Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, magazines and news reports pop up all over like so many turkey temperature buttons, telling us how to save calories at Thanksgiving dinner. Swap dark meat for white meat! A baked sweet potato for buttery mashed potatoes! A big scoop of DUH for a small dish D’OH!
Most of this stuff is common sense. But for some reason, as we gather round the table to celebrate the pilgrims, common sense flies out the window and we gorge until our jeans spilt open. And by “some reason” I mean, because that food is GOOD.
I recently received a press release from the American Council on Exercise, letting me know that the average American will consume 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat this Thanksgiving. That’s as many calories as 5.5 McDonald’s Big Mac hamburgers or 15 Supreme Tacos from Taco Bell. It’s a lot. But I guess my thought is: Who cares? Even if we did devour 3,000 calories, one day won’t make us gain weight, will it? At the most, we’ll have sausage fingers the next morning from too much sodium in the gravy, or maybe an upset tummy or heartburn. But why not just indulge for a night and go back to our Lean Cuisines and salads and fruit smoothies like any other day?
I haven’t always had such a cavalier attitude towards T-Day. For many years, I’ve dreaded this food-centric holiday. My freshman year of college, I returned home for Thanksgiving with my family about 30 pounds lighter than I was when I left for school just months earlier. It was not a good scene and the holiday has never been the same since (read my article in Shape Magazine to get a better idea.) This year, Dan and I are celebrating Blumeria (did you read the article?) in Mexico with 23 of his family members. Our Turkey Day meal likely will not even feature poultry, but rather sushi or seafood. We’ll be tan and rested and ideally, tropical steel drum music will be playing in the background. I say this not to brag, but to remind myself that we can be thankful for what we have anywhere, anytime, and under any circumstances – whether or not mounds of stuffing and pumpkin pies are present.
For those of you looking to curb the cals this Thursday, though, here are some tips from ACE and TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly, the nation’s oldest weight-loss support organization):
· Clean vigorously before guests arrive. Brisk, challenging housework like raking, sweeping or moving things into storage is an effective way to burn calories. My Take: This makes me snicker as I picture myself lunging while vacuuming or doing jumping jacks between toilet bowl flushings.
· Have a salad, light soup or some fruit and veggies before leaving home or prior to your meal. This way you will feel fuller and are less likely to overeat. My Take: The day I chug a bowl of Campbells before heading out to Thanksgiving dinner will be a cold day in hell, indeed.
· If playing football or basketball with the kids, be sure to warm up three to five minutes for every ten years of age. My Take: If this math is too difficult for you, ask your three-year-old nephew to compute it on her Blackberry – I’m sure she’ll be happy to oblige.
· Use small plates and slender glasses to trick your brain into thinking you have consumed more. My Take: This trick has science to back it up: The Cornell Food and Brand Lab just launched the Small Plate Movement™, which promotes utilizing 10" diameter plates to decrease the amount of food people eat, without having an effect on their perceived fullness or satisfaction. According to the Cornell Lab, people tend to over-serve themselves with larger plates, and because people consume an average of 92% of what they serve themselves, larger plates lead to larger food intake. A two inch difference in plate diameter -- from 12" to 10" plates -- would result in 22% fewer calories being served! For more info, visit http://www.smallplatemovement.org
· Limit alcohol. A calorie-free beverage allows you to use those calories for food. My Take: Not to mention that once you’ve downed a half-bottle of vino, even Aunt Martha’s fruitcake looks delectable.
· Don’t panic or feel guilty if your diet seems to have gotten out of hand. You can make up for a feast of rich, higher-fat foods with lighter, lower-fat meals for the next couple of days. My Take: No snark here; this is solid advice.