Post–Turkey Day Game Plan

Food and exercise strategies PLUS what to do with all those leftovers!

In my 15 years of counseling clients on weight loss, I have learned lots about what really causes people to gain weight. And guess what? A turkey-day feast isn't what typically causes the weight gain; it's the entire Thanksgiving weekend that often packs on a few stubborn pounds. Here's how to enjoy your turkey, stuffing and apple pie without seeing the numbers on the scale go up.


Thursday: The big meal

While I wouldn't want you to gorge yourself on Thanksgiving Day, you can have a healthy serving of turkey, all the sides and a moderate helping of dessert without it resulting in lasting weight gain. Yes, the scale is bound to go up the next morning (I suggest not looking at the scale the morning after!), but if you get right back on the wagon on Friday morning, you can easily get back to your pre-Thanksgiving weight by Monday morning.


Thursday after the meal

Food game plan: Do not accept offers to take home high-calorie, high-fat leftovers from your host. Alternately, if you're the host, try to send the dessert and high-calorie side dishes home with your guests! You can definitely hold on to the turkey and other low-calorie dishes, such as steamed vegetables, as they will help you to eat healthy all weekend long. If you find that you're still left with many tempting desserts, throw them in the freezer to use during the holiday season.

Exercise game plan: Take a stroll after your holiday feast, if possible. This will aid digestion and get you out of the kitchen, away from the food and back in touch with your body. A 20-30 minute walk is all you need, and it's a refreshing way to visit with family, without the soundtrack of football games.


Black Friday

Food game plan: Friday morning is the critical point in getting yourself out of the "holiday," anything-goes mode and back into your healthy eating and exercise routine. As soon as you wake up, make yourself a healthy, protein-rich breakfast meal. It might be tempting to skip this meal if you're feeling guilty from the feast the night before, but push yourself to eat a solid breakfast. This will set you up for a healthy day of eating and will prevent any sugar cravings that you may get as a result of eating a big dessert or drinking wine the night before. (Yes, both dessert and wine can result in a "sugar hangover," which can cause cravings for sweets all day long. Both protein and water help combat these cravings.)

For those of you who insist on shopping today (like my husband!), be sure to pack a nutritionally sound lunch — perhaps a turkey sandwich? Or, opt for a healthy choice from the food court — look for a grilled chicken salad or a slice of pizza with vegetable toppings paired with a side salad. You also could opt for a low-calorie pick-me-up coffee beverage, like a skim-milk latte or cappuccino.  

Exercise game plan: "Sweat it out" and challenge yourself to an intense workout. If you have the day off from work, even more of a reason to schedule a solid exercise session. Because it's very easy to be "lazy" on this day, schedule a workout with a family member or friend, just to make sure that you "just do it."



Food game plan: By now you're ready to face the leftover turkey, so this would be a good day to make a healthy turkey soup. Research has shown that soups, because of their large volume-to-calorie ratio, may aid in weight loss. So tonight for dinner, how about trying the soup recipe below? (If you don't have any leftover turkey, you can use pre-cooked chicken.) Serve this delicious soup with a crusty whole-grain roll and salad for a tasty, healthy meal.

Turkey Vegetable Soup

Turkey Vegetable SoupIngredients:

  • 6 cups of reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup of mushrooms, cleaned and halved
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in half
  • 2-4 cups of leftover turkey meat
  • 1 cup of frozen corn niblets, thawed
  • 1 cup of frozen peas, thawed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients except for the corn and peas into a large soup pot. Simmer on low heat for about 1 hour. Remove from heat and discard the celery, dill and onion from the soup. Stir in the turkey, peas and corn, and season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6-8 servings; nutrition information per 1½-cup serving:

196 calories
19 grams protein
19 grams carbohydrate
5 grams fat
4.5 grams fiber

Exercise game plan: If you did your big intense workout yesterday, you could take today off, or do some mall walking while you get a head start on your holiday shopping (just remember, no snacking on mall food — especially those warm pretzels, which always tempt me!).



Food game plan: Today, shop for a week's worth of healthy foods. And, if you can bear it, do some cooking and meal preparation for the week ahead. Buy lots of fresh vegetables, and make a huge salad when you get home, enough to last 3-4 days. You could also bake a few chicken breasts for lunches and dinners. Healthy food shopping and healthy cooking can help motivate you to stay true to your nutrition plan. (I find that cooking actually controls my appetite — anyone else notice that?)

Exercise game plan: Because the workweek will be back in full swing tomorrow, this is another good day to schedule a high-intensity workout. There's nothing like a good workout to keep your motivation going!


Come tell us how you're doing!

Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect time to discuss your food challenges, so find us on Facebook and let us know what you splurged on and what you shunned. We'll all be going through the same thing, and I know that it helps to have the support of a community behind you.

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