after the big Thanksgiving meal

text by Fiona Clarke

AboveAs Americans sit down to supper this Thanksgiving, the centerpiece of their dinners will, most likely, be a turkey.

There’s so much to love about Thanksgiving: the turkey, the cornbread stuffing, the pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream and cranberry relish (notice how we only mentioned food?). But all that “loving” can take a toll on your health and fitness. One big meal need not be a permanent setback. If you arm yourself with usable tricks and tools, you can avoid falling down the holiday food and drink rabbit hole. 


Above: Start off the day with some type of exercise and you’ll have earned some calories before your Thanksgiving meal. 
Start off the day with some type of exercise so you earned some calories before you sit down to a huge meal. Go for a brisk walk, run or just hit the gym like you normally would on any other day. Even if the attire is labeled layback-casual, avoid wearing leggings or sweatpants to the holiday table. Loose fitting clothes can spell trouble. Instead, choose formfitting clothes. It’s a reminder that you had enough to eat, signaling that if you overindulge you’ll feel uncomfortable.  And if you’re spending the day cooking, you don’t want to spend the time grazing as well. While you’re baking up a storm, curb any cravings by popping a piece of sugar-free gum in your mouth or chomping on some raw veggies.


Above: When filling your plate, be mindful of portion size.
I’m not going to tell you to only eat the green beans and skimp on the creamy mashed potatoes and homemade buttery biscuits. What’s the fun in that? But, keep your meal balanced and focus on filling the majority of your plate with healthy selections. Be mindful of portion size: remember that this is not the last meal you’ll ever have. Also, a key factor is staying hydrated. Especially if you drink alcohol, it will help prevent dehydration, a major cause of hangovers. The general rule is to drink at least one full glass of water for every alcoholic beverage. Plus, drinking water will help remove the fat and sugar out of your system a little more efficiently. After dinner, drink an herbal or caffeine-free tea like peppermint, which also can help digestion.


Above: A walk after Thanksgiving dinner will help combat food-induced stupor, burn some calories and aid digestion.
Once you’ve eaten, get up and walk away from the table—don’t linger around the sweet potato casserole, no matter how good the marshmallows look. Get yourself moving by offering to clear the table or help straighten up in the kitchen. You might even suggest that guests take a walk outside to stretch their legs and enjoy the fresh desert air. The exercise will help combat the food-induced stupor, burn some calories and aid digestion. As for all that extra food? Leave the leftover desserts and side dishes with the host. Or, if you are hosting, send each guest home with a take-away package of leftovers.


Above: An ideal morning-after feast is a protein and fiber-rich breakfast.

Don’t wake up and immediately check the scale. Fluid shifts and water retention can throw that number off after a big meal. Instead, start your day with a protein and fiber-rich breakfast. An ideal morning-after feast is a protein source like eggs, yogurt or cottage cheese with a mix of leafy vegetables and healthy carbs like berries. This will keep your blood sugar steady, as well as eating small meals and snacks every three to four hours. Eat plenty of low calorie meals for the rest of the weekend. Make vegetables your main focus and eat small portions of lean meats and whole grains. Continue sipping on water the next day, and if you’re feeling bloated, try to work in some asparagus or pineapple, which can help flatten your stomach. 

What ever you do, do NOT feel guilty. The trick is to acknowledge and accept that you may have gone overboard on sweets, rich goods, carbs and alcohol, then get right back to making sensible food choices. Thanksgiving is just one meal out of so many other healthy-eating opportunities—so take the day to relax and unwind. But then, move on and get back on track.