator to work with the Nevada Diabetes Association. Courtney’s runs Fit&Fabulous Nutrition on Facebook where she shares workout tips, recipes and hot nutrition related topics. Courtney’s approach to nutrition is one that focuses on achieving realistic, attainable goals through evidenced-based recommendations, shifting away from “fad diets” and “quick fix” approaches. In her free time, Courtney competes as a nationally qualified bikini competitor, loves cooking and hiking with her dog Dexter.
Instagram handle: @dietitian.courtney