Ah, Turkey-Day… How We Love/Hate Thee

For those of you with Jason and I in the US, the day our diets love to hate is upon us.

We all know what happens. You approach the day with the best intentions, swearing to only eat two thin slices of turkey, a quarter-cup of mashed potatoes, heaps of plain veggies and pretending to ignore the buffet full of pies waiting around the corner. And every year, what do we do? We allow ourselves or others to convince us that Thanksgiving is about the bountiful food and we should partake. After all, calories don’t count on Thanksgiving!


They do count. Trust me, they will show up on your scale and make you sad, discouraged and feeling defeated. That’s not what Thanksgiving should lead to. Having a plan and remembering a few tips can make the difference between enjoying the day both during and after, rather than just giving you a bellyache and regrets.

Be Realistic

Having a plan is all well and good, unless yours is like the one I referenced above. There is nothing wrong with making a plan, but you do need to leave some room for flexibility and make sure you include those things that are most likely to tempt you… in moderation (more on that below). That way, what you eat is in the plan and you don’t go into the free-for-all that usually results from feeling like you’ve “blown the diet anyway.”

Picking Favorites

Yeah, you heard me. Picking favorites is a good thing! Especially when it comes to the Thanksgiving Day table. What do you eat often enough it’s not a treat? Mashed potatoes and gravy? Corn? Skip em. That’s right – you can have Thanksgiving without the mashed potatoes and gravy. Instead of filling your plate with common “filler” holiday foods, reach for the ones that are special treats, the ones you only have once or twice a year. By making sure to include your favorites in your plan, you actually eliminate the strongest temptation of the day.

Portion size

There are so many different dishes set out on the table that if you grabbed a “standard” portion of just your favorites, you’d still fill two plates (or more). Instead, take half a scoop of your mother-in-law’s party potatoes, so you can also have that deviled egg that’s calling your name. By taking only half portions of your favorite foods, you still get to indulge in that wonderful flavor without over doing it or feeling regret later.


This is something that Jason struggles with. He inhales food. Literally. Seriously though, if you’re filling your plate with half portions of your favorite holiday foods, why in the world would you want to eat it all so fast that you don’t have a chance to enjoy it? Savor every bite… every… single… one. This does two things. First off, you really do get to enjoy the food you’re eating, so you won’t feel like you’ve missed it. Secondly, eating each bite slowly and savoring the flavor will actually give your body time to tell your brain that you really are satisfied with what you’ve had. Usually, there is so much food that it’s almost a race to get through the first plate so you can get to your second one. Take your time on your first plate and you’re less likely to even consider a second one.

The Dreaded Second Plate

Speaking of the second plate issue, you don’t need it. You know you don’t, I’ve told you that you don’t, but your sweet grandma will insist that you do. One of the ways to resist this is to do as I mentioned above and eat your food slowly enough that you finish your first plate while everyone else is on their second plate. If it still comes up, just remember that sometimes you just need to be firm (and polite). “I really am trying to not get over full. Afterall, you did bring some pie, right Granny?”


Ok, you remember what I said about half portions? Yeah, that still applies. This does not mean, however, that you’re to have half a slice of each of the eight different pies that are laid out before you. Pick a favorite! Which pie do you love most during the holiday? For Jason, it’s pumpkin. For me, I love cherry. Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without cherry pie for me, so I’m going to have some. And I’m going to savor… every… bite… of my half slice.


We all know that a single meal isn’t going to make you gain ten pounds. All of the leftovers might, though. So don’t take any away with you! You can, without giving offense, turn down the container of left over food. Especially the pie. If you’re the one hosting the dinner, send as much of it away from your house as you can. If you still have food left, think of someone you can give it to. Whatever you do, don’t stuff it in your fridge where it will tempt you for the rest of the weekend. As much as it feels wasteful, if you can’t find someone to give your leftovers away to, it’s better to toss them out. Eating more than we should because the food is there is one of the biggest reasons for obesity today. I know that I have more than a few extra pounds on me as a result.

Just remember that even though we equate Thanksgiving with feasting, it doesn’t mean we need eat so much we can’t move without pain. So pick your favorites, eat half portions and take your time with your choices as you enjoy conversation with your family around the table. That is, after all, why you’ve gathered.

Feel free to share any other tips you have! I’m not the expert and we can all learn from each other.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

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