Even those with the best of intentions can sabotage their training goals by not having a rock solid plan for approaching the traditional Thanksgiving feast. It's possible to fully enjoy a relatively healthy Thanksgiving by arming yourself with a few fast facts about the traditional Thanksgiving meal and designing an informed workout strategy to keep your fitness plan on track and on schedule.
Fast Facts about the Traditional Thanksgiving Feast
According to research from the Calorie Control Council, the average American can consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat from partaking in the traditional holiday meal, which includes the pre-dinner appetizers and drinks before and after the meal. To put that in perspective, that is at least 2.5 times the average calories consumed in an entire day and the fat content of eating three sticks of butter. You would have to run 45 miles (assuming you burn 100 calories per mile) to work off that meal, requiring at least 7.5 hours of your day (assuming a bloated pace of 10 minutes per mile); a prospect that is not only unrealistic (unless you are an ultra-endurance runner), but a highly unlikely feat for even the most committed athletes.
If you're in control of the menu, you can cut down the calorie count by choosing low-fat options such as using chicken broth instead of cream and butter to whip the potatoes, serving roasted yams without any added sugar or butter, choosing a stuffing without the traditional bread cube base (think wild rice or even quinoa) and choosing a low calorie pie for dessert. There's a multitude of ways you can makeover recipes so that they're both healthy and tasty.
Take It Slow
You can also cut the calories by exercising portion control and by being selective about what you eat and drink. You can cut at least 1,500 calories by skipping the appetizers and choosing calorie-free beverages like mineral water and iced tea. When dishing up your plate, take half the amount that you normally would take and eat slowly. Fitness author and coach Harley Pasternak advocates taking a note from the Japanese by only eating until you feel 80 percent full and then waiting 20–30 minutes before considering a second helping.
Devise a Fitness Plan Before, During and After T-Day
Knowing the temptation and the calorie count that comes with holiday meals, you can ensure a healthy Thanksgiving by creating a three-week fitness plan (one week prior and two weeks following turkey day) that steps up your activity level and manages your caloric intake as you ramp up toward Thanksgiving. This way, you'll approach the day guilt free. Ideally. Your goal should be to burn 3,000 extra calories over a three-week period.
Another great boost is to start your Thanksgiving with your favorite workout or a "Turkey Trot" fun run, and then convince family and friends to take a post meal walk around the neighborhood, as well. You'll not only feel better, but it might even be the start of a new healthy Thanksgiving tradition.