Thanksgiving Day Survival Guide: Pre, During and Post Meal

thanksgving pie

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is this week! Hopefully you’ll be able relax with family and friends and enjoy a delicious meal. However for some people, this day evokes a lot of stress for a variety of reasons  including family tension, stress from traveling, having to shop and prepare the meal or just the thought of EATING A LOT OF FOOD! This is especially true if you have PCOS as so many of the delicious foods are loaded with carbs (mashed potato, candied sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce … and pie (s) to name a few!) I know we are supposed to focus more on giving thanks and spending time with our loved ones … but the bottom line is that the meal and desserts make up a big part of Thanksgiving Day.

I usually don’t even discuss what to … or not to … eat on this day with my clients. In my mind, it’s a day to enjoy a delicious meal without restrictions. However I find that some people get a little stressed about Thanksgiving DAY turning into a Thanksgiving FOUR DAY long weekend of overindulging.  So a game plan might be a good idea … hence this blog post.

Does overeating set you off?

Let’s face it, for most people Thanksgiving = overeating.  I always tell my clients it’s not the day to diet. Eat what you want … as long as you are enjoying the food! But for some people, it’s not that easy.  A few bites of certain food (i.e. sweet dessert) or just the thought of going off your “diet” can trigger the urge for more. This can snowball into a binge that can last for days. This can be even more problematic if you are going home for the holiday. It’s one thing to overeat at one meal, but now you will be faced with leftovers for 3 days! So it will be important that you think ahead as to how you will handle this holiday from both from a practical as well as psychological standpoint.

woman relaxingThe first thing to keep in mind is that overeating one day will not wreak havoc with your diet. The real problem can occur if you let this overeating episode make you feel out of control. This can open the floodgates for overeating for days. Here are some  nutrition tips for the day before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Day and the day after.

Thanksgiving Day Survival Guide: Pre, During and Post Meal | Martha McKittrick Nutrition

The day before Thanksgiving

  • Get into the right mindset
  • Thanksgiving is a day to enjoy with family and friends. Put the focus more on being thankful for what you have versus how much you can eat.
  • Give yourself permission to eat more than usual on this day. Thanksgiving is not the day to be on a strict diet. If you don’t have the right mindset, it’s likely you’ll beat yourself up mentally if you do end up eating more than planned. This will only lead to continued eating!
  • But … know yourself. If you feel eating desserts, stuffing, etc. WILL open the floodgates and make it difficult to get back on track, then maybe you should avoid those foods that set you off.
  • Visualize ahead of time what you will eat. It can help to have a plan.
  • If you will be spending the day with family or good friends, let them know you are trying to eat healthy and ask if you can bring a dish or two to the meal. This way you will know for sure there will be several healthy dishes for you to choose from.
  • Try to get in a really good workout the day before Thanksgiving. This can help you feel more on a healthy track.

On Thanksgiving Day

  • Try to fit in an exercise session prior to the meal. Even a 30 minute speed walk will help you feel betterreindeer ladies turkey trot physically and more in control psychologically. If you are into jogging, check out a local Turkey Trot! (pic credit
  • Don’t go into the Thanksgiving meal being ravenous. This will only lead to consumption of massive amounts of food. Have a healthy breakfast (preferably one with protein and fiber to help keep you feeling full longer) and perhaps a light snack – depending upon what time the meal is served.
  • Be careful with the appetizers. They often contain almost as many calories as the meal. While waiting for the meal to be served, don’t plop yourself down next to the candied walnuts or bowl of chips and dip!
  • Limit alcohol prior to the meal. Alcohol can decrease your discipline to watch what you eat.
  • When the serving bowls are passed around the table, be discriminating. Don’t feel like you need to sample every dish. Stick to moderate portions of your favorite foods. Why take the creamed spinach made by Aunt Betty if you don’t even like spinach?
  • Decide how you want to feel when you’re done eating. Stuffed and miserable? Or comfortable and content?
    Then fill your plate (or order) accordingly.
  • Remind yourself that you can eat more later or at another meal, so there’s no need to eat as though food was scarce. When you eat it all now, you risk ruining an enjoyable meal by being too full.  (this tip and the one above it was taken from Michelle May, RD)
  • Fill your plate up with a lot of vegetables and turkey breast. Take smaller portions of the higher calorie foods such as stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and candied sweet potatoes.
  • mindful eating Practice mindful eating. Eat very slow and savor each mouthful. Allow yourself to take small portions of your favorite (perhaps “forbidden”) food – but enjoy it   (pic credit)
  • Engage in a lot of conversation while having dinner. Talking slows down your eating pace.
  • Think twice before taking seconds. Are you already feeling comfortably full? Think about how stuffed you’ll feel
    if you continue to eat. The second portion won’t taste any different than the first
  • If you are a sugar craver, plan ahead how you will handle the desserts. Maybe allow yourself one dessert or 3 “slivers” that equal one dessert
  • Avoid the mindset that “I’ve already blown my diet, so I might well as continue eating’
  • Get out and take a walk after dinner.
  • Avoid the temptation to have a second Thanksgiving meal a few hours after the first one! Maybe a turkey sandwich, but avoid the “trimmings” and dessert.
  • If your host offers you a doggie bag as you are walking out the door, tell them you would like turkey and veggies (maybe a sweet potato) but decline the desserts and fattening sides.
  • On the other hand, if you are the host, do your best to give all the fattening dishes away in doggie bags. Less temptation for you!   pic credit

The day after Thanksgiving

  • Do not weigh yourself the day after Thanksgiving. The extra sodium and carbs may cause your weight to temporarily jump up 3 pounds. Wait at least 3 days.
  • If you end up eating a lot more than you planned, don’t beat yourself up. Tell yourself it was one day and get back on track the next day.
  • If you are in someone’s home for the weekend and are surrounded by leftovers, focus on the healthier ones like turkey and veggies. Or if you are really tempted, allow yourself one “treat” a day for the rest of the weekend. Maybe a dessert one day or a portion of stuffing and gravy.
  • If you are home for the holiday, make sure you plan activities for the day after Thanksgiving as well as the weekend. This will get you out of the house and away from the leftovers.

Happy Thanksgiving!



I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.

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