For many, over-eating at Thanksgiving is practically a holiday tradition in itself.
While one indulgent meal is by no means the end of the world as we know it, it is all too easy to use this day, or any festive holiday centered around food, as a springboard into an all-you-can-eat until New Years.
Don’t be ashamed, we all do it – one plate, turns into seconds, and before you know it, you’re eating stuffing by the spoonful whilst planking on the lounge room floor. This, more scientifically is known as the “food coma”.
However, before you let your Thanksgiving food-shame spiral, consider this - a recent study from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab showed that looking at your diet as a whole, as well as considering physical activity as a factor in weight management, may be better than demonizing specific junk food.
In other words, that one slice of pumpkin pie is not going to make you obese. Balance is key, and it is more than acceptable to make room for occasional indulgences by eating mostly nutrient-dense (as opposed to simply calorie-dense) foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, as well as being active on a regular basis.
That said, nothing kills the holiday warm and fuzzies like an over-full, bloated stomach. Here are a few tips to stop that top bottom from busting this Thanksgiving.
Move it, and Lose it!
Start your day with a walk, a run, or yoga—whatever feels good and gets you moving. Aside from burning calories, the endorphin boost will keep the good vibes flowing. If a morning workout isn’t on the cards, try an after-dinner stroll to aid digestion.
Grab a Plate
Rather than endlessly grazing on appetizers, fix yourself a plate with your favorite festive treats and enjoy. This will help your body and brain register that you’ve actually eaten something.
Then when its time for dinner, try stick to one plate. Aim to fill half with veggies, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with carbohydrates (ChooseMyPlate). Don’t waste space on polite bites of things you’re not interested in. No one will remember next year if you didn’t try the potatoes or the green bean casserole, but you’ll certainly appreciate savouring a helping of stuffing without feeling stuffed.
The Cornell Food and Brand Lab has also found that people serve themselves more when they have a larger plate or bowl, so choose a smaller plate instead of a giant one.
A related study in which participants dished up food onto different colored plates showed the level of contrast of a plate’s color to food matters as well. Low contrast (think light-colored foods on white plates) was associated with greater serving sizes. People with higher contrast plates (think pasta with tomato sauce on a white plate) served themselves less. However, researchers found that when there was a low contrast between the dinnerware and the background (a table or tablecloth), serving size was 10% lower.
So, if you’re hosting, you can help prevent guests from overeating by using smaller plates in colors that will provide high contrast to the foods, and use a tablecloth with a low contrast to the plates.
Bring the Healthy Stuff
As the host, take advantage of the opportunity to make plenty of healthy vegetable dishes. If you’re a guest, offer to bring a veggie platter for the appetizer hour or a vegetable side or salad for dinner so you know you can fill up on something healthier. Bring fresh fruit to pair with desserts or cook up a seasonal sweet treat like poached pears.
Limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage per course (appetizers, dinner, dessert) with water or sparkling water in between. Wine glass size and shape matters too, as does how you pour. Yet another study from the Cornell Food and Brand lab found that participants poured 11.9% more wine into wider glasses. Also noteworthy: they poured 12.2% more into their glasses when they were holding them than when the glasses were on a table. They also poured 9.2% more white wine into a clear glass when compared to red wine in a clear glass—researchers felt it had to do with the color contrast between the wine and the glass.
If you do eat too much (and don’t panic!):
1) Sip a cup of mint tea. Research has shown that peppermint soothes the GI tract by calming the stomach muscles and improving bile production—key for digesting a fatty meal and alleviating gas pain.
2) Hydrate. A glasses of water helps move food through the GI tract, easing digestion. Hydration is also important if you’ve been drinking alcohol.
3) Get moving. Physical activity burns calories, boosts your mood, and stimulates digestion. If you’re not feeling up for it, plan the next day’s workout and think about how good you’ll feel after breaking a sweat.
But most importantly, don’t overthink it!
Enjoy Thanksgiving without the guilt by realizing that one moment of indulgence is not a one-way ticket to obesity. We’ll give thanks to that!