Planning ahead for holiday meals

Ways to enjoy the food without adding to the waistline

The average Thanksgiving meal packs a 2,000-3,000 calorie punch, but you needn’t let it knock you off balance when it comes to fitness. Plan ahead to minimize the hit. Limiting the amount of food on your table and plate is a good place to start.
“The focus of Thanksgiving is not the meal. It’s giving thanks for the things you have in your life,” says Dr. Cesare Peraglie, director of bariatric surgery for Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Davenport. Dr. Peraglie performs gastric bypasses, an operation that partitions the stomach and bypasses the part of the intestines where most of the fat and calories are absorbed.
He suggests healthier substitutions, like ditching the soda and other sugary drinks for water. He advises watching the ingredients in your foods. Bacon bits and a lot of salad dressing can mar an otherwise healthy salad. It’s also a good idea to limit the dessert choices.
But choosing the correct size turkey, one appropriate for your family and/or friends, will reduce leftovers and the temptation to continue indulging after the holiday. If you miscalculate, give your guests doggie bags.
“We tell most people to focus on a good quality protein first,” says Dr. Peraglie. “Turkey is a very good source of protein… the problem is we also pile on top of it a lot of different things.” People tend to eat more than they need and sit in front of the television to watch football and/or parades. Food and TV together is a bad idea, he says.
Instead, he suggests taking a walk after eating or doing something to “help mobilize some of the food.” He also advises against skipping one or more meals to get back on track. It just slows your metabolism, he points out, and can encourage more overeating.
Boredom, stress and depression lead to eating, so it’s a good idea to keep stress to a minimum and get plenty of rest. “High levels of stress and low amounts of sleep are proven to keep you fat,”says Kelli Calabrese, a clinical exercise physiologist who edits Personal Fitness Professional magazine. “They put strain on your adrenal system, which leads to insulin sensitivity, increased hunger and more rapid aging. If you feel stressed and are sleeping less than seven hours a night, you are more likely to hold onto fat and keep your body in an emergency state.”
Here are five easy ways to limit the damage from holiday overeating.
Consume fewer calories
Ruth Frechman, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, Chicago, recommends balancing a high-calorie Thanksgiving meal with three small, light meals the next day.
“Start with a bowl of bran cereal with nonfat or one-percent milk,” Frechman says. “It’s crunchy and filling, yet low in calories.” For lunch she recommends eating a salad with lots of vegetables and beans for protein, and for dinner… two or three vegetables with lean protein such as leftover white meat turkey. “Low fat, high fiber meals should help you get back on track,” Frechman says.
Make the day after Thanksgiving a ‘detox day’
Forget fad diets or those strange pills and potions, detoxing after Thanksgiving is as simple as eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods and staying properly hydrated. “Stick to the most wholesome, fresh and raw foods,” Calabrese suggests, “including fruits and vegetables and some lean protein such as chicken or fish.”
“Avoid alcohol, sweeteners, and processed foods and clean out the pantry and refrigerator of any high-fat or sugary leftovers which may be tempting to you,” Calabrese advises. Drinking at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day will make your system less sluggish.
These steps boost your energy so you can toss the Frisbee or organize a neighborhood football game.
Get moving
“Get up Friday morning and find a boot camp or group fitness class to motivate you,” Calabrese says. “You are much more likely to show up and give your best effort to expend calories if you have an experienced leader and are among a group of peers.”
You can also add an extra mile to your usual run (one mile burns about 100 calories), go for a family bike ride or take a long walk through town to see enjoy the fall weather. “Any type of physical activity will help,” says Frechman. “Even cleaning house counts.”
Get more sleep and reduce stress
The holidays are an especially busy and stressful time of year. A resulting lack of sleep can be hard on your health. To release fat, Calabrese recommends you stop eating three hours before bedtime and have a nighttime calming ritual, such as reading or taking a bath, which allows you to fall asleep more easily. Identify your major life stressors and do your best to delegate or eliminate them.
Think beyond the quick fix
Cutting calories and getting extra exercise are good ways to counteract one day of overeating, but consider using this time to overhaul your entire health routine. Calabrese recommends getting some support.
“Personal trainers and life coaches are available in person, over the phone, online and through your iPod or PDA,” she says. “Knowing someone is in your corner to beaccountable to, to provide you with a customized, safe, and effective program and to fast-track your results is priceless.” Don’t forget to check with your physician before you start a new exercise routine. Your doctor can help you determine what kind of fitness will be challenging while taking into consideration your overall health or existing medical conditions.
“Find a professional to assess your abilities, discuss your goals, give you a personalized plan and check in with you at least once a month,” Calabrese says. Once you see the results, you’ll have something else to be thankful for next Thanksgiving.

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