Turkey Day Tips for Heart Health Think about the foods you eat on Thanksgiving. The traditional Thanksgiving meal is decadent and delicious and full of butter—probably not the healthiest options. But a little careful planning and portion management can allow you to enjoy your holiday meal without damaging your cardiovascular health in the process. In general, it’s often best to enjoy your holiday meal with your family and friends, but make a point of not overeating. With the span of the holidays (Thanksgiving through New Years), the effects of overeating can really add up. Try to limit yourself to one serving during each holiday meal. If you take a break after you eat a plateful, you likely will be full and not want seconds. This will lead to better sleep and feeling much better the next day. Also limit alcohol to one drink to prevent heart rhythm problems and overeating. It is possible that the average person to rack up 2,000 calories in a single Thanksgiving sitting (that does not even include leftovers). 2,000 calories is the recommended number of calories for most adults for an entire day. Here's a breakdown of turkey day's goodies:
- Not surprisingly, vegetables are the heart-healthiest part of the big Thanksgiving meal. Items like green beans, carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes balance their calories with plenty of heart-helpful vitamins and minerals.
- The worst part for your heart? It's the gravy. Typically made from the high-fat, high-calorie greasy drippings of the cooked bird, gravy is very high in saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol. It's been shown that a single high-fat meal can damage your arteries. But again, portion size is the key.
- If the cranberry relish is homemade, using real cranberries, it can be heart-healthy. If it's out of a can, it's likely to be very high in simple sugars which can worsen diabetes and raise triglcyerides (fats) in the blood.
- If you're nibbling on dark meat or, far worse, the turkey skin, you're ingesting even higher levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. Try not to do that, or just take a taste and stop.
Get back on track after your big Thanksgiving meal. Here are a few tips and tricks to help. It’s really hard not to fall off the diet wagon on Thanksgiving. And with all of the leftovers it’s hard to not continue with the overindulgence. If you’re still feeling the affects of your Thanksgiving meal, here are a few suggestions to get you up and moving again.
- Move! Feeling like staying on the couch? Streaming a fun fitness video. Or take a walk around the block to get your blood flowing. Once you start moving, you’ll start to feel great and eventually get yourself back to the gym or out of the house for some exercise. The more fun the video is, the better. It’ll get you motivated to move.
- Stock up on protein and veggies. If you overdid it on Thanksgiving, make sure that the following two days include meals high in protein, which signals your body to burn body fat, and fiber from vegetables. Stay away from starches and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Do a high-intensity workout 12 to 16 hours after a big meal. Working out hard during this timeframe helps your body burn off the energy in the muscles and liver. Hundt recommends going for a fast run, a high-intensity strength training workout or a combination of the two.
The holidays are the hardest time of year to eat healthily. And it’s really hard not to overeat and feel lethargic after your big meal. Luckily, the folks at Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab have discovered helpful tricks over the years to help people eat better. Eat a healthy snack to get in a healthy mindset. You know the samples they hand out at the grocery store? Go for it, if they are healthy. Researchers found that a free sample of a healthy snack led grocery shoppers to buy 25% more fruits and vegetables than if they'd been given nothing and 28% more than people given a cookie. How does this relate to thanksgiving you may ask? Get in a healthy-eating mindset by avoiding fattening appetizers in favor of fresh fruit or raw veggies. Use smaller plates. When people serve food onto a 12-inch plate, they portion out 22% more food than when they use a 10-inch plate, the Food and Brand Lab has found. This is important since other research from the Lab has found people eat 92% of the food that they self-serve, yet still feel satisfied when their plate is smaller. Drink from tall, skinny glasses. Along the same lines, studies show people tend to pour 28% more liquid into a short, wide glass than a tall, skinny one. By pouring into a narrow glass, we will consume fewer calories. Serve yourself the healthiest food first. Research into the behavior of buffet lines suggests people tend to overload their plates with whatever is at the front. Then they gradually fill the plate with the rest of the items.Studies found this ratio is roughly 2:1 — two-thirds of the plate is occupied by the first thing people portion out. When you pick your seat, sit next to the vegetables. You'll naturally eat more of them. Put down your fork between bites. Mind over matter! It takes about 20 minutes for the "full" feeling in your stomach to reach your brain and tell you to stop eating. Therefore take more time, put down your fork before your stomach fills up. You'll eat slower, consume less, and still have room for dessert.
- Get Active First things first, get outside and get active. Even if it’s snowing outside, or you have a huge meal to prepare, getting outside for 20 minutes is a great thing to do. Don’t have 20 minutes? Even five minutes can help as long as it’s active. Make activity the first thing you do Thanksgiving morning so you don’t forget or get lazy throughout the day. Whether that’s taking a walk outside or a 20-minute workout routine, just doing something active will help you get your metabolism working and help keep the weight off.
- Focus on Protein Focus on the good and get rid of the fatty. Turkey has amazing health benefits and is a great protein. It’s full of tryptophan, protein and other amino acids that can really support your immune system, which can help improve your mood. There are a lot healthy benefits of turkey so when you’re loading up that plate Thanksgiving Day, pack on the turkey over other things such as mac and cheese or other carby foods. Go easy on the gravy and load the veggies on the side for a healthier option. You’ll be happy you did.
- Monitor Your Meals Last but not least, if you want to really keep weight off on Thanksgiving Day, monitor your meals. Pumpkin pie is fine as is a little bit of cranberry sauce, in moderation. Stick to half portions and try not to overeat.