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5 tips for not overeating at big family get-togethers like Thanksgiving and other winter holidays

There are better-for-you ways to indulge!

By Gina Houmann, MPH, RDN, LD
November 14, 2017

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The holidays are a wonderful time of year. The smell of some great family recipes fill the air. And if your family is anything like mine, they always come through with bringing all of your favorite dishes to dinner.

This can easily lead to overeating if you’re not prepared. But I assure you there are ways to enjoy the holiday to the fullest while still being good to your body. Here are 5 easy tips to try this year around the table:

  1. Eat throughout the day.

    Eat regular meals before the day’s big family gathering. Skipping meals earlier in the day can leave you feeling overly hungry. This can set you up to overeat at dinner. Also, being overly hungry can cause cravings for sugar to increase, which can lead to overeating sweet foods. These generally don’t have the good nutrition that veggies and turkey have.

  2. Focus on drinking water over alcohol.

    Having a glass of wine, beer or family-favorite spirit can be part of the get-together. And that’s OK. However, make sure you are also having water throughout the day. Water doesn’t add calories like alcohol does. And it keeps you hydrated, which is especially important with all the high-salt foods like gravy and green bean casserole.

  3. Be mindful about your plate.

    There are so many options to choose from! It’s OK to have a little of everything, but the key is “a little”. Focus on taking smaller portions of each item so your plate doesn’t turn into Thanksgiving Mountain. And after you’re done eating, give yourself 10 minutes before going back for seconds. This will allow your body to recognize what you have eaten and you can more easily decide if you are really hungry for more. Remember that holiday food can make delicious leftovers. So instead of going in for a second serving, pack up a plate to have for dinner the following day. Not only do you get to enjoy the meal again later, but you don’t have to cook again either!

  4. Slow down and enjoy your time outside the kitchen.

    While the turkey is usually the star of the show, take some time and look around. Thanksgiving and other winter holidays are usually days where we can be with family and friends. Little else tends to be on our calendars. You don’t have a soccer game or piano recital that you have to rush to. Appreciate the time and strike up a conversation in a room that isn’t the kitchen. Often we mindlessly snack just because the food is in arm’s reach. So engaging in conversation or other activities outside the kitchen will naturally help curb how much you eat.

  5. Get up and move.

    There is a lot of sitting that happens throughout the day. But try to recognize those moments and simply move around. Get outside and throw around a football at a local park. Play with your kids and pets. Or consider planning ahead and spend a portion of your day volunteering. Giving back to those in need will get you active and make you feel good emotionally, too.

Get other tips, tricks and better-for-you recipes from yumPower and PowerUp.

About Gina Houmann, MPH, RDN, LD

Gina Houmann is a Program Manager for several organization-wide nutrition programs at HealthPartners Institute. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. Gina enjoys partnering with clinicians across HealthPartners and Park Nicollet to provide nutrition programs and resources to better serve patients. Previously, she provided nutrition counseling and education for patients at Melrose Center. In her free time, Gina enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, 5-year-old son and 2-year-old twin daughters.

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