5 Tips to Avoid Thanksgiving Weight Gain
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
LifeTime WeightLoss in Alicia Rodruguez, Healthy Cooking, Holiday Eating, Nutrition, healthy holiday eating

For so many of us, the smell of a warm kitchen on Thanksgiving Day elicits happy memories with close family and friends. It also promises the richness and comfort of our favorite traditional foods. 

Every year my clients ask, “How can I enjoy the holiday but manage to avoid the weight gain?" 

See my tips for a fulfilling holiday below as well as recipes for healthier side dishes that will ensure you get to enjoy the best of the traditional tastes - all while maintaining your good intentions.

5 Tips for Eating Mindfully on Thanksgiving Day

Load up your plate with protein and vegetables.

Most holiday dinners highlight carbohydrate heavy side dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes. One way to avoid weight gain is to build a well-balanced plate. Prioritize protein first. This is easy given most Thanksgiving dinners include turkey! Second, fill your plate with vegetable side dishes. You may then have a little space left on your plate. Use this for your “indulgence.” The majority of your meal provides you with good nutrients and reduced carbohydrates.

Use the “fork” trick.

How many of us have gone back for seconds or even thirds at Thanksgiving? The question you have to ask yourself is, “Am I enjoying my food?” The best trick to help you answer this question is the “fork” trick. Once you take a bite of food, place your fork down on the plate, and let go of the fork. Chew your food, swallow, and then pick up your fork again. The key to this trick is letting go of the fork. This will remind you to slow down, enjoy your food and converse with friends and family. By eating more slowly, you'll be more in touch with your body's satiety signals.

Avoid the “clean plate club."

Growing up I was always told, “You can’t leave the table until you finish everything on your plate.” Let me tell you I spent many nights alone at the dinner table. Today, I advise my clients to eat until they are full. If your plate isn't clean, it's okay. Focus on one plate of food and give yourself time to savor it fully. 

Share your dessert with a loved one.

After a satisfying meal, it's hard to avoid the sweet smells of pumpkin or warm apple pie. If you choose to have dessert, share a small slice with a loved one. Engage in conversation, enjoy the moment, and be thankful for a great meal. 

Create an active tradition.

Sitting down and watching football together is a common and fun activity on Thanksgiving Day, but take the chance to incorporate a new tradition this year. Take a walk (or do some cross-country skiing) at a local park, or put together a family-friendly football game. Alternatively, put on your volunteer hat and rake (or shovel) for a neighbor in need of help. Finally, you might be so ambitious as to run/walk your first 5K as a family.

A Few Healthy Way of Eating Recipes

Wild Rice Stuffing

Yield: 10 Cups, Servings: 20


1 Tbsp coconut oil

4 yellow onions, thinly sliced

500g assorted mushrooms, sliced (cremini, Portobello, shitake, etc)

1 cup chopped celery

3 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

5 cups low-sodium, gluten-free chicken broth

½ tsp dried sage

2.5 cups wild rice

1 cup parsley, chopped

1 pear, chopped

1 apple, chopped

¼ cup Pepita seeds

¼ cup slivered almonds


Melt ½ Tbsp coconut oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until caramelized and very tender, about 25 minutes.  Place onions in a large bowl.

Melt remaining ½ Tbsp coconut oil in the same pot over medium-high heat. Add celery, mushrooms, and half of the thyme. Saute until mushrooms are deep brown - about 12 minutes.

Once done, remove from the saucepan and add to bowl with onions. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Bring broth, remaining thyme and sage to boil in same saucepan.

Mix in wild rice, cover and return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until all rice is tender and almost all liquid is absorbed.

Stir in caramelized onions and mushrooms, remaining sage, pear, apple, seeds, almonds and parsley.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

If using to stuff a turkey, pack as much rice mixture as can fit in the bird, and bake extras in a casserole dish for 30 minutes. 

If not using for turkey, enjoy as is, or cook in a casserole dish.

Green Beans with Garlic, Onion and Basil

Serves: 4


1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed (about 3 cups after trimming)

2 Tbsp coconut oil

1 clove garlic, cut in half

1 Tbsp chopped onion

½ tsp sea salt

1 tsp dried basil

Pepper to taste

¼ cup boiling water


Cut green beans in half.  Heat oil in skillet, sauté onion and garlic until softened. Remove garlic from skillet. Add green beans, salt, basil, pepper and boiling water. Cover and cook over medium heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Add a little extra water if necessary. 

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Serves: 4


1 head of cauliflower

3 Tbsp milk

1 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

freshly ground black pepper

snipped chives


Break apart the cauliflower and chop the core finely.

Simmer 1 cup of water in a pot, then add the cauliflower. Cover and cook at to medium heat for 12-15 minutes or until very tender.

Drain the water and dry the cauliflower. Add the milk, butter, Greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Mash until it looks like real "mashed potatoes." Top with chives and enjoy!

In health, Alicia Rodriguez - Life Time Fitness Corporate Registered Dietician

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.



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