Jennifer Lovejoy, Arivale Chief Science Officer, PhD
We love Thanksgiving. Sharing a meal with loved ones and celebrating what we have to be thankful for is something we look forward to every year.
And yet—we’ll be the first to admit the holiday season can be daunting, especially if you’re trying to stay true to your wellness goals. Temptations abound and with so many social gatherings, it can be hard to control your environment.
At Arivale, we’re all about adding an abundance of healthy, delicious foods instead of trying to resist all of the unhealthy, delicious things around you.
Here are some strategies for enjoying Thanksgiving to the fullest—while still staying true to your wellness goals.
1. Optimize what you can.
Every family has different Thanksgiving traditions—many of them revolving around particular recipes. While respecting the items you simply have to have at your table (we’re not trying to cause any family schisms here), think about some side dishes you can tweak to make healthier.
Instead of a green bean casserole, which are often filled with heavy cream or butter, try brussels sprouts roasted with olive oil and topped with pomegranate seeds. Brussels sprouts are a seasonal cruciferous vegetable, which can help boost your body’s ability to flush out toxins.
Bring a roasted garlic spread to add to your mashed potatoes and pass that gravy down the table. Garlic is an allium vegetable, which can also help your body detox and as we all know, it packs a punch flavor-wise.
Bring an alternative dessert of baked apples to your dinner. There are lots of ways to make baked apples, ranging in healthiness. (Rule of thumb: Look for recipes that are light on the sugar and butter.) The simplest and healthiest way to make baked apples is to cut up apple slices, sprinkle them with cinnamon or apple pie spice, place on a parchment paper lined pan, and bake about 10 minutes on each side at 400 degrees.
2. Remember the healthy plate model.
When you dish up your Thanksgiving dinner, start with non-starchy vegetables (think leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, etc.) and fill up half of your plate. Yes, half.
A quarter of your plate should then be filled with a lean protein. Turkey time! Aim for a portion about the size of a deck of cards (3-5 ounces).
Finally, the last quarter of your plate is typically reserved for fiber-rich carbohydrates. For a normal Thanksgiving dinner, you might fill this last portion with mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, or a roll.
3. Pick your favorites.
Pick and commit to a favorite item. If a slice of pumpkin pie is your absolute Thanksgiving favorite, go for it! Focus on your favorite items and skip the ones you care less about.
4. Eat a hearty breakfast Thanksgiving morning.
Fasting all day before the big meal is a recipe for binge eating. By starting your day with a healthy breakfast, you set your blood sugar and energy levels up for a steady flow, which can help curb cravings. On top of that, glucose plays a vital role in our decision-making abilities and level of self-control.
Oatmeal, fresh fruit, and hard-boiled eggs are all examples of hearty, healthy breakfasts that can boost your willpower for the main event—dinner!
5. Stay hydrated.
Dehydration can lead to increased cravings, particularly for sugar. When we are dehydrated, our bodies use glycogen (a storage form of sugar) at a faster rate, which then needs to be replenished.
Make sure you’re staying hydrated throughout the day and set a goal to drink one glass of water between every alcoholic drink at dinner. For a cozy treat, try enjoying a ginger or cinnamon tea while cooking!
6. Have an activity plan.
Even if you have full plans to be in the kitchen all day, set aside some time for exercise. Plan a walk, hike, or flag football game. Schedule something concrete ahead of time with your friends or family to hold yourself accountable.
7. Indulge for a day, not the season.
Thanksgiving is a holiday of abundance, and ultimately, one or two days of planned overeating isn’t going to set you back in the long run. The key is not letting a break from your typical diet extend the entire holiday season. Make a plan, enjoy an indulgence for what it is—an indulgence—and keep focused on your long-term wellness goals.