I think I am an anomoly.
I love, love, love turkey.
But I don’t like stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, or candied yams — four of the side dishes that seem to make their way to every Thanksgiving table I’ve dined at since birth .
(OK, save for our honeymoon in Puerto Rico when we opted for chi-chi Italian on Thanksgiving night!)
This is nothing new; as a kid, I loaded my plate up with rolls, turkey, cranberry sauce, and veggies.
And today, I still do (though now it’s wheat rolls and homemade cranberry sauce with orange zest!)
What always ruined my othewise-healthy Thanksgiving meal as a child and teenager was the appetizers and snacks my nana or mom always put out … and the desserts, of which I never ate less than two.
Today, I will prepare for the holidays with caution and care … not the careless abandon I had as a child, but also not the restrictiveness I’ve done in the past (which only backfired with midnight eating or noshing all day).
We’re going to South Carolina to visit family next Thursday til Sunday, so I’ll be away from my “comfort zone.” Here are some tips I have come up with to help me deal with holidays away from home. Hopefully some of them will come in handy for you, too. (And I’d love to hear your strategies, too, in the comments section).
Melissa’s Ten Tips for a Happy, Healthy Holiday.
1. Bring running sneakers and workout clothes. You don’t need a gym membership; you can walk or jog anywhere, almost anytime (be careful if it’s dark!). In fact, recruit a loved one to join you — there’s nothing like a brisk walk or jog before a holiday meal.
2. Eat a filling breakfast. Otherwise, you’ll end up feeling “entitled” and find yourself noshing on all the pre-meal goodies. And the meal. And dessert. And leftover turkey and pumkin pie at 2 a.m.
3. If you’re on Weight Watchers or another plan, I still recommend giving a little foresight to what you’d like to indulge in so you have some built-in freedom. And though some will disagree with me here, I still recommend journaling — even if you go “way over.”
4. Veggies and fruit, and even an ounce of cheese and a couple wheat crackers are decent appetizers to stave off hunger til dinner (In addition to the aforementioned platters, my nana used to also put out (for us grandkids) chips, dips, holiday candies, pigs-in-a-blanket, chicken nuggets, etc. and, pre-WW, I’d be full before dinner).
5. Follow the three-bite rule. If something is a traditional food, or looks so incredible you HAVE to have it (i.e., Aunt So-and-So’s mac-and-cheese; Grandma’s pecan pie) don’t deny yourself. Rather, scoop a small amount or slice, and savor three delicious bites. Drop the fork, and Stop. Rest. Assess. If you insist on finishing it, great. But you might find you’re sated after those three decadent bites.
6. Load up your plate with veggies; the bulk helps fill you up and leaves less room on your plate for the starchy, sugary or buttery side dishes that we know the Pilgrims didn’t serve, but that we so do!
7. When it comes to liquid calories, choose your bevs well. If you love a Bailey’s and cream or an egg nog after dinner, go for it. If a glass of wine (or two or three) sounds good, so be it. Just keep in mind that alcohol usually clouds our inhibitions … and please please please, if you imbibe even just a little, don’t get behind the wheel. (I care about you!)
8. The next day, get outside — a walk, a jog, a bike ride — move. You’ll feel so much better out in the fresh air. But please don’t fall into the trap of doubling up on your exercise to “undo” your meal; it nearly always backfires and I know from experience that when I’ve done that, I ended up eating twice as much later.
9. Repeat the rules for Christmas. Hannukah. New Year’s. Etc. These tips are foolproof. Most years I’ve maintained my weight on the actual holidays — it’s the in-between cookie baking, bites-licks-and-tastes, chocolate, etc. that does me in!
10. Remember, it’s just a meal. One day of enjoyment doesn’t have to become a license to over-indulge.
I hope to remember these tricks of the trade next week. We’ll be flying in early Thursday morning, so I’ll bring a packet of oatmeal and an apple for the plane.
And since my whole family will be staying at my aunt and uncle’s, I’ll probably bring with me my usual staples of travel-food: FiberOne bars, packets of oatmeal, baggies of Kashi and apples. (i.e., breakfast food and snacks).
I find if I can keep breakfast under control, I do better the rest of the day when traveling. So, “weird” as it may be to bring food to other people’s homes, it’s my dear aunt and uncle and my own parents and siblings and cousins — so if they think I’m weird … well, so what?! 🙂
In the end, it’s about the “cake” (family and friends, loved ones and good times). The holiday meal is just the “icing” on the proverbial cake. Sure it enhances the cake, but it’s still delicious either way.
How about you? What holiday strategies do you have that you’d like to share?