The 3 Week Diet

Thanksgiving Diet Tips: How to Survive Dinner and Not Gain Weight

Thanksgiving dinner poses a challenge for dieters who want to continue to lose weight as well as for those who want to maintain. So what to do? Declare the holiday a cheat meal — or even a cheat day! — or eat a slimmed down dinner and wake up the next day being able to smile at the number on the scale, and the lack of bloating and guilt?

And too, these are never decisions made in a vacuum. You may be among family and friends and a decidedly high calorie zone with many wanting to “encourage” you to eat. You may know, too, what happens when you politely decline that pecan pie slice or that helping of candied yams, to say nothing of the pile of stuffing and gravy that almost seems to walk right onto your plate. Yes, being around high calorie foods can feel a bit unnerving, especially if you are battling emotional eating or food addictions which are all triggered by such high sugar, high fat, high sodium foods and all the more so, if there are some “food pushers” in your midst.

There are several options and I’m sharing a few that have helped me over the years, depending upon my goals at the time, whether weight management or weight loss. See which one best suits you, and feel free to share with us your Thanksgiving diet tips and tricks in the comments section!


Prepare reduced calorie versions of the traditional foods. If you are at home, you have much more control over this as you alone know what you are putting into the food. There are a wealth of resources — recipe sites, smart phone apps and diet forums to get virtually any recipe in a skinny version. Check out some suggestions for remaking the green bean casserole or the sweet potato casserole.

Be creative and prepare and serve some low calorie non-traditional foods. Thanksgiving feast doesn’t have to be turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and all of the iconic side dishes we associate with the holiday. Perhaps you enjoy Mexican food or Chinese food and like to cook skinny versions from these or other cuisines around the world. Or similarly if your tradition is to go out to eat, you may want to choose a restaurant that has a proven reduced calorie menu from which to order.

Avoid skipping meals and/or starving yourself until dinner. Being hungrier than usual will make it difficult to avoid overeating, especially if you are faced with foods you rarely eat and/are especially looking forward to.

Eat small portions of traditional foods and load up on salads, low calorie soup and/or non-starchy vegetables. Who says a huge salad with low calorie, oil-free dressing can’t find its place on the table. Or some steamed vegetables prepared without the added fats, oils and sugars characteristic of, say, the green bean casserole with its fried union topping or the sweet potato casserole laden with marshmallows. This is especially helpful if you are going to be sitting for a long period of time with the Thanksgiving foods at the table, family style. It’s all too easy to start mindlessly eating when you don’t even have to get up from the table.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and especially before dinner. Again, this will help curb your appetite. You may find that drinking herbal tea is a satisfying way to get some extra fluid. Try using a natural sweetener like stevia, rather than artificial sweeteners which may induce cravings. Avoid consuming a caffeinated beverage, even if it has zero calories, as this will have a diureutic effect, especially not good if you’ll be consuming more sodium than usual.

Do your typical exercise and workout routine before dinner.
Stay as active and on your feet as much as possible during the day. As you may know, more and more studies are showing the importance of getting physical activity throughout the day — known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis — literally ever step you take counts towards burning calories.

Divide up the Thanksgiving feast into two or more mini-meals. Again, smaller portions of your favorites served on a small plate. Knowing you can have your “second helpings” two or three hours later may also help you to avoid overindulging. A recent study confirms that people who eat smaller meals tend to weight less and have better success in maintaining their weight, so this is a good habit to get into.

Wear clothing that fits and is not stretchy, thus not allowing for your abdomen to expand. This gives you immediate feedback to know if and when you are eating too much. Eating until comfortably full and satisfied can be difficult when faced with delicious food and it’s all too easy to keep eating from sheer pleasure. If you are maintaining your weight after having reached your goal, you might want to wear something non-stretchy that compliments your new physique, and/or an item of clothing that you bought to celebrate your weight loss victory.

Above all, it’s important to enjoy the holiday, and a little bit of focus and discipline — as well as a challenge — can only help us grow and learn in this lifelong journey to health and wellness and reaching/maintaining optimum weight.

Check out some additional Thanksgiving diet tips and tricks in the video below for some imaginative ways to trim calories and make lower calorie choices in a traditional meal.

Please let us know any tips and pointers that have helped you survive — and thrive! — on Thanksgiving.

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