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The holidays are for pausing, giving thanks …. and yes, eating!

It’s that time of year for feeling grateful and reaping bounties, but many women dread staring down the Thanksgiving table. Holidays are a breeding ground for overeating and food guilt, and there’s a fine line between celebrating and overindulging. 

You may have noticed that you were able to get away with feasting on a Thanksgiving meal during your twenties, but the same amount of food metabolizes in your system differently as you get older.

According to the American Council on Exercise, the amount of calories you burn every day, otherwise known as your basal metabolic rate, drops about 1-2% every decade. This means that you burn roughly 150 calories less every 10 years.

So how do you find some balance in the face of a feast? 

Here are a couple of tips and tricks for eating mindfully and balanced this holiday season for both your body and your soul. 

Have a solid game plan for the whole day

Many women approach the looming holiday by avoiding breakfast and lunch and “saving calories” for the turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. Unfortunately, that’s really not the best approach. 

Skipping meals will probably leave you with an empty stomach and low blood sugar by the time you eat dinner. You’ll be ravenous and much more likely to overeat than you would be if you had eaten normally during the day. 

Eat small, nutrient-dense meals throughout the day to stabilize your blood sugar and keep yourself mindful at the Thanksgiving table. You want to approach a holiday like any other day eating-wise, but with the added bonus of a different variety foods at the end of the day. 

And even if you participate in a turkey trot or a workout in the morning, it still doesn’t give you permission to overindulge. But you get extra points for putting the work in before the feast begins!

Balance your plate thoughtfully

Traditional Thanksgiving fare is loved (and feared) for a reason: it’s typically heavy, indulgent, and there’s a lot of it. To get the most out of your Thanksgiving while staying true to your goals, approach it like you would any other meal – with balance.

Just because you’re eating “holiday food” doesn’t mean that you have to go overboard. Build your plate just like you would any other healthy meal. Focus on lean protein (turkey), fill it in with lots of colorful veggies, then add a small portion of starchier carbs and fats to round it out (think a dollop of mashed potatoes and a small drizzle of gravy). 

Some Thanksgiving foods are heavier than others with copious amounts of butter and sugar.  So, treat these dishes like smaller complementary sides and not the main focus. Eating appropriate portion sizes is the number one way that you can have your pumpkin pie and eat it too.  And don’t forget there will be leftovers so you can balance your plate differently the the day after.  

Also, don’t forget about beverages. They count too! Mocktails are a great way to reduce calories if you’re drinking alcohol. If you’re going to splurge on wine, or any drinks with calories, just make sure you take them into account.

“Splurge” responsibly

No matter how much you plan, sometimes, there are some things on the table that are just too tempting to pass up. 

That’s okay! Healthy eating is all about moderation. Avoiding something you want all together might make you more and more tempted until you finally give in and eat more than you should.  But you can get ahead of that urge by “splurging” on your own terms. 

The best way to approach this is to choose one main indulgence and make that the focus of your attention. If you’ve been dreaming about that turkey all week, make that the centerpiece of your meal and reduce quantity of the sides. If it’s the pumpkin pie that’s calling your name, cut down on the other starches at the table like sweet potato casserole. Making these mindful choices can be the difference between having and losing control this holiday season. 

Remember what’s really important

The last and most important piece of advice for eating more mindfully and balanced during the holidays is to remember what you’re celebrating. Yes, many holidays (and especially Thanksgiving) have food as the centerpiece, but the root of it all is to celebrate the people around the table.  And even though it may be a little different this year, be thankful for those you are with and for those that are there in spirit (and a short zoom call away).  

Dig into those meaningful conversations and moments with your loved ones. The food happens every year, but the memories will last a lifetime.