Got Your Thanksgiving Game Plan?

Monday of Thanksgiving week, it’s official, we’re in the holiday season.  Today is the day to begin game planning if we want to enter 2019 fit and happier.  Don’t be alarmed, this isn’t about deprivation or food elimination.  It’s about making smart choices so you can enjoy Thanksgiving as you please without worrying about unwanted post-holiday pounds.



  • Make exercise a priority: Aim to perform at least 30 minutes of exercise as many days as possible.  You choose what type – cardio, strength, flexibility – and you can split it into ten minute segments throughout the day.
    • If you’re hosting this year…you probably won’t have much time to devote to structured workouts before Thursday.  Keep in mind, cleaning, setting up tables and chairs, and standing during food prep is productive movement.  Add to that short bouts of strengthening and stretching, done at home with no equipment needed.  Whenever possible, sneak away for 20-30 minutes for a brisk walk outdoors to burn extra calories and boost energy.
  • Conserve calories: There’s no need to go on a strict diet.  But, try to end the week without the sum total of calories ingested greatly exceeding the sum total of calories burned.  If you shave 100-200 calories from your normal consumption each day, before and after Thursday, you can “buy” a little extra nosh on turkey day.


  • Take a walk: If you’re not already signed up for a Turkey Trot race, plan to take a walk or jog in the morning before the festivities.  The fresh air will de-stress you, boost energy and you can count the calories you burn toward a down payment on dessert.  If you’re hosting, plan one later in the day.  If the weather is uncooperative and you don’t have access to indoor gym equipment, do an equipment-free strength workout  instead.
  • Limit calories outside of dinner: Do eat a modest breakfast.  Depending on the time of your dinner, have a small snack two to three hours before or after the main meal.  Fruits, vegetables, dairy and nuts are good because they’re filling without containing a lot of calories.  Consume the minimum amount to stave off hunger.  Drink plenty of water.
  • Dinner plan: Okay, so you’ve banked some extra calories through conservation and exercise earlier in the week, exercised this morning and kept calorie consumption to a minimum thus far today.  What can you eat?  And how much?  One Simple Rule: Eat what you like, avoid what you’re ambivalent about and keep portions small.
    • Nothing is mandatory (not even turkey) and nothing is off-limits (not even pecan pie).
    • Not crazy about pumpkin pie? Don’t bother, not worth it. Love pecan pie? Have a sliver, definitely worth it.
    • Can’t decide between bread stuffing and mashed potatoes? Instead of 1/2 cup of only one, have 1/4 cup each.
    • If you like everything, skip things that are readily available throughout the year – such as bread rolls or apple pie.
    • If most Thanksgiving fare isn’t your cup of tea, allow yourself modest portions of the few things you really enjoy.
    • Bottom Line: Know ahead of time what is and isn’t worth the calories to you and enjoy what you select in prudent portions.


Adult females, generally speaking, should average about 2000 calories per day (2500 for males), net of calories burned via exercise, to maintain their current weight.  Walking at a brisk pace burns approximately 220 calories per hour.

With that in mind, here are calorie estimates for typical Thanksgiving fare with suggested serving sizes (from Myfitnesspal):

50-100 Calories

  • Turkey Gravy: 1/2 cup, 50 cal
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts: 1/2 cup, 50 cal
  • Green Bean Casserole: 1/2 cup, 100 cal
  • Homemade Cranberry Relish & Canned Cranberry Jelly: 1/2 cup of either, 100 cal
  • Whipped Cream: 1 dollop, 100 cal
  • Light Beer: 12oz can or bottle, 60-110 cal
  • Champagne: 4 oz,, approx. 1 flute, 100 cal

100-150 Calories

  • Roasted Turkey Breast: 4oz (size of deck of cards), 150 cal
  • Mashed Potatoes: 1/2 cup, 150 cal
  • Bread Stuffing: 1/2 cup, 150 cal
  • Dinner Roll: 100 cal + 1/2 Tblsp Butter: 50 cal = 150 cal
  • Regular Beer: IPA, Some Lagers, Pilsner: 12oz can or bottle, 110-160 cal
  • White Wine: 5 oz, 120 cal
  • Red Wine: 5 oz, 130 cal

150-200 Calories

  • Meat Stuffing: 1/2 cup, 175 cal
  • Sweet Potato Casserole: 1/2 cup, 200 cal
  • Dark Beer: Red, Stout, Some Lagers, Ale: 12oz can or bottle, 160-200 calories

Over 200 Calories

  • Pumpkin Pie & Two-Crust Apple Pie: 1 avg slice of either, 250 cal
  • Pecan Pie: 1 avg slice, 500 cal

Peruse this list now when temptation and hunger aren’t influencing your decisions.  Don’t try to memorize calorie amounts.  Instead, use the list to compare items to one another, consider what you’ll select, how much of each and what you’ll skip.  Imagine what your dinner and dessert plates will look like.  Plan a buffer for unexpected items and appetizers.

If seconds are difficult to resist, imagine your entrée plate as two separate plates.  For example, if you’ve decided on a serving of turkey and four sides, take half a serving of turkey and two of the sides on the first round, and the rest of the turkey serving and the other two sides on the second round.

I believe too many people go into Thanksgiving with a vague all or nothing approach.  That this is the year they’ll substitute so-called good foods for so-called bad foods.  But, without a concrete, realistic plan, when they find themselves bombarded by abundance and surrounded by people with overloaded plates, they abandon any sense of control and overindulgence becomes the default.  Afterwards, they feel they’ve failed and allow the overindulgence to continue through January 1st.  What could be a reversible setback snowballs into a morale-crushing juggernaut.  It’s a vicious cycle.

You can break that cycle by taking control now with a game plan in place.  You can, and should, enjoy a meal made with love and be thankful without regrets.

~Have a happy, safe and delicious Thanksgiving!


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