The Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend is here! It’s a fantastic opportunity to get together with family and friends to enjoy some quality time, rest and relaxation. Along with the gatherings, and in line with tradition, we can also expect to see tables heaped with delectable food and seasonal treats. Here are some tips to help your waistline and healthy lifestyle program survive the holiday!

1. Portion Control. Naturally, all of us will want to participate in enjoying the delicious treats on offer this weekend. Avoiding the pumpkin pie completely is an option, but it may also leave you with a ‘bad taste’ (so to speak) in your mouth, as depriving yourself completely on a special holiday can result in resentment for your diet plan, and make it less likely that you’ll stick with it in the long term. On a special occassion, consider allowing yourself that special treat in a smaller portion (eg half the usual size), so that you can enjoy that special something in moderation.

For those of you who are calorie counting: 1/6 of an 8″ comercially prepared pumpkin pie (109g per slice) contains about 229 calories, though this can certainly vary substantially depending on the recipe.

2. Use a Smaller Plate. Studies show that the larger the plate we serve our meals on to, the larger the number of calories that are consumed. This is simply due to the fact that more food can be accomodated on a larger plate – no one likes the look of a plate that does not appear full. Consider using a portion control plate such as The Diet Plate to help you portion your meal components appropriately, or alternatively, grab a lunch plate to serve up your meal and forgo the larger dinner plate.

3. Pass on the Sauces (or Dip the Tip). Salad dressings and gravies are two examples of high calorie additions to a meal. There are 130 calories in one tablespoon of oil, for example – that is over 10% of the total daily caloric intake recommended for the typical woman who is trying to lose weight – and nothing has actually been eaten yet! A salad dressing that contains a lot of oil can therefore add a lot of calories to your day. Gravies are another big offender, as it is very difficult to know how much fat or how many calories they contain, and they are often prepared with the fat drippings from the bird or roast being prepared.

An alternative to skipping the sauces completely is to have a small bowl of the sauce on the side, in which you can dip the tip of your fork before piercing the food. That way, you still get the taste sensation, without a heap of accompanying calories.

4. Festive Foul: Remove the Skin! Poultry, such as turkey, is often served at Thanksgiving dinners, and is actually a very healthy, protein rich, low fat food source. The skin of a bird, however, can be crispy and delicious but also contains a lot of calories from fat (particularly for duck or chicken). Removing the skin will cut your calories substantially. Also, go for the white meat rather than the dark meat to ensure you are getting the leanest meat possible (for example, there are 20% more calories in dark turkey meat than in light meat).

5. Take Only One Serving, and Eat Slowly! The festive family gatherings are much like a buffet-type meal: the food sits on the table for the duration of the meal, and it is accepted (and in many cases, expected!) to take several helpings. Eating slowly is a great way to combat the tendency to take twice. Fullness hormones first take effect after 10-15 minutes, so be sure to give yourself at least 15 minutes after you finish your first helping before you consider a second – most often, you’ll find that you have changed your mind and no longer need the additional serving. Eating slowly also means that you are likely to still have food on your plate when second helpings are offered; this enables you to politely say that you are not ready for seconds yet, without affending your hosts. By the time others are finished their second helping, you will be finished your first, and the fact that you didn’t go back for seconds will be unlikely to register!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2010

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