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“I blame my mother-in-law for those two pounds I gained last Thanksgiving,” my friend half-jokingly said, eyeing our server for more coffee one recent Sunday brunch.
“I had done so well that day. I didn’t even touch the stuffing. Then I walked into my kitchen a few hours later to clean, and there it was: homemade maple pear pie, which she knows is my favorite dessert.”
I don’t think her mother-in-law strategically placed that pie, but my friend made an interesting point. Whatever your dietary enemy might be, chances are during Thanksgiving you will encounter it.
That doesn’t mean you can’t indulge at all (see number 5), but a well-rehearsed plan keeps your dietary dignity intact during the most tempting encounter.
Employ these seven strategies, and you’ll have no trouble getting into your skinny jeans for Black Friday shopping.
1. Double shakes around your meal.
Skipping meals becomes a surefire way to nose-dive into cranberry-apple stuffing. Don’t let yourself get into that place. Protein and fiber steady your blood sugar, keeping hunger at bay and balancing energy levels as you juggle a million meal preparations.
A protein shake makes a fast, efficient way to stay full and focused so you don’t “taste-test” the triple-layer chocolate pumpkin cake. Blend your protein powder with unsweetened coconut or almond milk, frozen berries, avocado, leafy greens, and freshly ground flax seeds.
2. Create lateral shifts for your favorites.
Dutifully abstaining as your family indulges in green bean casserole just leaves you feeling deprived. Especially if you’re in charge of Thanksgiving dinner, prepare healthier versions of your favorites. Be creative. Rather than nutrient-empty mashed potatoes, try faux-tatoes: steamed cauliflower pureed with a little salt and Kerrygold butter or ghee. If you spend the holiday elsewhere, offer to bring a dish. Just don’t make a big deal about it being healthy!
3. Go for the good stuff first.
Stuffing and cranberry sauce get all the action, whereas that neglected bowl of sautéed broccoli sadly sits. While everyone else frantically grabs the carb-heavy dishes, focus on the bird and leafy greens, and you’ll be less likely to want to devour that candied walnut sweet potato casserole.
4. Don’t let others deter your success.
Your well-intended aunt insists that if you love her, you’ll have just a bite of her famous maple pumpkin custard. You don’t want to be rude, yet you know fully well one bite will become two pieces. During the holidays, sugar pushers come full-force out of the woodwork. Without a solid plan, they will sabotage your success. Don’t let a few moments of indulgence mean you can’t fit into your little black dress on New Year’s Eve.
5. Use my three-bite rule.
You’re obligated to try grandma’s blackberry-apple pie. No need to abandon dietary logic here; just use my three-bite rule. Enjoy three polite bites—we’re talking what you would eat on The Rachael Ray Show, not an 11PM fridge raid—and step away from the dessert. But know yourself! If three bites easily becomes two whole pieces, then don’t even go there. Remember too, if you have food intolerances, even a little dairy, gluten, and other problematic ingredients could create reactions.
6. Watch your alcohol.
While gossiping with your favorite cousin while prepping Brussels sprouts, you feel very relaxed and decide a glass of pinot noir would make things that much better. Two hours later, dinner is on its way, and you’re on your way to tipsy-ville. If you drink, keep alcohol for after your meal, when you’re less likely to make a dietary debacle. Steer clear of sugary alcohol bombs (looking at you, eggnog) and stick with dry wine or tequila.
7. Practice gratitude.
Somewhere amidst the food, frenzy, and festivities, we forget Thanksgiving is about, well, being thankful. Because you didn’t make a dinner faux pas and fall into a carb coma, you have enough energy to thank someone for being so meaningful in your life. A study in the journal Psychiatry showed people who kept a gratitude journal experienced more joy and optimism compared to the other two groups who wrote about neutral or negative experiences. You’ll feel great, with no lingering regrets like you’d have with that second piece of caramel pecan pie.
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