Thanksgiving is fast approaching, which means pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie, and, oh, more pumpkin pie… And then come the Christmas cookies. Even if you’re not actively restricting food groups or trying to lose weight, the everyday healthy eating habits you’ve so proudly honed throughout the rest of the year can get hard to keep intact from Turkey Day to New Year’s with the constant onslaught of treats that’s become synonymous with the holiday season.
If you want to stay healthy this year without sacrificing any of the good stuff (mmm, mashed potatoes and caramel apples), portion control and mindfulness should remain your priorities.
Eight health experts shared with us how to successfully keep these pledges even during the most gluttonous days of the year.
1. Eat your breakfast
“With all the food preparation and fuss of Thanksgiving morning, breakfast might not be the first thing on your mind, but it is important that you fuel up with something healthy at the beginning of the day. I usually have porridge or Greek yogurt with some blueberries and almonds. It is important that you get your metabolism going for the large meal that will ensue. By not skipping any meals throughout the day, you aren’t as tempted to overeat when the meal finally comes around.” (Frida Harju-Westman, nutritionist for Lifesum)
2. Drink plenty of water
“Avoid dehydration by drinking water throughout the day and refilling your glass during your holiday dinner. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking you’re hungry when you might, in fact, just be thirsty. If consuming alcoholic beverages, be sure to limit the sugary mixes and heavy, caloric beers. Alternate your alcohol with glasses of water.” (Stacy Goldberg, nutrition consultant and founder of Savorfull)
3. Potluck it
“Call your host and say, ‘I’d love to bring something. What are you planning on serving?’ If you discover that one of the dishes is particularly unhealthy, offer to bring your own version. Sweet potatoes, for example, can be real killers — full of butter, syrup, and marshmallows. But when prepared with nutrition in mind, they’re perfectly healthy — and absolutely delicious.” (Kimberly Gomer, director of nutrition for Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa)
4. Savor spices
“Winter dishes are full of fragrant, flavorful spices, such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and rosemary. Instead of going for the butter and salt, learn to get creative cooking with these and other classic herbs and spices for your meals.” (Abbie Gellman, nutrition expert and member of Jenny Craig Scientific Advisory Board)
5. Peruse, then choose
“Scan the buffet or food table before getting your plate. Decide what foods you really want to eat, and forget the rest. If you can take it or leave it, then leave it. And, when possible, bypass the fried and breaded items (think breaded mushrooms and mozzarella sticks) for roasted, baked, or grilled items, such as grilled shrimp kabobs and roasted vegetables.” (Rima Kleiner, dietician and founder of Dish on Fish)
6. Pick the right plate
“It can be helpful to use smaller plates and bowls. Ever hear the phrase ‘eating with your eyes’? When you see a big plate with the correct serving sizes on there, you think, ‘Wow, I won’t be full off of that!’ But when you use a smaller plate or bowl, you feel better about the amount you took and will probably get full from that portion without needing seconds. Sometimes, it’s all a visual game and not really about your stomach.” (Joelle Malinowski, dietician and representative for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)
7. Remember: location, location, location!
“Where you eat matters. Take your plated food and have a seat at the table. Sitting helps you slow down and be present. Although there will be times when eating on the go is unavoidable, the more attention we can commit to the food in front of us, the more likely we are to make healthier choices and the more likely we are to recognize when we’re full.” (Lindsey Kane, director of nutrition for Sun Basket)
“Make it a point to walk around and socialize rather than sitting down with a drink and a plate of food. The more you are occupying your time with chatter, the less you will be tempted to indulge. Keep busy!” (Janine Delaney, fitness and lifestyle expert)