Tips for Navigating Nutrition During the Holidays 
Written by Charissa Sutliff 

Each of us has a different relationship with food and various goals in our health and fitness so depending on those things, navigating in nutrition during the holidays may or may not be something on your mind. If it is, I want to share some tips that will help you to navigate this territory!

What are you thinking and how are you feeling as we approach Thanksgiving? 

I ask you this first because Thanksgiving is a holiday that is usually associated with a big meal, but also time spent together with family and friends. Maybe you are stressed approaching the holidays because you have been committed to your training and nutrition, but holidays are often a time that you overeat. Maybe you have some weight loss or body composition goals and you don’t know what to do on Thanksgiving to maintain your progress while also enjoying time with your family. Maybe you want to count memories and not calories for a day. Whatever your goals are, and wherever you are with your nutrition here are some tips that I hope will be helpful to you this season!

Thanksgiving Nutrition Tips

Create a Thanksgiving Nutrition Plan

Going into the holidays with a rough game plan for our nutrition can help us navigate the territory a little better in an effort to not completely go off the course and end up with our ship crashed on the rocks. 

First, spend a little time thinking about what you usually do during the holidays for nutrition and how you want to approach it this year. 

Ask yourself questions like: 

“How do I usually eat during the holidays?” 

“Do I want to approach the holidays with a different mindset this year?” 

“How can I do this differently this year?” 

“What sort of game plan can I come up with this year to help me enjoy the holidays and maintain my current level of health and fitness?”

Then, set your intention about what you’re going to consume on Thanksgiving Day with your goals in mind. If you want to just enjoy time with family, make that your intention. If you want to practice health and balance, set an intention to eat in moderation that day.

Now for your game plan, below are some tips for navigating the Thanksgiving table, while still being able to enjoy the foods you love, balancing health, fitness and spending time with the people you love!

How to Navigate the Thanksgiving Table

Eat Mindfully and Intentionally

Eat mindfully. Enjoy and savor each bite! Like you would taste a wine, really savoring the flavor, wine taste each bite of your meal. Notice the smells, the textures, the tastes.

Intentionally choose the food you eat, the amounts you eat with your goals in mind. Contemplate what you would most enjoy, and even consider how much of this do I really need to eat?

Eat Slowly

This may seem so basic, but it is so helpful! Eating slowly helps us digest better because it allows for food to remain in our mouths longer, which allows the enzymes in our mouth to have more time to work on delisting our food. Eating slowly will also help us to feel more full and satisfied both mentally and physically. 

How to Eat Slower

Try to make your meal last as long as possible, aim to be the last one still eating.Match your eating pace to the slowest eater in the room, Think kids! Kids generally eat slowly and mindfully. Do something between bites: put your fork down, take a drink of water, focus on the conversation at the table.Chew longer; chew each bite 20-30 times before picking the fork or food back up. 

You can also add on to this eating skill by eating slowly until satisfied instead of stuffed. Pay attention to your body’s physical hunger cues of being full. Stop eating when you are at about a 7-8 on a scale of 1-10 where 10 is STUFFED and 1 is very hungry.

Practice the 80/20 Rule

Aim to fill your plate with 80% good stuff, and 20% foods you enjoy. This is a great rule to practice balance, eating a majority of foods that are full of nutrients which is the 80%, and then leaving room to indulge in and enjoy foods that are a treat which is the 20%.

Hand Portion Control

Use your hand as your portion guide, it’s simple and portable! You can take it with you anywhere you go. If you are someone who counts macros, this is an option if you still want to track your meal in some form. This is also a great way to help with eating healthy portions and in moderation. 

Protein: 1-2 palm size portions, think turkey, ham, chicken, etc. One, palm size portion of protein is about 40-60g protein for males, or 20-30g for females (depends on hand size). Read: What You Need to Know About Protein

Veggies: 1-2 fist sizes, think broccoli, green beans, leafy greens. Read: Vegetables are Death Defying Super Foods

Starchy Carbs: 1-2 cupped handfuls, think mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, rice. One, cupped handful size portion of carbs is about 40-60g protein for males, or 20-30g for females (depends on hand size).

Fats: 1-2 thumb size portions, think butter, oils, nuts, seeds, avocado. One, thumb size portion of fat is about 15-25g fat for males, or 7-12 for females (depends on hand size). Read: The Skinny on Fat

Visualize a Plate for Portion Control

Using a plate as a visual is another helpful way to practice portion control. Fill half your plate with veggies. Fill 1/4 on your plate with protein. Fill 1/8 with starchy carbs. Fill 1/8 with fats.


Macronutrient Composition of Thanksgiving Food

Most foods at Thanksgiving are not going to be as simple as this is purely a protein dish, this dish is just carbs, this dish is veggies. Most of the dishes on the table are going to be a mixture of proteins, carbs, veggies and fats. Take for example green bean casserole, this dish has veggies, but also is most likely made with butter and some type of creamy soup, so this dish would be both fats and veggies, maybe even carbs. The same applies to dishes like mashed potatoes and sweet potato casseroles. These dishes have a base of carbs from the potatoes, but also are made with butter, cream, milk, so they would be a mixture of carbs and fats. With this being said, it’s helpful to be mindful of this, and to practice proper portions!

Balance with Veggies and Protein

If you know you really want to be able to enjoy your favorite pie, or even your favorite casserole, have it and enjoy it! And balance that out by having a big slice of turkey breast, and a big serving of steamed vegetables if available! 

Count memories! Food and eating is about more than just nutrients, it is something that brings us together. We bond as we break bread together, and we delight over shared delight in dishes. While you are savoring your morsels, also savor the moment and memories you are making! Choose one of these habits to practice over the holiday and let us know how it went -OR- let us know if you need more guided nutrition help! Happy Thanksgiving. We are so grateful for all of you!