Ah, Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday. No religious overtones, no gift giving, just being with family and/or friends surrounded by comfort food. The launch of the decadent holiday season. And a horror show for dieters. With a little planning and forethought, you can avoid some of the pitfalls while still enjoying yourself to the max.
Thanksgiving has always been a no brainer for me when I am the cook. I can practically do it on automatic pilot. There is no fooling around with the menu. My boys get persnickety if I vary from their traditional favorites. I tried a new stuffing recipe one year and was greeted with indignation. Last year I went out on a limb and ordered a Turducken as an exceptional treat (a chicken, stuffed into a duck, wedged into a turkey). It was supposed to be the Nirvana of Turkeydom, sumptuous to taste and gorgeous when sliced, revealing the meats separated by layers of cornbread stuffing. I could hardly wait to taste it and imagined the accolades of my diners.
Naturally it was an unmitigated disaster, falling apart when sliced (there goes the photo op) and met with scorn and distaste by all. To add insult to injury, it cost a small fortune. So I have learned my lesson well. No deviation in the menu! Tradition, tradition!
Now instead of searching the web for new recipes, I am looking for strategies to help you, and me, successfully navigate the dangerous shoals of Thanksgiving without having to loosen my belt or tip the scales the next morning.
WebMD had some good suggestions which I will adapt here with my own and a spot-on quote regarding that hallowed period between the fourth Thursday in November and December 31:
“Gaining weight during the holiday season is a national pastime.” And something we over 50 excel at with our sluggish metabolism, which decreases by the year.
So if you want to avoid the perils of holiday eating, read on.
- Exercise more in the days prior to the holiday including cardio for fat burning and weight training for muscle building.
- On the day of the gorge- fest, walk early in the day and after dinner OR between dinner and dessert.
- Have a protein and fiber rich meal early in the day.
- Cut the fat and sugar, oil and butter in holiday recipes. They are normally so rich with fat and sweetness that a small reduction won’t even be noticed. Except by your waistline.
- Baste the turkey with chicken broth instead of fat. You will still get a gorgeous bird with crackling, golden skin.
- Save yourself for the main event and steer clear of fattening hors d’oeuvres. Stick with the crudites.
- Portion control is, as always, crucial. By all means, have some of everything you love. Take a small portion of the starchy and calorie laden dishes while being heavy handed with the turkey and veggies.
- Save your splurges for those things you only have once a year.
- Skip seconds. Eat slowly and give your stomach a chance to register FULL. Foods high in fiber satiate the best. You can always have the leftovers tomorrow.
- Drink 8 oz. of water between alcoholic drinks. You will stay hydrated and ingest fewer empty calories.
- Dessert is a minefield. But the pumpkin pie filling is your friend in the trenches. Eat the filling and leave the crust. Or if you are doing the baking, fill some custard cups with the pumpkin mixture and bake on a baking sheet. You’ll feel virtuous and satisfied.
- Forget about LOSING weight. Focus on savoring the meal and the company and aim for MAINTAINING instead.
As for dealing with the emotional aspect of being surrounded by family, I can only offer: breathe deeply and count to 3 before you respond to any off putting remarks by relatives. Smile and say,”Lovely to see you too!” before walking away. This is not the time to air those pent up grievances (while fueled by alcohol) or rise to the bait. Instead, take the high road and be thankful that you have a family and friends in this little bubble of warmth, isolated from the unfriendly outside world.
And offer up a little silent prayer for peace.