Did you know that on Thanksgiving, the average American consumes an extra 4,500 calories? That’s the equivalent of 15 McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Needless to say, the holidays are designed for weight gain. There are just too many parties, too much booze, and if you’re unlucky enough to be located outside of SoCal, too many cold, cuddly days where Netflix marathons beat out actual marathons.
That being said, gaining holiday weight doesn’t have to happen. With a little planning and a little sacrifice, you can emerge on the other side of the holidays unscathed. Below you’ll find 14 tips that will keep your hunger in check throughout the day.
- Exercise in the Morning. Exercising in the morning supports better behavior throughout the rest of the day, according to a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Using MRI scans, researchers found that when people worked out in the morning, they weren’t as tempted as those who didn’t do a morning workout. In other words, better willpower throughout the day. And this sort of makes sense, right? You don’t want to waste all your good gains when you work out.
- Eat Breakfast. The day of Thanksgiving, it’s important to keep your regular eating habits beforehand. That way, when you finally arrive to the party, you won’t be absolutely starving. Consider having a high-protein, healthy breakfast that will sustain you well past your Aunt Arlene’s Frito Cheese Dip appetizer.
- Chew Gum While Cooking. A 5 star chef may consider this a cardinal sin, but if you’ve got your recipe down pat, consider chewing gum (or brushing your teeth) while cooking. It’ll help you avoid the temptation of licking the batter and otherwise sampling too much.
- Dress Your Best. Wearing great clothes, especially formfitting ones, makes it easier for you to stay conscious of how much food you’re putting into your body. It’s harder to engorge on chips and dip when you’re clothes are keeping you looking oh so fine.
- Serve Something Healthy. You might not be able to control what other people are bringing to Thanksgiving, but by bringing a healthy dish, you’ll at least have one course to fall back on. Consider a green salad with lots of high potassium fruits like strawberries and banana.
- Avoid Soda. Soda is one of the worse ways to “spend” your daily calories. A can of pop doesn’t do anything to make you feel satiated so just skip it. It’s a simple way to avoid hundreds of calories with hardly any effort. Consider water with lemon or—if you must—soda water with lemon. Not a fan of lemon? Try cucumber, cranberries, or even a slice of ginger instead.
- Avoid Alcohol. Just like soda, alcohol contains a lot of empty calories. If you can avoid it during the holidays, not only will you be saving yourself a loop or two on your belt, you’ll also not get so tipsy that you say fuhgeddaboudit and dive into the chips and dip.
- Use the Smallest Plate. This trick is surprisingly effective at keeping your calorie count down throughout the day.
- Cover Your Plate with Veggies. Think of your plate like a lotto scratch card. Cover it first with vegetables and then “scratch” them away by eating them. Once the clean, empty plate appears, you can then return to the buffet and eat the heavy stuff. Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that you’re full. Spending those 20 minutes on healthy foods will help you slow down before you start shoveling in the good stuff.
- Avoid Whites. Bread, pastries, mashed potatoes, rice — these simple carbs are just like soda: they don’t really give you any bang for your caloric buck. Instead, consider whole wheat breads, sweet mashed potatoes, and brown rice. If you absolutely must have something white, opt for cauliflower or garlic.
- No Food At the Table. Everything should be served buffet or restaurant style. Doing so means that when everyone sits down, that second (or third or fourth) roll isn’t within reach, it’s back at the buffet line. Forcing your guests to (gasp!) stand for seconds, may encourage them to think twice.
- Chew Slowly. Eating slowly serves many purposes: it calms you down, makes you feel less hungry, and gives you space to enjoy your food, which means you’ll need less of it to feel satisfied (e.g. 1 slice of pie instead of 2). Like we said before, you get full before your brain gets the signal, so the slower you eat, the better.
- Walk it Off. We’ve all heard that turkey makes us sleep, but did you know that this idea is actually a myth? Recent studies have confirmed that it isn’t the turkey that puts us into a food coma, it’s the carbs. Avoid your after-dinner slump by heading out on a brisk walk. It’s refreshing, improves digestion, and gives you a little space from all those mashed potatoes that are still tempting you on the counter.
- Skip the Leftovers. Engorging on Thanksgiving Day is bad enough, but we compound the damage by having pumpkin pie sitting around the house for the next five days. Avoid keeping leftovers at your house at all cost. It’ll keep you from being tempted.