Holiday season is here and many people will be expecting to gain those extra winter pounds. It is a known fact that most of us tend to overindulge in holiday foods, leaving us feeling guilty and bloated. The weekend before Thanksgiving, I took a 90 minute indoor cycling class and the instructor started off by letting us know that most people consume about 4,000 calories at Thanksgiving dinner, before dessert. She advised us that we could expect to burn about 1,000 calories in class, to make us feel better about overindulging at our turkey dinners.
I thought to myself, is it really necessary to eat at least 4,000 calories during one meal? I know the holidays are a time to enjoy food, relax, and celebrate, but this seems a bit excessive. I have a very health conscious family, so while I do eat more than usual at Thanksgiving, I have never been one to completely ruin my diet on this day.
Here is a guide to enjoying holiday dinners without sabotaging your diet:
Wake up and work out. While I am not a runner, a 5K race or fun run is a fun activity to work up a sweat and bring the family together. If I do not end up running, I either go to my own gym or if I am visiting family, I find a gym near their house and print out a guest pass to use that morning.
Eat breakfast. It is common for people to not eat breakfast to save calories for their big holiday dinner. I can guarantee you that this will lead to a binge, and will result in you eating everything in sight. Start the day with a breakfast high in protein and whole grains that will keep you feeling full for many hours, such as turkey omelet with a side of oatmeal. By the time dinner is ready, you will be hungry enough to enjoy the meal without feeling famished.
Cook (with small changes). There are many appetizers and sides that can be prepared with less fat and fewer calories. Instead of white potatoes, serve a sweet potato casserole. Skip the marshmallow topping and instead add cinnamon and pineapple slices to add natural sweetness to the dish. Green bean casserole is a popular side, but the cream of mushroom soup it’s often made with can add hundreds of calories to your diet. Try roasted green beans topped with balsamic vinaigrette instead. Do your guests a favor and cut down on butter when cooking your dishes, and use olive oil or cooking spray as a substitute.
Chat (away from the appetizers). While I cannot save you from having to socialize with your long-distance relatives, I can save you from an extra thousand calories before dinner. If there are fried appetizers or chips and dip in your view, you will most likely eat, and continue to eat without realizing it. To avoid an appetizer binge, stick with raw almonds or vegetables and hummus before dinner. Put a small amount on a plate and walk away.
Drink mindfully. While we all may need a little bit of alcohol to make family dinners more enjoyable, it can be easy to go overboard and overdo it on liquid sugar and calories. Stick with white or red wine and stay away from sugar cocktails or apple cider.
Eat (with the less is more approach). It is more fun to try a little bit of each dish rather than to fill up on the big heavy dishes. Add a small serving of each side dish to your plate, and do not be shy with the vegetable dishes.
Take a walk. Get moving after dinner to aid in digestion and to help you from feeling stuffed for the rest of the night. Play a game with the kids, or take your family on a walk around the neighborhood. If you did not take my alcohol advice, start a dance party with the family. It will be a holiday to never (or maybe to) forget.