Thanksgiving is just about here – can you believe it? It’s important to prepare for the holidays, in more ways than one. Just like we prepare for the festivities for weeks in advance, mapping out a game plan for healthy eating for the holidays is just as important, if not more!

Tis the season where sweets and treats are everywhere! We are tempted at the office, at home, with friends, at the bank and just about everywhere we go. From now until the new year, treats are everywhere. This can make it harder to stick to your exercise regimen and nutritional program, but not if you are prepared and have a set plan. Family gatherings and holiday travel can make it difficult to stay on track, but it IS possible. Holidays revolve around good, rich and yummy foods, which are tempting. If you have been exercising and eating balanced and healthy, year round, there is no reason why you can’t partake in the holiday craze without guilt! Consider my Healthy Thanksgiving Suggestions to keep you on track with your fitness efforts while enjoying the holiday, guilt free!

EXERCISE EARLY IN THE DAY! Making exercise a priority early means you’ll be less likely to put it off and you will feel better about having a bite or two of your favorite holiday foods. The holidays bring about quite a bit of uncertainty to your schedule, so it’s best to get it done early. If you can’t make it to the gym or your gym is closed, a simple indoor or outdoor circuit workout can do the trick. Consider this simple yet effective circuit workout:

5-minute warm-up: jumping jacks, jump rope or running in place

15 reps of the following:

Triceps Dips
• Jump Squats
• Shoulder Press
• One-Arm Rows
• Walking Lunges
• Burpees

Repeat 3-4x 

EAT BEFORE YOU GO OUT. That way, you won’t feel quite so hungry when you arrive and you can graze the hors d’oeuvre table, without going too crazy! Don’t go to big holiday meals on an empty stomach. Eat a light, healthy snack before going to family dinners or holiday events. It sounds funny to eat before you go, but entering a “food zone” hungry can lead you to too much, too fast. Also you know how it is – waiting for everyone to arrive and for the food to be finished cooking, you could be waiting hours before you eat. Be prepared and eat something before you head out the door.

EATING LESS IS NOT THE ANSWER! Do not eat less, during the day, to bank your calories for dinner. So many people try to work out more and eat less, in order to bank their calories for later but this is NOT a smart idea. First of all, you want to keep your metabolism moving, so you need to start with your breakfast and eat every 2-3 hours thereafter. In order to be able to burn off that Thanksgiving food, you need your metabolism to be revved up, right? On the other hand, if you wait to eat until Thanksgiving, you will be absolutely starving and end up eating much more than if you were to have been eating on your regular schedule.

GRAZE WITH YOUR EYES FIRST. Look closely at what’s being offered – then pick out a couple of your favorite high-calorie options and have a small serving of each. Grazing over everything that is being served can allow you to prioritize your portions!

WATCH THE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES! Many holiday drinks have TONS of calories. Go for the clears (i.e., vodka) with a no calorie mixer (i.e., seltzer water or diet soda) or a glass of wine but stay away from creamy cocktails like eggnog martinis.

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER! Often you think you are hungry when really you are just dehydrated. Not to mention all the extra sodium that may be in the holiday food. Drink your water!

 SIP-SWAPPING. If you are drinking an alcohol beverage, practice a “sip-swapping technique.” For every sip of alcohol, have a sip of water. This will help keep you hydrated and often leads to less alcohol intake.

LIMIT SUGARS. We often tend to indulge ourselves by eating way too many sweets during the holidays. We either use the holidays as an excuse or possibly a subconscious way to deal with the normal stress of the holidays. Remember that eating healthy foods will give you energy, keep you feeling great and help keep you healthy at the same time. Pick and choose your sweets and ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”

A BITE OR TWO ISN’T GOING TO KILL YOU. If you want dessert, account for it and don’t feel guilty! Portion control is key here. If you know you want to try something after dinner, maybe eat less mashed potatoes and stuffing and save a small amount of room for a little portion of something sweet. My thought is, if it were purchased at Safeway, I would pass but if grandma slaved away baking all day, give it a taste or two.

DON’T BRING YOUR OWN FOOD. This is one day I would not recommend you bring your own protein. You know how we do that protein in a purse thing? Keep your protein at home. There will be plenty of turkey; just go for mostly light white meat over the dark meat.

USE ALTERNATIVES WHERE APPROPRIATE. It is easier to control a meal if you are the one hosting, making it easy for you to use healthier alternatives in your cooking. This isn’t always the case but if you are hosting the holidays, this is a great way to show people how delicious healthy cooking can be. If you are cooking, be sure to make choices that can easily substitute for the “real deal.”

Greek yogurt in place of sour cream and mayonnaise in mashed potatoes, coleslaw, egg salad, tuna salads and other cold salads.
• Cauliflower mashed potatoes for real potatoes, or 1/2 and 1/2.
• Applesauce for butter and oils in baked goods.
• No-calorie baking sugar for real sugar, or 1/2 and 1/2

HEALTHY HORS D’OEUVRES. Whether you’re hosting or attending, go for the healthy pre-dinner options such as veggies, smoked salmon, deviled eggs, nuts, olive platters or fruit plates.

WALK OFF YOUR WADDLE. Get out and get moving after your holiday meal. Going for a nice walk will burn a few extra calories and more than anything, make you feel better to get out and move!

JUMP RIGHT BACK ON! No matter how much or how little you had, the key is jumping right back on your plan the next meal and the next day. If you make an effort to jump right back on your healthy eating program, you will not be set back.

If you just be sure to stay active and make smart nutritional decisions, you will cruise through the holidays, guilt free! It is all about preparing yourself for whatever situation may come your way. Plan and prepare and you will stay right on track!

Happy holidays!!!