Feasting Strategy

Appears in the November 2018 issue.

The last thing anyone wants to think about as they finish off a bottle of wine or contemplate that second piece of pie at Thanksgiving dinner is just how many calories they’ve racked up over a few celebratory hours at the holiday table. Alas, gratitude in this case so often segues quite easily into regret, as the aftermath of the feast reveals a much more unpleasant reality than just a sink full of dirty dishes:

Even under the most conservative and charitable accounting possible (because of course you had to try your aunt’s green bean casserole and you couldn’t say no when that stuffing dish came around for a second pass and the rolls were unbelievable), you certainly took in more than a full day’s worth of calories at this one sitting.

Since moving from the dining room to the living room doesn’t really count as “working it off,” nutritionist and trainer John Brooks of Naperville-based Nutrition 361 says there are a number of ways to spend your long holiday weekend making healthy amends for the nutritional excess of Thanksgiving dinner. Brooks coaches men and women—from elite athletes to weekend warriors—trying to balance positive habits with work and raising a family. Here are a few of his tips:

Raking and bagging leaves
350–450 calories/hour
Yard work is not exactly an enjoyable workout, but it has to be done anyway, so why not make the best of it? The bonus here is that a few brisk run-and-jumps into the leaf pile will shave even more calories off your Thanksgiving total.
250–350 calories/hour
Trade the clicks for your kicks: Skip the online Black Friday deals for an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar, pound-the-pavement, post-holiday bargain hunt, and you’ll be burning through the calories as fast as you’re burning through your gift budget. Get into a vigorous wrestling match with a fellow shopper over the last doorbuster laptop and watch those calories drop even more.
400–700 calories/hour
Before the really cold air moves in and the bikes head up to the garage ceiling for a few months of hibernation, strap those two-wheelers onto the SUV and hit one of the local forest preserves to catch the last of the fall colors on a pleasant calorie-burning cruise.

Table Tips

Burning Thanksgiving calories after the fact is great, but Nutrition 361’s John Brooks also has a few ideas for how to limit the nutritional damage of the big meal before those numbers really start to add up:

The 80% Rule
There’s no need to feel like you have to be wheeled away from the table because you ate too much. Simply stop short of stuffing yourself—when you’re roughly 80 percent full—and wait 10 minutes before eating more.

Mind the Fiber and Protein
Fill up on the vegetables, which are fiber-rich and take up a lot of space without yielding a lot of calories. Go for more of the centerpiece turkey as well, since the protein is filling and has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates and fat.

Slow Down

Thanksgiving is a time to socialize, and that extends to the dinner table. It’s not a race, so take your time eating and talk to your loved ones between bites to give your body’s satiety signals a chance to catch up.