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Controlling Calories: Thanksgiving edition

Well folks, Thanksgiving is here and it can be a stressful time for our meal plan and bodyweight. With so many tasty temptations, it’s easy to let the whole weekend get out of hand calorie-wise.  First off, let me start by saying that I think at important times like Thanksgiving we need some balance and normalcy.  The holidays are an important time for family, friends, and social connections – I feel that we need to include ourselves in the food festivities and relax and enjoy ourselves – even while we are watching our calories.  Socially isolating yourself and trying to completely abstain from all drinks and foods can create more stress and can lead to a total collapse in our focus, so I’m a big advocate of having some fun and some balance while being conscious of what we are consuming.  It is important that we find ways that we can still enjoy these occasions without sitting in the corner pouting and not taking part, and also so we don’t fall completely off track and gain a bunch of weight that we’re going to regret.

I want to use the term “damage control” here because there will undoubtedly be some things consumed that aren’t in our regular meal plan, but we can control the damage and come out of the holidays on track. Below shows how I recommend to best control our calories over the holidays while still having some fun and getting the opportunity to indulge in some otherwise forbidden foods.  Here is a table from my ebook, Plan, Prepare, Succeed: Nutrition Principles for fitness-oriented adults (available for download on ibooks here), it gives you 6 guidelines to find that oh-so-important balance during this awesome weekend. 

 6 Guidelines for Effective Holiday Eating

Guideline #1 – Use a Side Plate at the Dinner Table

When standing or sitting in front of a gigantic spread of holiday food, we are undoubtedly going to stuff every inch of our plate.  A full sized dinner plate packed with Christmas dinner is easily over 1000 calories. Instead grab the little plate – all the same, tasty foods, but in a manageable portion size.  Half portions = half the calories.

Guideline # 2 – Fill your plate with Protein and Veggies First

Go straight to the vegetable dishes and the turkey/roast/ham/protein source and dish up a small plate with a full serving of vegetables and meat (or meat alternative for you vegetarians).  By filling up our plate with healthy proteins and vegetables first, we take a huge portion of the calorie-dense carbohydrates out of the real estate.

Guideline #3 – Go Lean, Skip the Skin, and go easy on the Gravy Train

We all know the giant turkey drumstick is the piece de resistance of any good holiday dinner.  However, dark meat is marbled heavily with fats, so instead choose leaner, whiter cuts of meat like the breast.  Skip the turkey skin and spoon (do not pour) gravy on.

Guideline #4 – Skip the Dessert Plate but not the Dessert

The holiday season is a sure bet to stumble upon some dessert. We don’t have to abstain, but instead of grabbing a dessert plate, grab a napkin, and put our dessert on the napkin – we won’t be able to take very much and it will control your portion size.

Guideline #5 – Abide by a Drink Allowance

Choose a number of allowable drinks per day (no 50 is not an acceptable number) and stick to it - spread them out over the day/weekend and control those associate calories.

Guideline #6 – Keep Hustlin’

Even with all of these damage controls in place, we are still most likely going to be over consuming calorie-wise.  To offset those extra calories, we need to continue to exercise.  We are all busy during the holiday weekend, that’s no secret, but with some dedication and consistency, you can maintain your workout schedule and maybe even squeeze an extra workout in during the week before and definitely the week after.

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