A time to be with loved ones, eat family favorite dishes and express our gratitude. That's right: I'm talking about Thanksgiving. Along with all the wonderful things this holiday brings, it unfortunately can come with stress, unwanted pounds and feeling run down and sluggish. Add travel on top of that for some. However, if you're smart, you can stay on track and have happy and healthy holidays.
In no particular order, here are my best tips to still indulge, still have a wonderful time and still feel amazing throughout it all. We're going to watch out for the "B, L, T's" (bites, licks and tastes), stay active (Turkey Trot is a great idea!), and try to slow down. With the proper hydration, proper sleep and staying mindful, you just can't go wrong. It's as easy as pumpkin pie! Remember, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Let's get started.
Drink More Water
No surprise here. You've heard it before and you'll hear it again, but it's one of the best and easiest things you can do. Start your day by polishing off two huge glasses of water, especially during a holiday like Thanksgiving. Your goal is to drink half your body weight in ounces. Example: If you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces. It may sound a bit much, but it's necessary. Remember, you can flavor your water, if that helps.
Eat a Healthy Breakfast and Don't Skip Your Meals
During the holidays, people often think saving all their calories for the "big" meal is a fantastic idea. Sorry to break it to you, but this is not a good idea at all. It will just make you moody; you'll overeat and, as a result, feel awful. It's never a good idea to not eat. This will only backfire and make you feel worse physically and mentally. Instead, start your day with a superstar breakfast. Great examples include oatmeal, eggs, high-fiber cereal, smoothies and green drinks. Again, most people try to save calories during the holidays – but I recommend packing a snack and having something to eat before the big feast. Also, bring your own dish if you really want to have this nailed. There's nothing wrong with bringing in a veggie tray with hummus or fruit. This will help curb temptation to indulge, and it will also keep your energy levels high.
[Read: 7 High-Protein Breakfast Ideas.]
Lighten up Dishes and Experiment with Recipe Modification
What this means is instead of comfort food all around the table, try a few new things. For example: cauliflower mashed potatoes. You can make the traditional version, but try this one, too. You may be shocked at how much you like it. I make both every year, but many guests request the cauliflower mashers. Remember, if you put it out, people will eat it. Bring out the veggies and make sure you have a few healthier options with less fat, less sugar and less calories. Great substitutions include using applesauce or pumpkin instead of oil in muffins, cookies and breads. In place of sugar, try a sugar substitute or fruit purées. Or sub Greek yogurt in for the heavy sour cream or cream cheese in savory dishes. Don't forget to load up on the veggies and go for nutrient-dense foods like turkey, sweet potatoes, fresh cranberries, chestnuts and green beans. At least there are still some nutrients in these. (Hopefully, they weren't overcooked and aren't drowning in butter.) Here's a look at some easy, yet very healthy Thanksgiving recipes.
[Read: Unusual Uses for Greek Yogurt.]
This is a great time to eat mindfully – which will help you keep the pounds off. We're all on the go, especially during the holidays, but we need to slow down. This helps you savor your meals. A food journal is a terrific tool to help you monitor meals. Try to not hurry, watch your portions and skip seconds – and you may just realize you don't need them after all. (And that's particularly thanks to that healthy breakfast and snack you've already had.) See how this works? You can still indulge without packing on the pounds. Just be smart. Remember to eat until you're satiated, not stuffed.
Try to Not Socialize by the Appetizer Table
It's such a simple tip, but think about it. You're stuck in an awkward situation – we all have that one relative, right? – and then you look down at a beautiful tray of cookies or fried appetizers, all with the hope that they'll save you. Even if you're having a great time with all the food, you'll eat mindlessly if you stay by the appetizer table. This takes you out of the present moment. I say, grab some items on a small plate and walk away. I also love to put a spoon in bowls of food like nuts, so people know how much they're putting in their hand. Nuts are great for you, but not necessarily in handfuls. it's more sanitary!
Many of us put exercise off this time of the year, but I encourage you not to. In a dream world, you'll start the day by hitting the gym or running a Turkey Trot. That can be too much to ask though. So instead, I encourage you to be a motivator and keep your family active. The best tip is to move after the big meal. This is a perfect time for the family to take a walk and spend some quality time together. Record the game and put everything on pause. A walk, bike ride, hike or taking the dog for a walk are all great activities. Plus, the kids will need to burn off some energy, so have fun with them. Play Frisbee, have plank or pushup competitions, and see who can do the most jumping jacks or burpee's. This will make you feel better and keep you healthy. Then when it's time for pie, you won't feel sluggish and you can still indulge.
So, that's it! Try your best to focus on the holiday meal with friends and family. Be grateful for all you have and give thanks for all your blessings. We are all so fortunate to have this amazing food along with our health that ties us together. Give thanks and celebrate! Happy Thanksgiving from my home to yours, and I hope you'll share your favorite tips in the comments.
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Monica Nelson, or "Moni" to her friends and clients, is a personal trainer, healthy foods chef, accomplished athlete, model and well-respected health and fitness expert. She works with celebrities and has been featured in publications such as SHAPE and Fitness. She's been a competitive snowboarder and is a true fitness fanatic. Moni's motto in life is "EAT WELL.STAY FIT. FEEL GREAT." Another one of her greatest passions and talents is cooking and baking. She runs a healthy recipe blog where she has created more than 350 healthy and decadent meals to enjoy. You can connect with Moni on Facebook and follow @monimealfitness on Twitter and Instagram. Grab a recipe or two at www.monimeals.com then head over for a workout and get her latest tips at www.monicanelsonfitness.com. Moni lives in Los Angeles with her wonderful husband Mark, who is also a trainer, and their incredible English bulldog Eddie.