10 Thanksgiving Day Survival Tips

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Thanksgiving, aka America’s Eating Holiday, is coming tomorrow. It has been documented that the average American consumes 4500 calories during the Thanksgiving meal alone. Today I’m sharing the top Thanksgiving tips you and your significant other can follow together to avoid that dreaded holiday weight gain.

#1: Eat Breakfast 

It’s true. Breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day on non-holidays, but is even more essential on a day where a large meal is in our future. Research has shown that people who eat breakfast are less likely to consume excess calories the rest of the day. This is key on a day like Thanksgiving. Consuming a breakfast that contains protein and fiber will keep you feeling more satisfied during the day. You’ll be less likely to graze in the hours leading up to the meal, and most importantly won’t overdo it on the first course. Some Thanksgiving breakfast ideas include:

  • Veggie omelette with a side of fruit (because let’s be honest – fruits and veggies tend to get last minute invites to Thanksgiving dinner)
  • Oatmeal with fruit or a savory oatmeal mug
  • A holiday treat of Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes (add the Peanut Butter Ricotta for extra protein!)

#2: Get Moving


Find a way to fit some movement into your Thanksgiving morning. Many towns and fitness facilities offer special Thanksgiving morning classes and events, such as Turkey Trots, to encourage some “detox before the retox”. Mr E’s gym does a special Thanksgiving Morning Relay, while my hot yoga studio always has fantastic energy from the packed crowd. Find an activity to do together, or participate in your separate activities that you can discuss over breakfast as you refuel for the day ahead.

Later in the day, don’t just go from the dinner table to the couch. Get up and move between courses. Help clear the table and do some dishes. Or see if the family wants to get out for some fresh air and touch football. If you get a cold day like we tend to have in Jersey, take some laps in the hallways or walk up and down the stairs a few times. Plus, you don’t want to be the guest passed out in a turkey coma on someone else’s couch.

Thanksgiving Tips | Nutrition Nuptials | Mandy Enright MS RDN RYT

#3: The Outfit Makes the Meal

Fashion choice on Thanksgiving isn’t just about looking good for the family. In many cases, it’s a strategy. One of the worst pieces of advice I ever heard is to wear a pair of tighter fitting pants to Thanksgiving to prevent overeating. This is actually a terrible plan. You stomach expands when you eat (I know, those Food Baby Horrors!). But that expansion is also important because it allows your tummy to send an important message to the brain: “I’M FULL!” Putting added pressure on the belly can prevent this expansion, which means your brain may get the message too late. This leaves you feeling like a useless pile of turkey and stuffing. On the flip side, wearing sweat pants is not an all-access pass to overdo it. Instead, choose an outfit that is comfy and allows some room for expansion.

  • Ladies: sweater dresses and leggings are great for Thanksgiving
  • Men: just leave the belt at home

#4: Have a Small Snack

I mentioned above that breakfast can help prevent overeating. A small snack 1-2 hours before the big meal can help do the same thing. No, you won’t spoil your appetite for Aunt Gail’s once-a-year rice balls. But it will prevent you from eating the entire tray upon arrival. A small protein and fiber-filled snack will keep your metabolism in a happy place and your eyes from wandering all over the dinner table. Small snack ideas include:

  • Apple with peanut butter
  • Cheese stick with 1/4C trail mix or nuts
  • Skyr yogurt with fruit and a sprinkle of nuts or granola

Thanksgiving Tips | Nutrition Nuptials | Mandy Enright MS RDN RYT

#5: Bring da Veggies! 

For some reason, my family seems to find Thanksgiving as a great excuse to carbo-load. Every year I ask my mom what veggies are on the menu and get the following response: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, mashed butternut squash, and corn. Add on the stuffing and dinner rolls, and you’d think every member of my family was gearing up to run the NYC marathon with the amount of starch happening on the table. Oh, and did I mention several of my family members have diabetes? If you can’t change the chef’s mind, then be a good guest and bring the veggies yourself. In addition to adding fiber and nutrients to the meal, veggies give the table a splash of color. Some favorite veggies at the Thanksgiving dinner table include:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green Beans (just avoid Green Bean Casserole or lighten it up)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (consider doing a half cauli/half potato mash-up)
  • Beets (don’t forget those greens on the top are tasty as well!)

RELATED: Your Thanksgiving Diabetes Game Plan

#6: Buffet Away

What is more photogenic than a perfectly set Thanksgiving table with the turkey and all the trimmings covering the table? But that Martha Stewart-quality set-up has a dark side. All those dishes on the table will call your name. Several times. Until you just have to have one more spoonful of stuffing because it’s staring at you. If you have the luxury (or reluctancy?) of hosting, do a buffet set-up in another room. Or try to convince the host that a buffet area will allow more space at the table. And quite frankly, there’s nothing more annoying than constantly being asked to pass large heavy serving platters in the middle of a meal. This will keep those extra servings from teasing you. And you may even forget they’re there until it’s too late and you already feel full. The walk to the buffet area will allow you to assess how badly you really want that extra sweet potato. Most importantly, a clear dinner table allows more room for wine bottles.

#7: Take Things Slow 

If your relationship with your Thanksgiving plate is simply moving too fast, it may be time to go on a break. Taking time to eat slowly and mindfully. Put the fork down and chat a little with your uncle about how great married life is or tell grandma what new project you’re working on at home.  It can take 20 minutes for your belly to tell your brain it’s full. Eating too fast means your brain is getting the message way after the point of no return when it comes to feeling overstuffed. A few ways to slow down your eating pace:

  • Chew your food 10 times before swallowing
  • Put your fork down between bites
  • Take a sip of water after every couple of bites (avoid carbonated beverages, as this will cause extra belly expansion)

Thanksgiving Tips | Nutrition Nuptials | Mandy Enright MS RDN RYT

#8: This is Not the Last Supper

Many people have a tendency to overdue it at Thanksgiving because they know a feast like this only comes around once a year. Or because there are recipes that are only made once a year so folks want their fill. Here’s the thing about Thanksgiving: everyone makes way too many portions of each food item. Which means LEFTOVERS will be in your future. You will see these food items again – I promise!

#9: A Little Something Sweet

If Thanksgiving dinner is just a means of getting to dessert, then make sure you pace yourself. All those pies, cookies, and special desserts are in your future. Use small dessert plates, and take small helpings of items you want to try. Or do as Mr E and I do and share a few bites between the two of you. You’ll still get a chance to taste the desserts without wasting an entire piece of pie. If you’re bringing dessert, consider making mini bite-size versions of your favorite recipe so everyone can try a small bite.

#10: The Day After Tomorrow

Even if you still overindulge on Thanksgiving after everything I shared above, then make sure you spend Black Friday getting back on track. Exercise is as equally important on this day as it is on Thanksgiving. Have a light breakfast (don’t skip). And if you’re heating up leftovers, stick to one plate with 1/4 protein, 1/4 starch, and 1/2 veggies. You had your chance to indulge on the holiday, but mindfulness needs to come back into play on non-holidays.

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Thanksgiving Tips | Nutrition Nuptials | Mandy Enright MS RDN RYT

14 thoughts on “10 Thanksgiving Day Survival Tips

  1. These tips are amazing…For any big meal you have planned! Thank you so much for sharing and I will most definitely be using these in the near future! And that hunger scale…Too cute and too accurate 🙂

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