Handling the temptations of Thanksgiving? No sweat. You got this. You have your plan and your recipes—nothing is going to send you off the rails this season.
Except for one thing.
You’re not in charge of the Thanksgiving meal this year. You’re going to someone else’s feast, someone who is probably not going to be giving a thought to the fat, sugar and calorie content of the meal except to think “more is better.”
On the plus side, you won’t be nibbling and tasting while you’re cooking. That may save you some sneaky calories. But there’s no getting around it: Thanksgiving dinner is almost always a calorie bomb. Without drinks and dessert, the average Thanksgiving meal is about 3,000 calories, according to the Calorie Control Council. That’s about 500 calories shy of what you have to consume to gain a pound.
So how are you going to lose weight when just one meal of the day seems designed to go directly to your thighs? Have another plan. This one will involve Nutrisystem’s Flex meal guidelines, plus some science-tested techniques for successfully navigating any kind of dining out. You will not only prevent weight gain over a holiday that is all about eating, but you can also continue losing weight. And for that you can be thankful.
Here are some tips for Flexing and planning your Thanksgiving plate this holiday:
1. Review the Flex meal guidelines.
The Nutrisystem Flex meal guidelines are designed to help you easily prepare a perfectly portioned meal that fits into your weight loss plan. Flex meals consist of five building blocks: SmartCarbs, PowerFuels, Vegetables, Extras and Free Foods. The Flex meal guidelines will vary depending on your specific Nutrisystem program, so be sure to check the NuMi app and the pamphlet that came with your order for the number of PowerFuels and SmartCarbs you need for each Flex meal occasion.
Most Flex dinners will consist of two to three PowerFuels and one SmartCarb, plus the Vegetables, Free Foods and Extras of your choice. So for example, you could enjoy four ounces of turkey breast (two PowerFuels), a half-cup of mashed potatoes or stuffing (one SmartCarb) and one cup of cooked carrots and Brussels sprouts (two Vegetables). You could reserve your Extras for appetizers and desserts, or use them for some extra decadence on your Thanksgiving dinner plate with butter, cranberry sauce or gravy. Add Free Foods like garlic powder or black pepper to your heart’s content!
Knowing your specific Flex meal guidelines ahead of time will give you a better idea on how you’re going to plate up your food when it comes time for the Thanksgiving feast. This will help you stress less and enjoy the holiday!
2. Bring a healthy app.
Temptations can arise even before you sit down at the dinner table. Avoid picking at a classic charcuterie board loaded with meats and cheeses or dunking chips into gooey cheesy dips. Instead, bring a tray of crudités with a healthy, low-calorie dip (Find 20 healthy dip recipes here! >).
Non-starchy vegetables are unlimited on Nutrisystem, so fill up a tray with baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, broccoli florets, mini bell peppers, zucchini sticks and cherry tomatoes. Then whip up our quick and easy recipe for Everything Bagel Dip, which counts as one Extra per serving. You could also cut up some fresh fruit for a light and refreshing treat if you’d like to use this as a SmartCarb. Don’t be surprised if you find that the other guests enjoy these options, too!
Pro Tip: If you do want to bring an impressive, diet-friendly charcuterie board, check out our healthy guide below:
3. Be picky.
Think about your Thanksgiving favorites and what you’re most excited about eating. If you have to stick only to the foods you love the best, what are you going to give up? Are you going to indulge in bread stuffing? Then skip the rolls. Love pumpkin pie? If you’re having dessert, avoid other sugary foods such as cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole (the kind with brown sugar and tiny marshmallows). Having a plan for what you’re actually going to put on your Thanksgiving plate—and what you’re not—will help you maintain control.
4. Offer to bring a veg.
If you’re vegetarian or low-carb dieter, tell your host and hostess that you’ll bring a plant-based dish that everyone can enjoy, such as cauliflower “mashed potatoes” or vegetable lasagna bake (low-carb fans can use zucchini “noodles” in place of pasta). Spend some time finding recipes that sound scrumptious to you and that you know everyone else will love. If you have a big appetite, consider making one of the unlimited veggie recipes below! You can enjoy as much of them as you’d like.
5. Take less.
If you’re used to piling on the sides, use a Tablespoon rather than a serving spoon to scoop up your favorites onto your plate. The Calorie Council suggests that you think of it as taking “free samples” so you don’t go overboard. Learn how to become a Nutrisystem portion pro here! >
6. Choose the white meat, no skin.
Turkey is really diet-friendly. Three and a half ounces of turkey breast is only 161 calories. But eat it with skin and suddenly it’s 194 calories and double the fat—about the same number of calories as 3.5 ounces of dark meat without the skin. Save calories and stick to two-ounces of white meat turkey for each PowerFuel serving that you plan to have at your Thanksgiving meal.
7. Eat the turkey and veggies first.
Turkey is protein and protein helps you feel fuller faster and longer than carbohydrates, which will likely make up the rest of your Thanksgiving plate. Some studies have shown that people eat less if they’ve had some protein. Best of all, digesting protein takes more of an effort for your body so it boosts your metabolism, helping you burn off calories.
Non-starchy vegetables are also satiating while being low in calories yet high fiber. That’s why they are unlimited on the Nutrisystem plan, so load up your Thanksgiving plate and enjoy them with your turkey first!
8. Go light on the alcohol.
Among other things, alcohol eases some of your inhibitions, including the one that keeps you from going for seconds on everything. One study found that drinking can lead you to consume and extra 384 calories a day! Stick to one drink and make it light: one four-ounce glass of prosecco, for example, is only 85 calories. Adding seltzer to a glass of white wine cuts its 120 calories in half. Feeling festive? Whip up one of these healthy Thanksgiving cocktails! >
9. Drink water. Then drink some more water.
Don’t let a Thanksgiving cocktail be your only source of fluids. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, too! Water has been shown to work as natural appetite suppressant and may also increase calorie burning. On Nutrisystem, we recommend drinking 64 ounces of water each day.
Now that you’ve planned your Thanksgiving plate, check out these other simple tips for a healthy holiday:
10. Don’t skip a meal beforehand.
In fact, eating before you face the groaning table can help you exercise restraint when faced with all the delectable food choices before you. Eat a sensible breakfast and a light lunch so you won’t be ravenously hungry and tempted to overindulge when dinner is finally served. Nutrisystem Buttermilk Waffles can help you fill up and satisfy your sweet tooth early, so you’ll be less tempted when it’s time to eat.
11. Make conversation.
Obviously, if you’re talking you can’t be eating. But the other thing that happens when you keep up some friendly chatter during dinner is that you eat more slowly. Research shows that people who eat slower tend to eat less (and weigh less!). Doing so can give your brain time to register those fullness messages sent by your gut (it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to catch up).
12. Plan a physical activity.
Whether it’s a touch football game, Frisbee toss, brisk walk or line dancing, exercising will help you burn calories and keep you away from the app or buffet table. If that’s not possible, offer to help clear the table and clean up in the kitchen. Even housework burns calories—from 148 to 233 an hour, depending on your weight and how vigorous you are about cleaning.