17 November 11 Control Calories on Thanksgiving Day?

I believe that Thanksgiving Day is a day to enjoy with others. I hope that those of you trying to lose weight will not punish yourself by forcing a calories deficit on a day reserved for being thankful for food and sharing it with others. Having said that, it is also a great opportunity to practice portion control. It not only helps minimize a likely calories surplus, but it also helps prevent us from overeating to the point of feeling sick and lethargic. One can enjoy Thanksgiving Day without deprivation by simply consuming smaller portions of delicious food and going for a walk.


If you have the big meal earlier in the afternoon, then you can go out for a walk afterwards while it is still daylight. You can't burn off the meal by walking but it will help reduce the calories surplus for the day. As well, it feels good to get out in the fresh air and move a little bit after being inside all morning long (possibly cooking, baking, eating, and/or socializing). I bet you will be less likely to keeping eating all afternoon and evening if you can take a walking break. Also, walking after the main meal is ideal for those of you with diabetes – walking will help control the post-meal rise in blood glucose. For more tips on controlling diabetes in general, please see my article at MyNetDiary.

Enjoy in Moderation

Limit alcohol. Choose wine, light beer or plain liquor to limit calories per serving. Microbeer lovers beware – some styles can be over 300 calories per serving if the alcohol content is particularly high. See my blog article on beer. Mixed drinks with multiple shots, cream, juice, or soda pop will also be high in calories.

Appetizers. Best choices are fresh veggies, fresh fruit, or very lean proteins (e.g. grilled shrimp or chicken). But skip the dip – most will contain about 80 – 100 calories per tablespoon. Limit appetizers with high fat meats (e.g. bacon or prosciutto wrapped anything) or cheeses to one piece or skip them altogether.

Be picky. Only eat what you think is truly great tasting and leave the rest. Perform triage with your holiday meal calories!

Dinner plate. Fill your dinner plate once and be sure to include protein, whole grains, and plenty of non-starchy veggies. For help on balancing your plate, check out Harvard's Healthy Plate diagram.

Dessert. If you want to sample multiple desserts, then limit portion size of each sample so that the entire dessert plate is equivalent to one serving and don't go back for more. Extras that add calories: homemade whipped cream (100 calories per 1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons) and drizzled chocolate syrup (100 calories per 2 tablespoons).

Stop nibbling. It is very difficult to assess the total calories intake from nibbling. It is a form of mindless eating that is rarely accounted for in our logs. However, bites here and there can contribute a lot of calories throughout the day. Eating bites of dessert from other people's plates (or licking batter off of spoons or bowls) can easily cost us 50 calories per bite (e.g. 1/6 of a small brownie, 1/6 slice of pumpkin pie, or 11/2 tablespoons of cake batter). Some foods, like creams and frosting, are closer to about 70 calories per tablespoon.

Don't skip meals. I know a lot of folks try to save calories by skipping breakfast the day of the feast, but don't bother. You'll only make it up in spades later in the day. Nibblers – are you meal skippers?
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


Holidays / Parties/Thanksgiving

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