Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving: food coma avoidable

Thanksgiving pushes many of our food buttons. This week my email will be filled with messages like the following: “What do I do about Thanksgiving?  My happiest day is a giant bowl of mashed potatoes.  I could eat my body weight in mashed potatoes given the opportunity.  I don't really eat many other sides  just potatoes with a side of turkey  Do I splurge for the one day?  I'm very stressed out about it.”
Here is a post I wrote for my favorite site Blisstree 
If I tell you that it’s not actually a requirement to overindulge on Thanksgiving, will you hate me? Wait…I do have some good news: You also don’t need to be the weirdo with two Brussels sprouts and a sad, thin slice of turkey on your dinner plate on Thursday. As a nutritionist, I’ve spent years trying to strike a balance for my clients between strategy and satiety, special and silly.
Many of you already know the “good” items on the Thanksgiving table: White-meat turkey, cranberry sauce (ideally not gelatinous kind), sweet potatoes (later, marshmallows), and non-bastardized vegetables (and not drowned in melted cheese). The killers – and yes, in large volumes they are killers – include stuffing (so good, yet soooo bad), dark meat, turkey skin, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and any creamed vegetables or those given the casserole treatment. What you may not know is that the difference between a good plate and a bad plate can be enormous. A good meal will hover around 400 to 600 calories – including wine and extras. The killer? Multiply that number by three or four.
So what can you do if you cannot fathom a holiday without a serving or two of killer stuffing? First, commit to the One Plate Rule. Observe the offerings and formulate your strategy.
– Reserve ¼ of your plate for carbs including sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn, bread, and regular potatoes.
– Then you’ve got ¼ of your plate for turkey or another protein.
– Half of your plate should include vegetables (ideally the green kind), or salad – even if you have to steal the garnish from something. Eat your vegetables first; this aids digestion and fills you up on fiber.
Savor this plate of Thanksgiving goodness because there are no second helpings at dinner on this plan. Seconds and thirds lead to unbuttoning your pants in inappropriate places – not to mention serious regrets. The One Plate Rule leaves you feeling lighter and self-righteous.
Prior to Thanksgiving dinner, you must exercise. If you’re going to eat a sweet and fatty feast, get moving. Walk, dance, run, swim, spin, or practice yoga. But whatever you do, exercise is a prerequisite that will help your mindset later in the day. When dietary devil attempts to take over, appetite angel can reply: “No, don’t do it, you worked out and feel great – and there will be no unbuttoning at the dinner table!”
So you’ve worked out, eaten your virtuous one plate, and are feeling good. And then the pies, crumbles, tarts, and tortes arrive. I can hear you negotiating. (My clients try to negotiate, but I really believe that you’ve already had your pie before dessert.) You’ve had sweet potatoes topped with candy or  Jell-o disguised as sauce, and if we’re being adults about this – you really don’t need the pie. Now, much like my stuffing example, if you’ll cry or die without pie, then you need to pick your poison/pleasure. Choose mostly “goods” at mealtime, and then you can have your (tiny sliver of) pie and eat it, too.
Aren’t you thankful for Foodtraining?
What are your favorite Thanksgiving day treats? Does the plan above sound reasonable? Anything need negotiating? Let’s hear it.


  1. These are some good tips. I'll be celebrating Thanksgiving at my (Italian) boyfriend's parents house for the first time and I feel not only the craving to eat everything but the social pressure around eating (especially in excess) too. I'm going to try the one plate rule and take a little bit of everything (good and bad) and then I will most certainly have my PIE and eat it too because I'll deserve it after a planned six mile morning run. Sounds logical enough, right? :)

  2. This is so great, so practical.
    I've overeaten to the point where I've had to unbutton my pants!
    Since we eat out with my family, now I eat half of everything and have the waiter take it away. I usually order a vegetarian entree so I don't get all the stuffing, etc. And then I allow myself to indulge in a few bites of pumpkin pie. I end up leaving the meal feeling as though I've given myself a treat, yet I don't feel bloated and nasty afterwards.
    And yes, exercise is key!

  3. GREAT blog, thank you! I will def follow your tips. I also love the names "dietary devil" and "appetite angel", they will stick in my mind on Thursday for sure! :)

    Catherine Petroski

  4. I am thankful for Foodtrainers everyday!

  5. I think your guidelines are very practical. IMO, people need to realize food is just food. They need to stop being so emotional about it. As you said, there are no rules that say you have to overindulge. Yes, food can be social thing, but let spending time with family be your social thing, not food.

    For me non-bastardized non-starchy veggies are an unlimited food. If I need to be munching on something they will be the most filling with the least amount of calories. I personally would eat closer to 1/2 a plate of lean protein provided it is not in a fatty marinade or sugary glaze. That would really fill me up, so I may only eat a tiny bit of starch, but still be completely satisfied. So my "one plate" looks like 1/2 protein, 1/2 veggies, a little starch shoved in there, and then I munch on veggies as needed.