Sure, you could feast with your eyes on Thanksgiving, but it’s certainly more satisfying to enjoy a bit of freshly cooked turkey IRL. Before you go into a tryptophan coma from all that gorging, there is a better, more mindful way to eat your Thanksgiving meal. Dive in below to gather all the tips you could possibly need for eating your way through the holidays.
As counterintuitive as that sounds, the trick to eating less is actually eating more. Hear us out: “Eat before the big meal… when people go into a meal hungry, their defenses are down and they are less able to make the right decisions,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, NYC-based registered dietitian and founder of The F-Factor Diet.
It makes sense because, when you’re starving, you’ll be more likely to overeat. “Aim to have a breakfast with a blend of protein and healthy fats to keep you satiated,” says Nora Minno, registered dietician and wellness ambassador for Aromatherapy Associates. Try eating scrambled eggs with avocado, Greek yogurt with berries and nuts, or a protein shake with an apple and peanut butter on the side.
Another solid game plan is to eat a small satisfying snack containing at least five grams of fiber and five grams of protein before dinner, ideally one to two hours prior. Reach for an apple with a handful of almonds, Greek yogurt with berries, carrots with tzatziki Greek yogurt dip, or high-fiber crackers with sliced turkey and cheese.
“Fiber is the zero-calorie indigestible portion of the carbohydrate, which add bulks to our food, decreases transit time, and keeps us feeling fuller longer,” says Zuckerbrot. ”Protein regulates our hunger and satiety hormones so we eat when we are hungry and put down the fork when we are satisfied.” It can also help with emotional eating by interfering with the brain’s responses to food stimuli, therefore decreasing cravings, which will allow you to maintain “composure” and make smarter choices when excess appetizers pass by.
“Have plenty of raw veggies cut up and sliced plus sliced meat/cheese roll-ups to snack on while others are having candy and chips,” says Julia Ross, nutrition expert and author of The Craving Cure: Identify Your Craving Type to Activate Your Natural Appetite Control.
Build A Better Plate
Minno suggests your plate looks about 75 percent protein and veggies (and ones that aren’t coated in sauces or gravy). Then, fill in the rest of your plate with small portions of starches, like sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and bread.
Finished? Before going back for seconds, drink a glass of water and sit for a few minutes, and then reassess to see if you’re still hungry.
For dessert, keep an eye on portions. Minno suggests picking something like a pumpkin pie over a heavily glazed dessert like pecan pie, which can be a calorie and sugar bomb. Ross suggests savoring each bite, ideally for five minutes if you can.
More specifically, drink less alcohol, as it can increase appetite and add lots of extra calories in a meal. “A good system I have found is alternating alcoholic beverages with nonalcoholic beverages,” says Minno. For example, have a glass of wine, and then a seltzer with lime. “It will help you pace yourself, keep you hydrated, and prevent you from over-drinking,” she says.
Follow the Three Bite Rule
Indulge a little, but it’s important to do so mindfully. Zuckerbrot suggests the “Three Bite Rule,” where you take three bites of indulgent food, rather than devouring the whole dish. “This allows you to enjoy it without wreaking havoc on your diet,” says Zuckerbrot. “The first and last bite of any food are the most satisfying and enjoyable anyway, as studies show people rate the first and last bites of food as the best.”
Dress for Success
Believe it or not, what you can wear can help prevent overeating. “Wear something form-fitting, and you’ll be less likely to overeat if you don’t have room to do so,” says Zuckerbrot. “Nothing feels worse than when you eat so much you have to unbutton a button or loosen your belt.”
And carry a clutch, yes, a clutch. “When you carry a clutch instead of a purse with a strap, you have one less hand available to hold a plate,” says Zuckerbrot. “Hold a glass of wine, and you’ll have no free hands to grab hors d’oeuvres as they are being passed around.”
“Remaining adequately hydrated can help to speed up digestion and help to counteract the effects of the likely salty and high-carb foods you consumed,” says Zuckerbrot. Minno agrees: “Sounds basic, I know, but making sure you drink enough water can help keep your metabolism going strong and prevent you from overeating.”
Alternatively, if your stomach is upset, sip on peppermint or ginger tea to settle it.
“If you overdo it at dinner, don’t let it turn into an ‘I blew it’ binge that lasts till the New Year,” says Zuckerbrot. “One single indulgence is not going to ruin you.”
“The best thing you can do for yourself is to get back on track with breakfast,” says Zuckerbrot. “Start your new day with a high-fiber cereal for breakfast and continue to make the right choices throughout the day.”
Also, try and get some exercise the morning after. “This will help get your metabolism revved up, and you can burn some extra calories,” says Minno. She loves using an exercise app (like Obe or Daily Burn HIIT) to get a quick workout in the morning after a big meal.
This story was originally published on November 23, 2017, and updated with new information.