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An RD's Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner

Have you ever envied those families who start their Thanksgiving with a Turkey Trot 5k for their active lifestyle? If you’re worried about derailing your health goals during the holidays this year, take a look at an RD’s guide to Thanksgiving dinner.

What's the Best Way to Approach Thanksgiving Dinner?

You are much more likely to overeat and make poor food choices when you are very hungry, so try not to deprive your body of the nutrients it needs throughout the day. In fact, you should treat Thanksgiving just like any other day!  

Go About Your Day As Normal 

Most people have the day off, so there might be additional time for workouts during the day. If you are used to exercising every day, try to fit in a quick workout–even if it’s just a 20-minute yoga session or a run around the block. This can create a calorie deficit to offset a more calorie-dense Thanksgiving dinner. Going for a leisurely walk after dinner with the entire family is a great way to fit in some exercise—and aid your digestion!On that note, it’s okay to loosen up your food restrictions and guidelines a bit for the day, as long as you get back on the horse tomorrow. The occasional calorie excursion may actually be beneficial for those in a weight-loss plateau. The holidays are for celebrating, after all! Just try not to celebrate with heavy foods all month long. 

Should Any Foods Be Completely Avoided?

No—all food is okay in moderation. Make sure you’re eating a balanced plate, though. Enjoy everything that is served, watch your portion control, and choose a variety of foods to provide more satiety.If you choose to consume alcohol, make sure to drink in moderation. It’s easy to lose track of how much you are drinking, especially if your family starts celebrating early in the day. It’s all right to enjoy a drink or two, but drinking excessively can quickly add calories—not to mention, lead to a nasty headache in the morning.Try to give your body time to process the alcohol, and drink lots of water in between cocktails. Everyone metabolizes alcohol at a different pace—some more slowly than others. Understanding your genetic alcohol metabolism can help you understand how to moderate your alcohol consumption. 

How to Approach Less-Than-Healthy Thanksgiving Foods 

Practice Mindful Eating 

This is possibly the most significant tip to remember throughout the day. Be sure to practice mindful eating, especially with foods you really enjoy. This applies to every other day of the year as well, but it’s important that you truly savor the flavors during Thanksgiving Dinner to help you feel more satisfied with less. Plus, it helps you to truly enjoy the delicious foods that you don’t eat every day. 

Put your utensils down between bites if you have difficulty controlling your pace. Take time to notice how your food looks and tastes. And most importantly, listen to your body. Many eat to capacity and are stuffed before their stomach has time to really feel full. Part of being mindful is realizing when your body does not need more in order to be satisfied. 

In general, try to make the holidays less about food and more about socializing with friends and family.  

Eat Breakfast (and Maybe Even Lunch) 

Staying on somewhat of a regular schedule can help your stomach properly digest throughout the day. This can also help you with your portion control during Thanksgiving dinner. 

Stay away from areas of the house that encourage grazing, a habit which includes indulging in things like cheese trays, bowls of nuts or candy, and other hors d’oeuvres before the meal. Doing so can add hundreds of additional calories to a meal that already estimates around 1,500–3,000 calories! 

Understand Your Genetics-Based Recommendations 

Enjoy Your Meal! 

Knowing how certain food groups affect your physical and mental state can help you make informed decisions when planning out your plate at dinnertime. If you function best on a moderate carbohydrate and low-fat diet, for example, you could avoid foods with heavy fats like gravy and butter, and refrain from going for seconds on the rolls and slices of pie. 

Thanksgiving dinner recipes are typically higher in sugar, as well, so be wary of sneaky recipes in which this can go undetected—like your aunt’s sweet potatoes with brown sugar—in addition to typical desserts. Understanding your genetics-based nutrition recommendations can help you to feel your best following Thanksgiving dinner. 

Thanksgiving dinner is about spending time with loved ones, so make creating memories and enjoying the holiday your top priority. You have 364 other days each year to be on top of your nutritional goals, so don’t worry too much and don’t overthink it—one or two days during the holiday season will not completely derail your plans. 

To learn more about how to eat for your body, download a free GenoPalate sample report to see how our nutrition and food recommendations look for one individual. 


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