10 Tips To Support Healthy Choices This Thanksgiving
After years of yo-yo dieting and feeling like she’s failed at every restrictive style of eating, Jade has finally found a healthy routine that works for her. She practices mindful eating at every meal, she’s prioritized physical movement, and she’s been eating clean, organic, home-cooked meals more than ever before. Her mental clarity, mood, and energy have never been better, but with the holidays creeping in… she’s nervous.
See, getting to where she is now was no easy feat. Jade has a long and tangled history with emotional eating and struggles with self-control when it comes to sugary and processed foods.
After months of education, progress, and feeling empowered to take her health into her own hands, she’s finally finding balance and joy in mealtime again. But along with the pride in her progress, comes the worry of slipping back into old habits when it comes to sitting around the Thanksgiving table.
Jade is not alone in feeling this way. In fact, it’s estimated that millions of Americans overeat every year on Thanksgiving and can take in as many as double the calories they do on any other day of the year! But it doesn’t have to be that way! The following tips and tricks will help to support healthy habits and ensure you enjoy your holiday without compromising your healthy lifestyle.
10 TIPS TO SUPPORT HEALTHY CHOICES THIS THANKSGIVING
1. PRIORITIZE SLEEP
Sleep is one of the most important (and most overlooked!) components in our overall health and can definitely make a difference when it comes to the foods we crave.
Over the past few years, there has been a wealth of information linking poor-quality and/or reduced quantity of sleep with dysfunctional metabolism patterns and weight consequences. How is this possible? Let’s chat quickly about one hormone in particular, ghrelin.
Ghrelin is the hunger hormone and it is produced in your digestive tract. Its job is to ensure that you know you’re hungry, so you can eat for energy. Ghrelin loves to tell your brain to eat carbs and sugar, and if you don’t get enough sleep, your body can make more of it.
A study from 2004 found that taking away 2-3 hours of sleep can increase your ghrelin production by as much as 15%! So make sure you’re getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night to lay the foundation for a rested digestive tract and balanced hunger hormones going into the holidays.
2. STAY HYDRATED
Water is absolutely necessary for proper digestion, balanced hormones, and ensuring you don’t mistake thirst for hunger at the dinner table. A good rule of thumb for water intake is dividing your weight in pounds in half, and aiming to drink that many ounces of water per day.
3. HAVE A PLAN
It’s always helpful to know where you’re heading and what kind of food options will be there. If you’re not sure what to expect, you can always call the host and ask!
Create a few mental notes for yourself that can be helpful once you arrive:
- Don’t congregate around the food, as this invites “grazing” and mindless eating. Set up a sitting area away from the food so that you and others can socialize without constantly picking away at the buffet.
- Set up your meal so salads are the first food available. Whether it’s a buffet or a sit-down meal, this let’s both you and other guests make sure the greens make it onto the plate before it fills up!
4. FRONT LOAD YOUR DAY WITH NUTRIENTS
Thanksgiving is not the day you want to skip breakfast. Have a balanced meal with plenty of healthy fats a few hours before heading to your family event to ensure you don’t fall victim to crazy cravings or overeat at dinner.
5. BRING WHAT YOU WANT TO EAT
If you aren’t sure if there will be any healthy options at the gathering you’re going to, make one! Hosts always appreciate guests who are thoughtful enough to bring a dish to contribute, and it’s a great way to ensure that you will have at least one great nutrient-dense option to enjoy!
American Thanksgiving spreads are notorious for lacking dark, leafy greens or salads, so that’s always a great option to bring!
Do you have a family recipe that you just can’t bear to exclude from the holiday mix? Have some fun in the kitchen creating an upgraded version! Remember, upgrading a recipe doesn’t always have to mean taking away your favorite ingredients, it can also mean adding nutrient-dense superfoods to an existing recipe. Get creative and have fun trying new things!
6. RESPECT YOUR BOUNDARIES
Everyone has that one aunt who never takes “no” for an answer when she asks if you want a second helping of her famous cobbler. A simple “No, thank you” should be enough to help you pass on the sugary (and inflammatory) sweets, but sometimes you may need to stand your ground, and that’s okay!
If you walk into a room prepared to kindly decline foods that you simply don’t want, everyone will understand. Heck, you might inspire others to make the same choice!
7. FRAME OUT YOUR PLATE
A good rule of thumb for any meal (but especially on Thanksgiving) is to fill up half your plate with dark, leafy greens first. This ensures that important vitamins and minerals get some space in that valuable stomach real estate, and the added fiber will help to slow down your digestion, so your blood sugar doesn’t spike (this helps you avoid that after meal “crash”).
It’s also a great idea to focus on giving carbohydrates the smallest wedge of your plate and choosing healthy fats like a drizzle of olive oil on that salad to keep you fuller, longer.
8. DON’T RUSH IT
Although the gut and the brain are great at talking to each other, remember that it takes some time for the hormone messengers in our body to relay the message from our stomach to our brain that it’s full. In most people, it takes about 15-20 minutes for our bodies to make this connection.
So before you head straight back in for a second helping, sit back and relax, and give your body some time to process and catch up. You may find that after about ten minutes, you don’t want that second helping after all!
9. KEEP AN EMPOWERED MINDSET
Choosing to eat differently this Thanksgiving isn’t about depriving yourself of things you enjoy, it’s about consciously CHOOSING to make choices that will nourish your body, not harm it.
The simple reality is that every bite of food can either help or harm your health. The goal isn’t to eat “perfectly” on Thanksgiving, it’s to focus on making informed choices for yourself so that your health and wellness come first. Just remember, you deserve to feel great and your health deserves to remain a respected priority!
10. FOCUS ON HEALTHY TRADITIONS
Not all Thanksgiving traditions need to revolve around the dining room table. Level-up some of your family and friend activities this year by connecting over a family walk (or hike!), creating cards for one another, or playing group games!
Inventing new and creative ways to spend time with loved ones can be a powerful way to create new bonds and “love the one you’re with”, so to speak. It also sets a great example for younger family members showing them that the most important part of your family gathering isn’t just the food… it’s your presence.
Do you have a Thanksgiving tradition that you and your family love that supports or encourages healthy habits? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!