Turkey Without the “Stuffing”

When the Pilgrims enjoyed that first Thanksgiving, they were worried about having enough food to survive the winter. Today we

Enjoy the feast but don't overdo it this thanksgiving.
Enjoy the feast but don’t overdo it this thanksgiving.

When the Pilgrims enjoyed that first Thanksgiving, they were worried about having enough food to survive the winter. Today we have a different challenge — how to survive the day without gaining unwanted pounds.

The whole holiday season can feel like a minefield of overindulgence, and it’s almost impossible not to eat more than we want to. I’m pretty disciplined about my diet, yet at holiday parties, like everyone else, I find myself reaching for that extra cookie or brownie. After all, it’s the time of year to eat, drink and be merry. But it’s not very difficult to enjoy the bounty without bloating up as big as the Mayflower.

Knowing that you’re going to indulge makes it easier to eat more mindfully in the weeks before the holiday. Try to cut back on fat, refined carbohydrates and calories, and exercise a little more. Some tips for Thanksgiving:

[step-list-wrapper title=”” time=””] [step-item number=”1. ” image_url=”” title=”Snack beforehand.” ]Have a low-calorie, filling snack before the big feast — an apple, a whole-grain bagel, cereal or a small bowl of soup — so you don’t arrive ravenous and lose control.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”2. ” image_url=”” title=”Choose wisely.” ]Put 20% fewer high-calorie foods and 20% more fruits and vegetables on your plate. Studies show you probably won’t notice.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”3. ” image_url=”” title=”Eat healthier foods first.” ]They’ll fill you up somewhat, so you’ll be less likely to overeat the other stuff.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”4. ” image_url=”” title=”Serve yourself.” ]Serve yourself instead of allowing your sister-in-law or spouse to heap your plate full.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”5. ” image_url=”” title=”Choose foods that leave evidence.” ]Keep those shrimp tails and chicken wing bones on your plate when you’re done. Studies show that if you see how much you’ve already had, you’ll eat less.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”6. ” image_url=”” title=”Go slow.” ]If you wolf down your food, your plate may be clean while others are still eating. That invites seconds. Take a sip of water every bite or two to slow yourself down.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”7. ” image_url=”” title=Use a small plate. ” ]The tinier the dish, the less food you’ll take and the less you’ll eat.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”8. ” image_url=”” title=”Skip the bread.” ]When you’re in a restaurant, ask the server not to put bread on the table. Leave more room for your other favorite holiday foods instead.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”9. ” image_url=”” title=”Don’t skip the cranberry sauce.” ]Substitute cranberry sauce, loaded with antioxidants, for fatty, high-calorie gravy.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”10. ” image_url=”” title=”Choose low-fat toppings.” ]On potatoes and yams, avoid butter, cheese, bacon and sour cream. If possible, substitute low-fat yogurt or nonfat sour cream.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”11. ” image_url=”” title=”Watch the alcohol.” ]Most drinks have almost 200 calories per ounce and slows down metabolism. And too much alcohol impairs judgment, so the more you drink, the more you’re likely to eat.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”12. ” image_url=”” title=Have just a few bites of dessert.” ]The first bite is always best, anyway.[/step-item]

[step-item number=”13. ” image_url=”” title=”Take a stroll after dinner.” ]Walking not only burns calories, it also helps relieve bloating and prevent heartburn.[/step-item][/step-list-wrapper]

Indulging a little on Thanksgiving makes it easier to get back on track the next day. The same strategies that help control overeating work even better the day after, when there’s less social pressure to go overboard. Start by stepping on the scale. If you’ve gained weight, that can motivate you to avoid devouring a fridge full of leftovers. More ideas:

  • At breakfast, instead of eating a doughnut, try a bowl of whole-grain cereal or oatmeal with fruit and nonfat milk.
  • Instead of butter or cream cheese on your toast or bagel, try a little unsweetened fruit jam.
  • Put leftover vegetables in your blender, heat and — voilà — soup!
  • Get out of the kitchen and go shopping. Black Friday is one of the best shopping days of the year. Do a few laps around the mall before you begin and bring fruit to snack on.
  • Exercise more. Many people don’t have to work the day after Thanksgiving, so it’s easier to schedule a long walk or sign up for a “Turkey Blast” fitness walk or class at the gym. If nothing else, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park farther away from your destination.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest