Tips on how to avoid overeating during your family’s holiday feast
Cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole — with Thanksgiving right around the corner, people watching their waistlines are hoping to keep them in check during the holidays.
Thomas Lemke, a registered dietitian and licensed with Intergris Bass Baptist Health Center, said stopping overeating begins in the morning.
“My basic recommendation is always start with breakfast,” he said. “I recommend you always eat breakfast on the day of a holiday. People who eat breakfast tend to be lighter overall because they don’t tend to overeat later in the day.”
Pamela Baggett, a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian with St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, added skipping breakfast can lead to loss of self-control.
“What we need to think about is not skipping breakfast because by lunch I will be so ravenous that I have no self-control,” she said.
With many people hitting the road to visit friends and family during the holiday season, several end up arriving famished, Lamke said.
“If you are traveling for a holiday, try to eat something before you show up for the festivities,” he said. “It can be something small like a salad or carrots. Having something on your stomach can lessen the desire to eat as much when the smell of the turkey cooking hits your nose.”
If people are participating in providing food for the festivities, they can bring a favorite food they safely can eat a lot of.
“I tell my diabetics, ‘take something you can have a whole bunch of, a vegetable plate or a sugar-free Jell-O. Take something you can fill up on,’” Baggett said.
Lemke suggested bringing a healthy alternative to potluck holiday meals.
“If it is a potluck, bring a fruit tray or veggie tray, so if you have the munchies throughout the day, it is something you can default to throughout the day,” he said. “You can get some tomatoes and carrot sticks, maybe dipped them in some ranch, rather than keep going back to the dessert table.”
If you are participating in a strict diet and going to someone’s home to celebrate Thanksgiving, let the host know your restrictions beforehand, Baggett said.
“If I am on a strict diet for whatever reason and I am going to someone’s house, I need to let them know,” she said. “I can’t have salty dishes, I can’t have a lot of fat ... whatever my restrictions are.”
Portion control also is an important tool to help keep food consumption in check.
“My No. 1 recommendation for portion control when eating family-style is to go through the line once., Lemke said. “Don’t keep coming back all day long. If you want to pile your plate really high, that is fine, but limit it to what you can eat in one sitting. Once you eat that, you are done until the next meal.”
While eating, Baggett said slowing down can help your body realize when it truly is full, a process that can can take up to 20 minutes.
“Slow down. Eat slower. Put your fork down between bites,” she said.
She added limiting your eating to one plate only can help reduce overeating.
“Realize Thanksgiving is one meal, not a four-day holiday,” she said. “I am going to do one plate and pick what I like the best. Maybe I can do without the bread but love dressing, so I may just eat the dressing.”
Lemke also recommended choosing only one favorite dessert for the holiday.
“People tend to want to take a little bit of grandma’s cheesecake, Aunt Ethel’s pumpkin pie and Aunt Betty’s gingerbread cookies. Pick one dessert,” he said. “If your favorite dessert is Aunt Betty’s gingerbread cookies, eat them. When you are finished with the cookies, don’t go on to something else.
“Don’t eat everything just to make grandma happy. She will be just as unhappy with her grandchild suffering with obesity and health as you not eating her pumpkin pie.”
“We have to realize Thanksgiving, Christmas, our birthday — they come every year,” she said. “If I feel I am feeling deprived, I may say, ‘what the heck’ and try everything. If Aunt Mabel makes the best whatever and it is here today and my wife makes the others every once in a while, I will choose Aunt Mabel’s dessert. If my favorite is, say apple pie, I will have one piece and eat it slowly and enjoy it so I don’t feel deprived.”
Baggett also suggested taking only half portions of dessert.
Lemke said moderation is key during the holiday when it comes to eating.
“It is individually based,” he said. “I know can’t keep myself away from my cousin’s fudge. My options are not start or take a handful and take it as far away from the tray as I can so I don’t keep eating them all afternoon. Know your habits and your limits.”
Once the food is put away and dishes are washed up, Baggett suggests getting active.
“One of the great things I do, once the dishes are done, is I go for a walk or work on Christmas lights or do an activity with the family,” she said. “I do something rather than plop down and take a nap.”
Hosts of the big family Thanksgiving day meal often can be stuck with the leftovers and feel obligated to eat them.
Lemke suggested trying to pawn off as many leftovers as you can to your guests.
“Some can take the pie and someone else can take the green bean casserole,” he said. Or, “if you get stuck with the leftovers, freeze them. You can pick at them over a longer time and it isn’t as overwhelming.
“If you are stuck with too much food and you can’t eat it all, throw it away. You gaining five or 10 pounds over the holidays isn’t going to help anyone.”
Lemke encourages his clients to enjoy the holidays, but not to go overboard.
“Holidays are a time for fun. Go ahead and indulge yourself a little bit,” he said. “Have a little bit of the pumpkin pie, but don’t also have the gingerbread cookies on top of that. It is about moderation.”