A buddy of mine recently got excited when he remembered it was November.
“Oh, yes — this is the month where you just eat pie the whole time!”
And he’s not totally wrong, is he?
Yes indeed, November — with Thanksgiving and winter feasts and warm comfort meals — does signal the beginning of some ultimate food temptation. Not to worry: We’ve got a road map to guide you through it all, from foods you can feel free to chow down on to treats you should avoid. And, you might even be surprised at a few of them.
Follow this blog throughout the week for a few of our best tips to holiday eating. If you think you just won’t be able to get through it all, and will definitely have a few “letdown” days, check out our guide on Preparing for the Holiday Health Apocalypse. But if you’re feeling up to a challenge, keep it right here.
Ham, turkey, chicken. These are probably going to be on every table in abundance during the holiday season. And that’s a good thing. Lean meats should be the basis of a muscle-building, fat-burning diet, and assuming you don’t go crazy with gravy or mashed potatoes on the side, you can generally eat to your heart’s content when it comes to lean meat. And if your family likes, for some reason, to involve fish with the feast, that’s even better.
Pumpkin/pumpkin spice: Let’s not get nuts here — we are not recommending you eat nothing but pumpkin pie. However, cooked pumpkin is actually an amazing source of fiber and vitamin K, and you could do much, much worse than a slice of pumpkin pie (especially if you’re comparing it to, say, a chocolate mousse pie). Use Splenda, even, to make an even more guilt-free dessert, and don’t be shy with the cinnamon. Some studies suggest it’s a legitimate, powerful fat burner and good for blood pressure, too. Tell those pumpkin spice haters to get a new hobby.
Beans: Green beans, soups, chili, bean salad — there’s plenty of opportunities to work these hearty winter favorites in to any meal, especially in the holiday season, and we all know how effective they can be at, um…getting things moving. Without getting too gross, the fiber that allows beans to do their magic is essential to flushing unnecessary waste and toxins from the gut, and that means a more efficient digestive system. Bonus points if you can come up with a great baked bean recipe that’s not loaded with sugar, but really, there are endless possibilities.
Sweet Potatoes: Just don’t load them up with butter and that gross marshmallow cream. That’s nasty. Otherwise, bake them or make them into fries, and go to town.
White Potatoes: Mashed, au gratin, whatever — these waistline-enemy spuds usually come with gravy and a second helping, not to mention butter, cheese or whatever else you may find smothering them. With no discernible health benefits and plenty of tasty, healthful alternatives, feel free avoid white potatoes at all costs.
Pecan Pie: Like pumpkin pie, this treat has a healthful, natural food in its name. But this one is absolutely loaded with sugar and butter, making it a calorie bomb that’s nowhere near as friendly as our pumpkin dessert. Shame on you, pecan pie, for using a perfectly good natural food against us.
Gravy: It’s not just the butter or calories that you should be worried about with gravy, but the sodium. One of the most overlooked nutritional downfalls is eating too much salt — it forces your body to retain water, bloating you up and causing discomfort. If you need to douse your food with something, try to cook more flavor into it in the first place with a dry rub or, post-cooking, get your hands on a dijon mustard, or a vinaigrette with olive oil.
Just about every piece of “eat this, not that” advice we’ve given above can be ruined if you, like so many others on Thanksgiving, decide that your plate must be completely covered and stacked high enough to block the view of your relatives around the table. No, not all calories are equal, but the fact remains: Even if you choose the “healthy” options at your holiday feast, it won’t matter if you’re eating twice as much as a normal meal.
The important thing to remember is that this particular meal is about family and visiting, not the food — that’s just a bonus (a really huge, delicious one). Take your time, enjoy your company, have a little of everything instead of a lot of some things and pay attention to your own gut. If you’re content, stop eating. If you’re full, DEFINITELY stop eating. And if you can’t follow any of that advice, well — enjoy yourself. And then get ready for a killer workout the next day.