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What to eat before and after Thanksgiving

Posted Nov 24 2009 10:02pm

You’ve probably encountered a lot of advice these past couple weeks about how to navigate the nutritional minefield that is Thanksgiving. (Some of it may have even come from me.) If you’ve been out of the loop, here’s a quick summary: fill up your plate with vegetables, don’t drink too much alcohol, bring a healthful dish, socialize instead of focusing solely on the food, enjoy small portions of those high-calorie desserts that you feel you simply can’t miss.

Solid suggestions, all. But we haven’t heard too much about how to eat in advance of the big holiday meal, nor how to get back to your healthy routine afterward.

I mean, do you eat breakfast as usual on Thanksgiving morning, to stave off overindulgence? Or do you skip breakfast to make up for the feasting you know you’ll be doing later? Should you make an extra effort to eat moderately afterward? Or do you figure you’ve blown it, so might as well pig out until Jan. 1?

Nix on that last one, by the way.

Admit it: you’re going to eat a big Thanksgiving dinner, no matter what you’ve already eaten that day. Ordinarily, your body compensates for eating more or less food earlier by having a larger or smaller appetite later, and you pay attention, right? But Thanksgiving is not an ordinary day.

My own tactic is to eat a bit less than usual on Thanksgiving morning, so I’m mostly empty when mealtime rolls around. I’m not starving, but I know a lot of good food stands between me and the end of the day, and I don’t want to be so full I can’t move. It’s got nothing to do with calories or guilt -- I just can’t stand that overstuffed feeling anymore. (I can't believe I used to experience that Thanksgiving feeling on a regular basis.)

Likewise, for a day or two afterward, I often find myself eating more lightly -- again, not because of some caloric balance sheet, but because I’m just not as hungry as usual. My body’s still dealing with all that food. You know what I’m talking about.

I think the secret is to pay attention to your physical signals and not to override them. Up to a point, your body will forgive you for some overindulgence -- but past that point, it will communicate its displeasure, one way or another. I can’t tell you where that point is, but you'll know it in your gut. Or somewhere else in your body.

My advice for Thanksgiving is pretty much the same as it is all year ‘round. Don’t stuff yourself and don’t starve yourself, whether it's before, during, or after the holiday. Trust that if you overdo it despite your best efforts, your body will let you know how to get back on an even keel. Just promise me you'll listen to it.

Have a great Thanksgiving!
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