Well Being

Thanksgiving Food Coma: Are Smart Eating Choices Possible on Turkey Day? Foodtrainers Nutritionist Lauren Slayton Weighs In

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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 next 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 the gelatinous kind), sweet potatoes (bad 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?

Lauren Slayton, M.S. R.D., founder of New York City’s Foodtrainers, has more than a decade of experience as both a dietician and nutritional counselor. Offering one-on-one sessions on weight and nutrition management, Foodtrainers helps clients create, record, achieve, and maintain personal health goals. For those in need of grocery shopping guidance on a budget, Foodtrainers also offers an affordable program, Market Foodtraining. Check out Lauren’s Foodtrainers blog and follow Lauren on Twitter: @foodtrainers.