The holiday season is a time to enjoy family and friends and make great memories. We all tend to relax during these last 2 months of the year and sometimes completely get off track of our diet and training routines losing all the results we worked so hard to achieve during the previous 10 months.
So, how can we still enjoy the most wonderful time of the year without going off the deep end? The best way to approach holidays like Thanksgiving, is to be realistic. Let’s face it, most people are not going to show up for a holiday party or Thanksgiving dinner with their Tupperware filled with plain fish and asparagus. The first step is to set achievable goals.
If your overall fitness goal is to lose weight, the best strategy is to maintain. This way, when the New Year starts and you are ready to get back on your routine, you are not starting over, but starting from where you left off.
If your overall fitness goal is to grow by gaining muscle mass, your strategy should be to protect your gains by consuming plenty of protein instead of only indulging on carb filled foods.
Once you have the right mind set, you will be able to make more sensible choices when it comes to the food you eat and not veer too far off your calorie and macro goals. Here are a few tips to help your enjoy Thanksgiving and eat the foods you love without exploding your calorie intake to a new galaxy!
Start Preparing From the Moment You Wake Up!
Thanksgiving day is here! Start preparing early! The strategy is to feed your body good nutrients, successfully set yourself up to meet your protein intake goal for the day and keep your body satisfied so you don’t arrive for dinner starving and eat everything you see!
Make sure you start your day by eating a healthy breakfast. Your breakfast should contain mainly protein because you will probably overload on carbohydrates later. A few good choices are eggs, egg white omelet, Greek yogurt, protein pancakes or a protein shake if you are too busy to cook. This is especially important if you are bulking and need to support protein synthesis and prevent muscle breakdown.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water will make you feel full and will help prevent overindulgence.
Eat a healthy snack right before you leave or get ready for dinner.
Be Smart At Dinner Time!
The long awaited time has arrived and all of the foods you know and love are right in front of you. It is ok to eat and enjoy them, but do it rationally. Here is how to:
Attack protein first! Skip appetizers and bread rolls and fill your plate with some meat! It can be turkey, ham, shrimp, fish or whichever type of meat your family is serving. You can also mix it up to make it more interesting. Your first plate should be at least ¾ protein. This will help you to not only reach your protein goal for the day, but help you feel more satisfied as you go for seconds and then to the dessert table.
The most commonly served meat on Thanksgiving day is turkey. Turkey is a great source of protein and can really help you meet your protein requirements for the day. Six medium slices of turkey (3” x 2” in size) provide 50 grams of protein! Here are a couple of tips to make the most out of your turkey plate:
Choose white meat instead of dark meat if you can. A 3-oz serving of white meat will save you 50 calories and 4 grams of fat when compared to dark.
Remove the skin if possible. You will be cutting 11 grams of saturated fat per 3-oz serving!
Watch out for Side Dishes! They can be as bad and in some cases, even worse than dessert. Here are a few tips to control the negative contributions that these dishes can make to your calorie intake:
Now that you filled ¾ of your first plate with protein, utilize the remaining ¼ space to add side dishes.
Be careful with dishes like mashed potatoes and casseroles. They are usually loaded with whole milk, cheese, cream cheese, sour cream and butter just to name a few ingredients. This adds up to massive amounts of fat resulting in very high calories.
If you like these high calorie dishes add just a small portion to your plate and complete your meal with healthier choices such as green beans and carrots.
Rice is also a better option than more elaborate side dishes because it is generally cooked in water and doesn’t get fattening additions such as cheese and butter.
After you finish your first plate, take at least a 15-minute break before considering round two. This will allow the chemicals that signal that you are full to be released and will help you grab less food. If you eat too fast, you will pass the satisfied point before you brain can detect it causing you to hit that “uncomfortably full” stage and making you completely lethargic for the rest of your day.
When It Comes To Dessert, Choose the Lesser of the Evils!
You have been doing great so far, so be strong and force yourself to think strategically when you hit the dessert table. Here is how you can minimize the damage:
Dessert is all about portion control. It takes 500 calories above your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate or the amount of calories you require just to maintain your weight) in one day or 3500 calories above your BMR in a week to gain 1 pound of fat. So one slice of pie will not completely derail your plan. But three or four slices will take you to the point of no return. So chose wisely!
Start with desserts that contain raw fruit. Chocolate covered strawberries or fruit salad are great choices to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Stay away from “snacky” desserts such as cookies, brownie bites and candy. What typically happens in this case, is that you tend to feel less guilty for eating smaller items and end up eating multiple pieces. Set a goal and stick with it. A good solid piece of pie (or two MAX) are a good way to go.
When it comes to pies, avoid add-ons. It is very typical for us to serve pies with a scoop of ice cream or loads of whipped cream. Come on! A nice slice of pie is already sweet and delicious enough. Why add 140 calories and about 22% of the recommended daily intake of saturated fats that come with half a cup of ice cream to your already indulgent treat? If you have to have a touch of moisture, add a small amount of whipped cream.
Not all pies are created equal. Fruit pies such as apple, cherry and blueberry pies might sound like the better option but they are typically made with processed fruit that comes with a sweet and thick syrup. This syrup is loaded with sugar increasing the calories per serving even further. If you have a choice, choose pies made with raw fruit or sugar-free processed fruit syrup.
Fruit pies also contain double crust (a bottom crust and a top crust to cover the fruit). This adds in average 100 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving. Choose pies such as pumpkin or sweet potato pies which contain only the bottom crust.
Your Alcohol Choices Can Make or Break Your Day!
As far as fitness goes, it is best to stay away from alcohol altogether. But if you do enjoy having a drink on special occasions, your choices can make a huge impact and mean thousands of calories. Here are a few pointers:
Stay away from creamy drinks such as White Russians, Pina Coladas or Mud Slides. They have that creamy look and texture because of ingredients like cream, ice cream and creamy liquors such as Bailey’s. These are generally high in fat causing the calories to sky rocket.
Avoid colorful juicy drinks. These usually contain fruit juices and sodas which are very high in sugar also dramatically increasing calories.
A good rule of thumb is to choose simple drinks with as few ingredients as possible. A 10-oz Long Island Iced Tea for example, which contains a variety of alcohols, contains 540 calories. The same amount as a McDonald’s Big Mac! Multiply this by two or three drinks and your calorie intake for the day has exploded.
Good choices are simple drinks such as a wine, vodka and diet soda, rum and diet coke and champagne which are generally less than 100 calories per serving.
If you like beer, be careful. One bottle of beer has an average of 110 calories which is not bad. The issue is that most beer drinkers enjoy the beverage throughout the day resulting in multiple bottles. The calories then add up extremely fast and, with its high carbohydrate content, it becomes a recipe for disaster. Hence the expression “Beer Belly.” Try to avoid it and choose a beverage that allows you to be satisfied with one or two servings.
So in order to successfully survive the holidays without kissing your hard earned results goodbye, make sure you set realistic goals, get a game plan and stick to it. You should still enjoy your time with family and friends and eat the foods you waited all year for, just make sure you watch your portions, control your macro ratios focusing on protein intake and make smart decisions.
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