With Thanksgiving kickin’ off the holiday season this week, how exactly are we supposed to survive this holiday without stretching out the waistlines of our pants? No worries – the Caveman’s found a few easy ways to watch your weight without sacrificing on your holiday favorites. (For me, it’s just not a holiday without making mashed potatoes!) So take a quick look at my healthy holiday eating guide because hey, aren’t the holidays are supposed to be a time of relaxing rather than worrying?
Step 1: Use Portion Control
The sad fact is that portion size and serving size are two very different things. Let’s say you look up online and see that a serving of turkey contains 450 calories. Okay, you think, that’s not so bad. When Thanksgiving Day comes around you cut off a huge hunk of thigh meat and put it on your plate. Already you’ve made a mistake. Your portion size is much greater than the 450 calorie serving size. A good tip to remember: when it comes to meat, a serving size is roughly the same size of a deck of cards. When you take that into account, suddenly your mammoth-sized slabs of turkey are looking a little excessive and calorie heavy. Knowing what the actual serving sizes of your foods are will help you more closely monitor and control your caloric intake come Turkey Day.
Step 2: Use a Smaller Plate
This may sound like a silly one, but studies show that portion sizes directly correspond with the size of your plate. No matter what your plate size, you are pre-programmed to fill it with food come Thanksgiving. Having a smaller plate will mean you put less food in front of you to consume.
Step 3: Choose Leaner Cuts
While the fatty, juicy cuts of meat are undoubtedly more flavorful, they’re also much worse for you (and your waistline) than the alternative leaner cuts. If you typically reach for darker meat and savage it, skin and all, try subbing for white breast meat instead. Take it one step further and remove the skin before you eat it.
Step 4: Snack All Day
This one may sound a little counter-productive, but studies show that snacking on light meals every hour or so before your big meal will actually prevent yourself from overeating later. That being said, “light snacking” should not include things like Oreos or Hostess cakes. Instead try eating nuts or veggies before the big dinner. Fresh fruit is also a great choice, as it will help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you energized before the meal.
Step 5: Drink Water Instead
One of the simplest ways to save calories during Thanksgiving (or any meal) is to switch to water. Passing on alcohol or soft drinks can save you easily 200+ calories per drink. Instead of having a refill on that cola, you could have an extra piece of pumpkin pie. Not a bad tradeoff.
Step 6: Focus on Vegetables
Putting more vegetables on your plate will leave less room both on your plate and in your stomach for higher calorie foods. When you’re passing around the food, pass up on selecting several pieces of meat or an extra spoonful of mashed potatoes. Instead, grab double servings of steamed vegetables. Even dishes like baked yams or sweet peas with butter, though not as healthy as fresh fruit, will still preserve your waistline more than servings of things like pasta salad or stuffing.
Step 7: Rethink Your Food Preparation
One really simple way to reduce the calorie count of your Thanksgiving meal is to use healthier cooking methods. Instead of deep-frying your turkey this year, try… pretty much any other cooking method. Baking, broiling, or grilling your foods rather than frying or sautéing them will save you literally hundreds of calories at the end of the day, sometimes even cutting the calorie count in half.
Step 8: Practice Moderation When it comes to Drinking
As I mentioned earlier, switching from alcohol to water will save you a lot of calories. However, let’s say you it’s just not Thanksgiving without a glass of wine in your hand. If you’re worried about your waistline, alcohol can be enjoyed, but in moderation. A good habit to get into: after every alcoholic beverage you drink, follow it with a glass of water. This will help to keep you from overdoing it. Also, be sure to choose your poison wisely with an aim towards cutting calories. For example: go for light beer over regular. Simple switches like that can save you big time.
Step 9: Eat Fresh
If possible, stay away from artificial or canned foods. Fresh foods will not only taste better, but they’re much better for you (and your pant-size). Canned vegetables are packed with artificial flavors and preservatives, not to mention high sodium content. Go for fresh baked breads or even bake the bread yourself. If you’re a guest this year, take a quick scan of the table and zero in on fresh items like corn on the cob. Even mashed potatoes will be a better choice than canned green beans.
Step 10: Take an After-Dinner Stroll
As tempting as it can be to sink into the sofa in an after-dinner coma, taking a quick stroll after your meal is a great way to both work off some of those calories and keep up your energy. Start a new tradition and suggest that the whole family join you!
With these simple tips, you’re sure to cut back on some of the calorie cost of Thanksgiving. The best part? These tricks are so easy, even this caveman can do it. Happy Holidays!