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Have Your Healthiest Thanksgiving Yet

Have Your Healthiest Thanksgiving Yet

by Mehmet Oz, MD

I always always find myself with mixed feeling around Thanksgiving time. On the one hand, it serves as a great excuse to get the whole family together for a reunion you would rarely otherwise have. On the other hand, it can be one of the most hectic and stressful weekends of the year, especially if you’re traveling. Many of my patients tell me it derails their exercise regimens and diets they’ve been working on for months. Like me, you’ve probably wondered if it’s even possible to have a healthy, low stress Thanksgiving. Well I’ve got news for you. Not only do I think it’s possible, I think it’s within your reach this year. Spend a few minutes with me learning how to make this Thanksgiving a healthy one without significant sacrifices.

Give Yourself Peace of Mind

One thing I’ve learned over years of working multiple, stressful jobs is that things go more smoothly if you anticipate possible future problems and plan for them. Nothing’s more frustrating than standing in the TSA security line knowing you should have left 30 minutes earlier or searching the grocery store on Wednesday for that one ingredient you need that’s sold out. Take some time today, while Thanksgiving is still several days away, to think about what you need to prepare for. Are you traveling? Think now about how you’re going to get to the airport and how much time you’re really going to need on the busiest travel day of the year. Making dinner at home? Make sure you know the holiday hours of your grocery store so that you’re able to get what you need. The more you anticipate what might go wrong, the better prepared and more relaxed you’ll be.

Set Time Aside for Yourself

This week is going to be hectic, especially if you’re hosting other people. While it might seem that getting an hour or two to yourself is the last thing you have time for, it’s going to be important for you to set aside some time every day to decompress and do something you enjoy or that recharges you. As I just mentioned early, this is all about planning. Think now about when you’ll be able to sneak away each day for a few minutes to breathe. Even when you’re pressed for time, remember that that are quick ways to destress. If you really don’t think you’ll be able to find time to yourself, try getting one or two other people to join you for a quiet meditation session or a quick round of yoga.

Get in Some Exercise

You’re probably going to have to make some changes to your workout routine during Thanksgiving, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot more people around to workout with and it’s easy to turn a boring workout into a fun group event. If you normally run alone, ask a family member or friend if they’d like to join you. Try out a few at-home workouts with some of your visitors and put on some fun music while you do it. Don’t forget, team sports also count as exercise. Pull out a football, frisbee, and whatever else you can find in your garage. If you’re not a fan of any one sport, come up with a few stations and switch off after 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter what you do on Thanksgiving as long as you do something active every day. Be creative and have fun.

Make Healthy Options Happen

One of the hardest parts of Thanksgiving is all of the eating. With so many unhealthy options on the table, it can be tough to eat well. But don’t worry, there are a few steps you can take to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal without completely throwing your diet out the window. One place to start is to make sure there will be something healthy you can add to your plate on the dinner table. If you’re the host, it’s okay to make some of the unhealthier favorites, but make some healthy options you know you’ll like as well. If you’re going to be the guest, ask what you can bring or help cook. Most hosts have so much going on they’ll welcome one less thing to do. If you say something like “I have a delicious curried cauliflower soup I’d love to make for dinner,” few people will turn you down. Check out some of my favorite vegetarian Thanksgiving options!

Give Yourself a Free Pass

While splurging on a big piece of apple pie might feel like the end of the world, it’s unlikely to really set you back. Remember that healthier eating is about what the overall trend looks like, not what happens in a single meal. It’s okay to give yourself a free pass for Thanksgiving dinner, but don’t make it a pass for the whole weekend. Think in advance when you’d really like the freedom to eat what you want and allow yourself some leeway beyond what you’d normally eat. You’ll enjoy your meal a lot more if you’ve given yourself permission for one day to have a little pumpkin pie. It’s okay to treat yourself on special occasions as long as every day doesn’t become an opportunity to indulge.

Use Your Buffet Strategies

In many ways, Thanksgiving dinner is like a big buffet, which means the strategies for better eating that we’d apply to a buffet also apply to dinner on Thanksgiving. First, grab yourself a smaller plate. This will keep your portion sizes small and prevent you from overeating at the get go. Remember, you can always go back for seconds if you feel like you have space. Next, survey all of the food offerings first before you fill up your plate for the first time. This prevents you from loading up on food you don’t really want before finding the foods you’d like to eat. Finally, take your time when you’re eating. Enjoy your food and let it settle before you get up to get seconds. You might find you feel more full than you realize if you give your stomach some time to catch up. Here are a few other strategies that might help.

Live in the Moment

Don’t forget to enjoy Thanksgiving. It’s stressful, it’s busy and it can be overwhelming. But we all endure everything that comes with these holidays because the time with our family and friends is worth it in the end. Put away your phone, turn off the TV, and focus on the time you have with your loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving!

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