Can you believe it?! Thanksgiving is this week, you guys! Woohoo! That means a short week at work and an extra long weekend with the in-laws. No really, I’m super excited! Speaking of giving thanks, I’m so thankful for the family I married into. I don’t think I could have asked for any better in-laws and I’m probably just as excited to spend four days with them as I would if I were seeing my own family for Thanksgiving.
But let’s not forget about the food we’ll all be enjoying this week. I mean, who doesn’t love having a table full of great, indulgent food? So much food, you don’t even know what dish to shovel your spoon into first. Thanksgiving is pretty much the start to a month of rich eating from creamy dips and comforting meals to decadent desserts — which is both a good and bad thing, depending on how you look at it and how you handle it.
For me, I love this time of year when I have an excuse to bake all the things! I can’t wait to spend any moment of spare time I have, in the kitchen making holiday favorites. I have so much fun baking all kinds of cookies and holiday desserts that I don’t make any other time of the year. But then I go to holiday events or gatherings and once the word gets out that I’m a dietitian, I automatically feel like “Food Police” is stamped on my forehead for everybody to see. Things get awkward.
The guests become self-conscious about what they’re choosing to eat — it usually comes out in the form of them either only eating from the veggie tray for the night or feeling like they need to apologize for the mass quantities of food they’re piling onto their plate. On the flip side, whatever I choose to put on my plate leads to talk, too. If I choose the “healthy food”, it confirms their stereotype of a dietitian. But if I choose the biggest piece of fudge on the tray, everybody stares in shock as though I’m breaking the law. And, of course, there’s always the question, “Does being a dietitian ruin your enjoyment of food?” It’s a classic dietitian question, I guess you could say.
Believe it or not, I do enjoy the food I eat and having a positive relationship with food only helps me enjoy my food that much more. I don’t feel guilty for having a piece of pie, because I know I’m being mindful about eating it — that is, only eating until I’m satisfied. Completely depriving yourself of foods you love is never a good idea, since you’ll end up wanting it that much more in the end anyway.
The holidays should be a fun time of the year, including food that have memories or nostalgia attached to them, but there still needs to be a balance. Even though I don’t restrict myself to the veggie tray at holiday parties, I also know to keep things in check throughout the season. Here are some simple ways for you to have your pumpkin pie and eat it, too, this holiday season:
- Don’t skip meals or snacks earlier in the day. While this may sound like a good idea in theory in order to “save” calories for the large meal, this can lead you to overeat later (usually on more high-fat and –sugar foods), make it harder to manage blood sugars, and can slow down your metabolism throughout the day.
- Scope out the choices at the dinner table. Before delving into the mass amounts of food at the table, take a look around at everything first. What are your “must have” foods? Balance your plate with these favorite items and vegetables while foregoing the other options you were less inclined to. People who indulge in a just a couple favorite foods eat about 30% less than those who try a little bit of everything. That’s because once you have the foods you love the most, the others don’t seem quite as enticing.
- Pick out your favorite dessert and enjoy Leave the other desserts for others to enjoy and focus on the one food you know you’ll savor the most. Choose a smaller portion size, eliminate all other distractions that would keep you from enjoying the dessert, leave your guilt at the door, and use all your senses when eating each bite. Although it’s tempting to have another piece, just remember the second piece won’t taste nearly as good as what that very first bite did.
- Plan an after-dinner family walk or active game. If you know ahead of time you’ll be doing something active and not sitting on the couch watching football, you’re less likely to overeat. Not only that, it’ll give you a break from being surrounded by food and will help in lowering your blood sugar levels.
- Avoid the snack table. After the meal, find an area away from the table of snacks to prevent any temptation. Think about how hungry you are before going to see what the snack table has to offer. If you’re not physically hungry, choose water, black coffee, or unsweetened tea instead so you have something to sip on.
The important thing to remember this holiday season is to be mindful of your food choices and to enjoy the tastes and smells of the special foods you get once a year, but to do so in moderation. If you do happen to overeat this Thanksgiving, don’t beat yourself up about it. The next day is a new day and is a chance to try again. The holidays can be stressful enough; let’s not add our food choices to the stress of it all.
Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!