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Your Guide To Surviving Thanksgiving

a basket of fall vegetablesIt’s almost time to start the Holiday Spring! You know what I mean; Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, and New Years. While this time of year is great for connecting with family and friends, it can also be VERY comfort-food centered in many bursts right after the other.

This can be a problem for some people. Maybe you’re anxious about spending time with your family. Maybe you’ve just started your journey to eating healthier and you’re worried about a major setback. Maybe you’re like me and you don’t eat turkey too often and you forget to pace yourself. In any case, Thanksgiving can sometimes feel like a mountain to climb. Lucky for you, we’ve got some tricks that just might help you make it through.

First and foremost, have an Attitude of Gratitude

While turkey may be the first thing you think about when someone says “Thanksgiving”, it really should be the “Thank” part that sticks with us. Thanksgiving is often the first time during the holidays that families have the chance to really get together and reconnect after a busy summer. Find the positives before you start to worry about the food. Think about how many holidays you’ve been around for, appreciate the stories that your family members are sharing with you. Remember that this is an opportunity to connect and share with them!

If Thanksgiving is a little more complicated with your family, it’s okay to simply be thankful for your health, and that you can leave as soon as you need to. Try not to take anything personally and focus on the good things (like a family member you do get along with that you don’t see very often.) See if you can bring a friend along and be thankful that they are there to support you.

Avoid Eating Out of Obligation!

woman serving herself food from a large plateThanksgiving is just another day in the year. I mean it! Thanksgiving (as mentioned above) is about people, focusing on the positives and spending time together. While there will be a lot of it, the food only needs to be secondary. It’s okay not to be perfect around the holiday food. You don’t have to restrict or limit yourself if you’re trying to maintain a certain health goal. You also don’t have to gorge yourself or use Thanksgiving as the ULTIMATE cheat day. But if you’re worried about not stopping yourself from overeating, or feeling pressured by family members to take more than you want, try some of these suggestions:

  • Have a snack that is high in protein and fibre before heading to dinner. If you give your stomach something nice to digest before a big meal, you’ll feel less hungry when the food is ready and less likely to pile more on your plate than you need!
  • Grab a smaller plate. Trick your eyes into thinking you’ve got a feast (when really, you’ve made yourself an appropriately sized meal).
  • Don’t put anything on your plate that you don’t want to eat! If you really don’t want your Aunt’s crazy meatballs, it’s okay not to take them. Forcing yourself to eat something you don’t really want (instead of making room for something you love to eat) isn’t worth it.
  • Fill up on vegetables! Vegetables are high in fiber and that will help you feel fuller (and also help with digesting the Thanksgiving meal later!)
  • Practice Mindful Eating. It can take our body up to 20 minutes to signal to our brains that we are full, so mindful eating is a great way t slow down and listen to what our bodies are telling us (and to avoid that sick over-full feeling). Try putting your silverware down between every bite until each bite is finished. Really taste your food; what is the texture, is it salty, sweet or savoury? Can you taste the spices? Is this food making you feel warmer, colder, and does it bring up any specific feelings? See how well you connect with your food and enjoy what you’ve got on your plate. Allow yourself to enjoy what you’re eating. Allow yourself to eat the things you really want. If that apple pie is calling your name… just have a slice and let yourself love it.
  • If you can’t taste your food anymore, you are officially done eating. Put down your cutlery and focus on conversation instead.

Bring Your Own Healthy Food!

In my family whoever is hosting Thanksgiving will cook the big stuff like Turkey and veggies, and everyone else will bring a side dish. This is a perfect opportunity to bring tasty foods you can enjoy that are healthier options. Even if your family doesn’t do this, you can ask to bring along your own dish to share anyway (and who knows, maybe it’ll become a new family favorite!).

Some options for healthier dishes could be:

  • Butternut Squash Soup is super easy to make (you just throw everything in a blender!) and is a perfectly creamy complement to other veggies without containing any cream or dairy.
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes instead of regular mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes will help you feel fuller, while potentially satisfying some sugar cravings.
  • Mashed NO Potatoes. That’s right. Instead of mashed potatoes, you use cauliflower! Many recipes out there are dairy-free and a great stand-in for traditional mashed potatoes.
  • Cauliflower appears on this list again, but this time just on its own! Roasted cauliflower is high in fibre and will help satisfy your cravings for crunchy foods
  • Bring a salad! There are millions of salad recipes to choose from. Find one that you can’t stop thinking about and chances are, your family will love it too.
  • Replace white sugar in baking with an alternative sweetener like Stevia, Xylitol, Erythritol or Monk Fruit.

If you work to be the change in your holiday Eating, your family might follow suit.

Avoid Drinking Excessively

Alcohol contains empty calories, and if you happen to mix it with sugary pops its even worse for you. It’s not nutritionally good for you, and can also be the cause of hangovers, embarrassing moments or family fights. Even if you’re anxious about spending time with your family, drinking too much is not a solution. Try bringing your favorite pressed juice, or another non-alcoholic alternative. You can also bring a non-alcoholic cocktail to share with other family members. If you are still planning to drink go for a mid-sized glass of Red Wine instead of beer, coolers or spirits. Red wine contains antioxidants and has other health benefits. Make sure you stay hydrated if you’re having alcohol by drinking a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume.

The holidays can seem like a test of our willpower but if you remember to be grateful, mindful, and that you are in control of your body, you’ll set yourself up to survive Thanksgiving!

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