How to Not Overeat (Portion Control!) at Thanksgiving with These Simple Steps

 How to not overeat at Thanksgiving, and how to not overeat at friendsgiving!

It’s that time of the year!! We’re taking a break from school or work and flying (or driving or training) home to be with our families. We’re all warm and cozy in our parents’ homes and enjoying time with home friends.

Can I tell you a secret though? Going home for Thanksgiving was always a little stressful for me since I was a super workaholic - and didn’t like to have to take time off of school! Ha! Jeez guys, please don’t be like me! The work will get done :)

The big Thanksgiving meal (or Friendsgiving meal if you’re doing that one too!) is tons of fun, but it can also be a bit stressful! Here are some tips for making it manageable - enjoying yourself without going overboard.

1. Decide ahead of time what you’re looking forward to most

Whether it’s the pumpkin pie, the stuffing, or the turkey itself - you know your taste preferences best. Decide you’ll have a regular portion of whatever that is. And by regular, I generally mean:

Protein: 4-5oz

E.g. 4oz sliced turkey, 4oz sliced ham (or 2oz of each!)

Starches: 1/2 cup

E.g. 1/2 cup stuffing, 1/2 cup mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup sweet potatoes

Veggies: 1-2 cups

E.g. 1 cup Brussels sprouts, 1 cup roasted carrots

Extras: 1/8 cup - 1/4 cup

E.g. 1/4 cup cranberry sauce, 2 Tbsp gravy

When we restrict ourselves too much, it often backfires. When we say “I’m never going to have ice cream again!” - guess what looks ultra tempting and is calling our name from the freezer.

In the same realm, when we OVEReat our favorite foods, they don’t taste good anymore! Research actually shows that the first bite and the last bite of any one food are the most enjoyable - so let’s limit those middle bites which aren’t that enjoyable anyway!

2. Survey the scene when you get there

There’s nothing like buyers’ remorse! (Or should we say “eaters’ remorse” haha). If you were really excited for the mashed potatoes, but they’re looking a little grey and unappetizing, choose something else! OR if you weren’t thinking pecan pie but it is calllinnggggg your name, get at it!

3. Track What You Think You’re Going to Eat

If you’re tracking what you’re eating, e.g. with an app, I like the “Lose It” app!, step into another room for a minute and track what you think you’re going to eat - so that there are no surprises.

It’s 100% ok if this isn’t perfect - it would be nearly impossible to know exactly what you’re eating. Embrace the imperfection!

4. Portion your plate appropriately

A good rule of thumb is to make half you plate veggies, 1/4 starchy foods (like pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, winter squash), and 1/4 of your plate protein (the turkey!).

Again, here are some good portions of typical Thanksgiving foods - and some visuals to help (because it would be awesome if you did, but who knows what 1/2 cup looks like??)!

Untitled design (10).png

Starches: 1/2 cup

E.g. 1/2 cup stuffing, 1/2 cup mashed potatoes, 1/2 cup sweet potatoes

1 “baseball” amount

Extras: 1/8 cup - 1/4 cup

E.g. 1/4 cup cranberry sauce, 2 Tbsp gravy

2 “dice” worth

Protein: 4-5oz

E.g. 4oz sliced turkey, 4oz sliced ham (or 2oz of each!)

About the size of a deck of cards

Veggies: 1-2 cups

E.g. 1 cup Brussels sprouts, 1 cup roasted carrots

1-2 large fist-fulls

5. If you don’t like something, don’t keep eating it

Remove it from your plate - and choose something ELSE! Like my grandma used to say “it’s better to waste food in the trash than inside your body”.

6. Bring a Dish to Share

If you know your family isn’t the healthiest, bring a side dish of something you know you’ll feel comfortable eating. Try roasted Brussels sprouts or stir-fried green beans.

7. Bring a Platter of Veggies & Salsa, AND a Case of Sparkling Water (Seltzer)

When you’re going to be sitting somewhere for HOURS, it’s really helpful to bring with you a case of seltzer and veggies & salsa to keep your hands busy.

Seltzer can be like a treat - there are so many flavors to choose from!

Veggies & salsa is one of my go-to tracks - salsa is pretty much just more cut-up veggies! Grab a bag of baby carrots and quickly chop up some celery and call it a day.

8. Check in with Yourself Mid-Way Through the Meal

When you’re halfway done with your plate, check in with yourself - are you full? Are you getting closed to stuffed?

Take a break from your plate - it will still be there in a few minutes.

What are your fullness cues? A good idea is to be plugged into them ahead of time. Here are some examples of fullness cues from the book Intuitive Eating.

  • A subtle feeling of stomach fullness

  • Feeling satisfied and content

  • Nothingness – neither hungry nor full

What are your body’s fullness cues?

9. Make a Plate of Seconds for Tomorrow

You may be feeling like “I’ll never get to eat this food again!”. I hear you, but that’s actually not true! You can (likely) make any of these dishes any time you have access to a full kitchen. Ask your family members for the recipes!

Make a “seconds” plate for the next day - put it in a tupperware or put plastic wrap over it and keep it in the fridge. That way you KNOW there’s more coming, just the next day when you’re not feeling stuffed!

10. Leave with Dessert

Taking 1 dessert with you when you leave is the perfect way to not take seconds (or thirds or fourths!). For example, if that brownie catches your eye, take one with you when you leave to eat in the car ride home.

11. If You’re Tracking What You’re Eating - Enter It Into Your App

You may have already done this with #1!

Even if it’s not perfect, entering something is better than entering nothing. This method can typically keep us objective and accountable - it can typically help us by only going over our limit 500 calories (versus 5000 calories!).

I like the Lose It app - but many apps are similar!

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