Dietitians Say This Is The One Change You Need To Make At Thanksgiving To Avoid Weight Gain
Thanksgiving is one of the most beloved and cherished seasonal holidays for many, as it brings family and friends together, as well as great food. If you’ve been working to lose weight and want to prevent overeating or weight gain during the holiday season, we reached out to registered dietitians, nutritionists and other health experts for one healthy eating habit tip and other points to keep in mind. Read on for suggestions and insight from Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RDm senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and Elise Harlow, MS, RDN, registered dietitian, nutritionist and founder of The Flourished Table.
Tip #1— Have A Meal Plan For The Holiday (And Stick To It!)
Many of us arrive to a relative or friend’s house on Thanksgiving Day without having eaten anything beforehand, as we anticipate a large meal. Hunnes stresses that avoiding this is key to prevent weight gain, and to stop yourself from overeating, as well. Instead, she recommends following a balanced, consistent meal plan for the day (planning out your breakfast, lunch and other small snacks before the big meal, thinking about what you will eat during it, etc), instead of going into anything blindly.
“Don’t show up to dinner starving as you will not be in the headspace to make good decisions on what you are eating or drinking,” Hunnes says, adding that you will be more likely to “binge out on more calories from unhealthy sources than if you show up already having had a small snack.” She recommends eating “an apple and a tablespoon of nut butter an hour or two ahead of time” if you’re looking for something healthy to hold you over.
When it comes to the actual Thanksgiving meal, she recommends “making sure at least half of your plate is filled with healthy vegetables and healthy proteins,” rather than “thick and creamy foods that are laden with calories.” This, she notes, will help you feel better later on, and still on track with your weight loss and health goals.
How To Prepare A Weight-Loss Friendly Thanksgiving Plate
This Thanksgiving, Harlow recommends following a couple simple strategies when determining what to eat at mealtime. “Start by filling your plate with 50% vegetables,” Harlow says, as “vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, both of which are important to prevent weight gain.”
Next, in addition to the vegetables, she instructs to “make sure to include a protein on your plate, about 25% of the plate,” since “protein is the most satiating macronutrient.” This, she continues, will help you to feel full and satisfied (and less likely to go back for seconds, thirds, etc.)
Her next tip is to “fill the remaining 25% of your plate with a starch, such as mashed potatoes, rolls, etc.”
These, Harlow notes, tend to be the foods that are “highest in calories and are the most difficult to not overeat on.” However, if you enjoy these foods, then she says it is “important to not deprive yourself, just to watch the portion.” By following this planning method, Harlow adds, you can still enjoy the foods you love most around the holidays and prevent unwanted weight gain.
“It is important to not completely deprive yourself of your favorite holiday foods, as this could result in overeating this food once you finally do allow yourself to eat it,” she points out. She concludes that it is essential, as Hunnes noted previously, to avoid the trap of “saving your calories” during the day when you know you are going to eat out, or eat a higher calorie meal later in the day. “This causes you to go into that meal overly hungry, which makes it difficult to not overeat,” she says. “You are more likely to put more high calorie foods on your plate, eat quickly, and eat past the point of feeling comfortable.”