Your Thanksgiving Week Plan

Sinan Ozyemisci
M.S. Clinical Nutrition

As nutrition coaches, we always get pegged with this assumption that when large portions, big dinners, or even cook-outs and roasts come around, our main reasoning for attendance is to judge how much people eat and police everyone’s plate while we sit in the corner and eat a salad. Erroneous!!

Here is the truth: We nutrition coaches will not be skipping the Thanksgiving Feast this year! Instead, we will simply adjust portion control to turn ‘Feast’ into ‘Meal’. And we will adjust before and after to prepare and recover. Here are some tips on how you can do just that! 

What Does an Average Thanksgiving Day Look Like?

Before we nosedive into tips and tricks, understand why Thanksgiving Dinner is even a topic that we need to have this discussion about. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American (normal daily reported average: women – 1,785 calories and men – 2,640 calories) consumed just over 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day alone. Keep in mind, that average is the average of both males and females averaged together. Going off of the ratio we see from our daily reported average, that roughly puts Thanksgiving Day consumption at around 3,025 calories for women and about 5,985 calories for men. 

So what can you do to make sure that you’re ready for the holiday meal? The answer is NOT to “let it happen”, instead prepare yourself! Thanksgiving week is busy, but if you mentally tune yourself in you can be ready to confidently tackle Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and post-Thanksgiving weekend fun with ease!  

The Lead Up: 

– Don’t skip meals, thinking you are going to get ahead.

– Stay in close communication with your coach and follow their expertise and guidelines as usual.

– Eat balanced, but mindful portions.

  • Swap out starchy vegetables and root veggies for leafy greens instead.

– Keep up with your water consumption

– Go easy on the alcohol the week leading into Thanksgiving and if need be, set hard-cut guidelines on this with your coach before the week even kicks off (Thanksgiving Eve is often a ‘whoops’ moment, with alcohol, for a lot of us). 

– Make it a priority to get out and do something active for 30 minutes or more, every day of the week. If you’ve been following Coach Dean’s meme-streak, you’re probably already hitting 10,000 steps plus, just to get away from the computer and all of his posts 😉 

T-0 Days (Thanksgiving Day): 

– Don’t skip breakfast.

– Have a mid-morning snack that normally makes its way to your planned consumption/menu. Treat the day just like any other well-planned, on-track day (unless advised otherwise by your coach).

– Preparing in the kitchen all day? Don’t skip lunch, even if it means having a handful of fruit and veggies and a few rolled cold cuts of deli turkey.

– When you pop everything into the oven and finish prep, get out and exercise for 30 minutes (as long as there is someone home and with eyes on the oven, for safety reasons).

– Eat Thanksgiving dinner with a plan! Keep the focus on your proteins and let the naughtier sides stay as sides, not as bottom layers on your massive bowl or plate.

– Keep up with water throughout the meal and pump the brakes after each bite, to gauge your level of fullness. If you’re an excited eater like me, I can tell you from experience that talking often and catching up with everyone helps you slow down your eating.

– Go easy on the alcohol. 

– When you’re going up for dessert, look for the smaller plates, not the plate you used for dinner.

The Days That Follow: 

– Keep up the water consumption.

– Keep meals balanced, never assume that skipping meals and putting yourself in a caloric deficit after the matter will help you balance out the feast of a dinner you had on Thanksgiving. That’s not how it works!! 

– Pick an exercise or event and get EVERYBODY involved. Trust me, if there is a time to get a decent-sized group involved in a kickball game, a local 5K, a hike, a group drop-in at a local fitness studio, it is NOW when everyone is hyped up from good food and ready to do anything to help digest it all. 

– Finally, utilize leftovers in a smart way – ex. turkey over salad for dinners; ham for ham & egg muffins for breakfast for the week; etc. 

One Day Will Not Derail You

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, nutrition coaches get to break the news to the general population and correct their assumptions. We eat, we eat a lot, we eat a lot in volume and a lot in foods that society doesn’t expect us to eat. Look at it this way: Why preach flexibility and macronutrient/caloric balance but keep ourselves out of practice by being so strict, so diet-regimented, and so routine? It just doesn’t work like that. In all honesty, the term ‘diet’ alone makes us cringe.

With events, gatherings, holidays, days where we need to just recharge, or all of the above, we think about food as an outlet of enjoyment (when consumed in moderation) and not as a math assignment. While the remaining 6 days of your week might be tracked to the tee, there is a chance that in reality, Thanksgiving Day may never even make it into MFP. Guess what… it happens for us too! If you can track and rock Thanksgiving Day with a plan, HELL YEAH! If you can’t, the last thing you want to do is stress yourself out and risk the chance of moderate consumption, boundaries-established kind of a day from turning into ‘wheels have come off completely’ kind of a check-in note. 

Simply put, control what you can and get ahead of the day with a conscious breakfast, with the macros built around what Thanksgiving Day might cause you to overconsume/under consume. Throughout the remainder of the afternoon, listen to your body, adjust meals as necessary, and focus on the main purpose of the holiday… quality of life and enjoyment! 

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