Thanksgiving has become ingrained in our culture as a holiday where the expectation is that we should eat as much as possible. Food is a great way for you to connect with your friends and family, but it’s possible to enjoy the food – and the holiday – while still listening to your body. Here are some strategies to try before, during, and after your Thanksgiving meal in order to avoid an all-out binge.

Thanksgiving: What to Eat Before, During and After

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Pre-Thanksgiving

While it can be tempting to cut back on your portions ahead of time, in order to save room for the big meal, this is not a good idea. Skipping meals always backfires, and you’ll end up being more likely to overeat the Thanksgiving meal. Instead, eat your normal meals the morning of Thanksgiving so that you are hungry, but not starving, when the holiday meal comes around. Stay hydrated, aiming to drink at least seven or eight cups of water throughout the day.

Eating on Thanksgiving Day

Start the day off with a balanced breakfast, full of protein, fiber and some healthy fat. This will help to fuel your body and ensure that you aren’t starving once Thanksgiving dinner rolls around.

When you sit down to the Thanksgiving table, be mindful. Slow down your eating, pay attention to the food and the flavors, and you’ll feel satiated with less. Think about what foods on the table: which do you love and which do you not really care about? Not crazy about green bean casserole? Skip over that, and take some your favorite mashed potatoes instead.

Eat slowly, so that your stomach has time to register feelings of fullness and satiety. Wait for at least 15 minutes before going in for seconds. If you’re no longer hungry, but feel like you still want more food, remind yourself that you can always have leftovers tomorrow.

I like to go back and focus on what Thanksgiving is really all about: giving thanks and being thankful for those around you. Change your mindset to an “anything goes” mentality and think of it as just another dinner, this time surrounded by all your friends and family.

What to Do Post-Thanksgiving

First of all, don’t beat yourself up. Overindulging once in awhile won’t do much long term damage. On the day after Thanksgiving, follow these tips to feel like yourself again.

  1. Don’t starve yourself. There is no need to deprive yourself just because you overate the day before. Start off the day with a balanced breakfast with protein, fiber and fat. Be mindful, and pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues throughout the day. Don’t skip a meal thinking you’ll save calories – this will backfire and set you up for more binging later on.
  2. Fill up on protein and fiber. Foods high in protein and fiber will fill you up without feeling more stuffed or bloated. Aim to make half your plate veggies, then add on lean protein – like chicken, fish or beans, and a serving of whole grains. Add in some healthy fat like nuts, seeds, avocado, or healthy oils.
  3. Get moving. It can be tempting to sit on the couch all day following a big meal, but resist the urge and lace up your sneakers instead. Head out for a walk or a jog, or do a little yoga. Light exercise and movement will help your food to digest faster and give you a boost of energy.
  4. Drink up. Water that is! While you may feel bloated and puffy after a big day of eating, drinking water helps to speed up digestion and counteract the bloating caused to by a lot of salt and carbs. Try to drink at least eight glasses throughout the day.

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