Thanksgiving & Eating Mindfully
As the holiday season approaches, with Thanksgiving leading the way, it’s a time for reflection and gratitude. For many, this season is a cherished reminder to give thanks for the blessings of family, friends and the abundance in our lives. However, while the holiday season brings joy to many it can also be a day where many worry about over-eating or eating too much.
Modern day diet culture has somewhat overshadowed the simple joy of thanksgiving and makes it seem like one day of indulgence is the end all be all. Do these headline sound familiar? “6 Exercises to Burn Off Stuffing”, or “Exercising Off the Excess: How to Undo Thanksgiving Indulgences”. It is disheartening to see how diet culture has seeped in adding yet another layer of restriction to an already stressful season. Being mindful around what we eat this holiday to stay aligned with our health goals is fine, but I am here to tell you that you do not need to feel restricted on what you should and shouldn’t eat on this day as one day of overindulgence is not likely to make a major impact on weight.
Although mixed messaging surrounds us, in this blog I aim to provide you with tips on eating mindfully.
Thanksgiving Day Tips:
1. Eat breakfast. In the midst of Thanksgiving preparations, it’s a common misconception that skipping breakfast will leave more room for the grand feast later in the day . . . However, here’s the truth: starving yourself all day for the main event can be a challenge for your stomach! Going from an empty stomach to a massive meal can lead to discomfort. Don’t underestimate the importance of a balanced breakfast (whether it’s a holiday or not 😉) Eating a balanced breakfast can help regulate your appetite throughout the day which means you are less likely to over-eat when the thanksgiving spread is laid out. If you eat an earlier thanksgiving meal, try avocado toast or scrambled eggs with a side of fruit, like blueberries. If you have a later thanksgiving meal, try overnight oats with peanut butter and topped with fresh fruit.
2. Eat what you like, pass what you don’t. Don’t feel pressured to take a serving of everything on the table. Everyone has their food likes, dislikes and preferences so don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings for not eating their dish.
3. Take mindful pauses – Did you know it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to send a signal to the stomach to let you know that you’re full? During your meal, I encourage you to chew slowly and mindfully. Putting your fork down in between bites to engage in conversation can give you a moment to assess the level of fullness you are at. During these pauses, check in with yourself and assess your hunger level. Are you still hungry? Great, keep on eating. Maybe your stomach is starting to feel full, keep on eating but maybe you will slow down. Tuning into hunger and fullness cues may take a while to get used to, if it is not something you are used too practicing. It’s never a bad time to start.
If you end up eating way past being comfortable, give yourself some grace by savoring the delicious and happy memories of the day instead of putting yourself in a negative self-talk cycle!
4. Avoid the all or nothing approach – One day of overindulging is not going to make or break your weight! Thanksgiving only happens once a year so rather than completely restricting yourself from indulging in traditional holiday dishes, mindful eating encourages you to savor every bite consciously and listen to your hunger cues. Plus, hello leftovers!! If you can’t fit in all your favorites into that one meal, create a leftover plate for your week! (Yum: leftover turkey and cranberry sandwich!)
5. Serving a balanced plate – Creating a balanced plate is always helpful, but it can be incredibly beneficial for those looking to manage their blood sugar levels, such as if you have Prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes. By carefully selecting a combination of nutrient rich foods, individuals can enjoy the holiday feast while keeping their glucose levels in check. Fill ½ your plate with non-starchy vegetables like salad, brussel sprouts, green beans, or sauteed greens. If the spread is low in vegetables feel free to add some fruit, like baked apples w/ cinnamon or pears to this part of the plate. Next, fill ¼ of your plate with starchy carbohydrates, these are items such as sweet potatoes or stuffing. The last ¼, you can fill your plate with protein like turkey (without the skin).
As you gather around the table, let us remember that mindful eating doesn’t mean deprivation or guilt. It’s about savoring the flavors, honing in on our hunger cues and nurturing our well-being. I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends.
Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. No material provided in this blog, including images and graphics, is intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider before making any dietary changes or starting a new health care regimen. Do not neglect professional advice because of what you may have read in this blog.
About the Author: Cassandra is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She graduated with a B.S in Nutritional Science with a concentration in Dietetics in from San Jose State University. Cassandra believes nutrition information, as it exists today, does not fully accommodate all cultural traditions and backgrounds. Cassandra’s goal is to work with individuals step-by-step to help them achieve their personal nutritional health and wellness goals. It is her passion to help individuals cultivate positive, sustainable healthy nutritional habits that they can carry with them throughout life.