Let Fun, Not Food, Be Your Thanksgiving Focus

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season, a celebratory time full of temptations around the holiday table.


Holly Herrington, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian in the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medicine®, shared her strategies to enjoy the season without derailing your diet.

  • Plan ahead – Eat a healthy snack before attending holiday parties. A large apple, reduced fat flavored yogurt or vegetables with hummus are low calorie snacks that are filling. Adding small snacks that are filled with protein can also help to hold you over until your holiday meal. Try snacking on a few whole natural almonds. These will take the edge off the hunger before you arrive and, therefore, help with portion control. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to help you stay hydrated and to prevent overindulging. 
  • Don’t miss a meal – Stick to your dietary routine and eat normal meals as much as possible. When you avoid eating all day to save room for a bigger dinner, you tend to overeat. Skipping out on meals also greatly impacts your metabolism. 
  • Control your portions – Avoid the clean plate club by eating until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Take time to pause during the meal to check your level of fullness. When you feel satisfied, reinforce your decision to stop eating by leaving the table and washing your plate. Choosing smaller portions from a variety of foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, will allow you to still enjoy your favorite holiday treats while eating less. Remember to first fill up on greens because the high levels of fiber will help you feel fuller. Then move on to your meat or protein and lastly, indulge in a limited amount of carbs. This order will help you establish a variety in your plate while controlling the amount of unhealthy foods you may consume.
  • Swap this for that – Offer to make a dish to share that uses fresh, healthy ingredients or makes substitutions to lower fat and sugar. At the holiday gathering, balance out your meal by swapping fattening ingredients with lower-calorie options. This includes liquid calories; drinking high-calorie beverages like soda, juice or alcohol can easily add another 500 calories to a holiday meal. Instead, opt for sparkling water or low-calorie beverages.
  • Keep moving – Don’t park in front of the buffet at a party. Research shows that having food in front of you prompts you to eat more, even if you’re not hungry. Fit fitness into your holiday celebration with exercise that is fun for the whole family. Take a walk after a large meal, play a friendly game of flag football or build a snowman with the kids. Staying active is the easiest way to avoid unwanted holiday weight gain.
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