It's inevitable: In less than a month, you'll sit down to a dinner table and eat well beyond the "normal portion" of appetizers, main course(s), side dishes, and desserts (mmm, pie). In fact, there's a chance you could end up consuming at least 1,705 calories and 61 grams of fat during that one Thanksgiving day meal. (As my dramatic mother would say, "Ooo-fah!")
Considering what a gluttonous occasion it will be, you may think (consciously or subconsciously) that it might be best to try to eat next to nothing the day before and day after. Stop being silly—you know you have to eat and not eating will only make you hungrier. And since you have to eat, you might as well eat certain foods and adopt behaviors that work better than others at keeping unwanted holiday pounds away, right?
Here, a few tips and tricks to employ before and after that can "soften the blow," perhaps, of that Turkey Day dig-in ...
The morning before: Eat breakfast! After all, research has shown that breakfast eaters eat fewer calories overall during the day. But just any old breakfast won't do ... Confession: On Thanksgiving mornings, I used to get up and go buy bagels, doughnuts, and sugar-laden lattes for my family. What a huge no-no—eating simple sugars and carbs in the morning leads to even more sugar and carb cravings throughout the day! So, by having that cinnamon sugar bagel at 10 a.m., you're scheduling an appointment to dive face first into the stuffing at 4.
A smarter bet would be to have oatmeal with walnuts or a high-fiber toast with a shmear of peanut butter. The combo of protein and fiber (shoot for 5 grams of each) will keep anyone satisfied without turning them into a ravenous beast.
Before/during The Big Meal: You've heard it before: "Fill up on veggies." OK, sure, but what kinds are particularly helpful at "priming" your system to take on a big binge? David Feder, RD, author of The Skinny Carbs Diet, says your best bet is to go with root veggies, like yams and potatoes. Besides, they're in your house for the big meal anyway. "When steamed or slow-baked, then cooled slightly, these form the most resistant starch—a form of starch that thinks it's a fiber," says Feder. "It's been shown to increase satiety, plus you end up consuming fewer calories and having the calories you eat last longer." And root veggies also convert into glycogen more readily—that's the form of glucose that is burned at a slow and steady pace to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel, explains Feder. In other words, your best defense against that cranberry mold is to go for the baked potato or yam (ideally sans butter, sour cream, and brown sugar) ASAP.
Before dessert: Go for a walk or throw a football around for 20 minutes. According to super celeb-trainer Jackie Warner, holiday overeating raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, but moderate physical activity can quash this spike, simultaneously inhibiting your appetite.
For the next week post-Turkey Day: First of all, if you had a slice of pecan pie and a slice of pumpkin pie—on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—don't beat yourself up! Second, you can easily detoxify by sipping a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon before each meal. Warner touts lemon as a natural liver detoxifier packed with vitamin C, which can help detoxify a body that's fighting to metabolize extra calories. A bonus: The drink may also suppress your appetite, so you can reduce your calorie intake ever so slightly over the following few days to "make up for" the feast.
What are your pre- and post-Thanksgiving health tricks?
Image via Steve Bott/Flickr