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How to Get Through Thanksgiving Without Gaining Weight

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According to the Calorie Control Council, Americans consume an average of 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day, with 3,000 calories coming from the main meal and an additional 1,500 being consumed in the form of appetizers and drinks. Combine this with several days’ worth of leftovers, and the Thanksgiving holiday can derail your diet plan.

Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to reduce your calorie intake and to stay on track with your diet and weight loss plan during the Turkey Day celebration. Read on to learn more.

Start the Day with Protein

Consume a high-protein breakfast on Thanksgiving morning to keep your appetite under control for the remainder of the day. In a 2013 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, overweight women had either a high protein breakfast, a low protein breakfast, or no breakfast for six days.  Those who ate breakfast felt fuller than those who had no breakfast, and this effect was greater among those who ate the high protein breakfast.  In addition, those who consumed the high protein breakfast decreased their amount of evening snacking.  Start your day with a breakfast of protein-rich eggs, and you might be more inclined to pass up a slice of pecan pie after Thanksgiving dinner.

Additional research has found high-protein meals to be diet-friendly.  In a 2010 study inNutrition Research, one group of participants received a high-protein egg breakfast, and another had a high-carbohydrate bagel breakfast.  Study results found that those who ate the egg breakfast consumed fewer calories during the 24-hour period following the meal.  Three hours after consuming the egg breakfast, subjects felt less hungry and more satisfied than did subjects who ate the bagel breakfast.

Embrace Fruits and Vegetables

Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables during Thanksgiving dinner, and you may find yourself consuming fewer calories.  Researchers for a 2009 edition of the journal Appetitefound that subjects who consumed an apple prior to lunch consumed 187 fewer calories during the meal than did those in a control group. Snack on an apple before heading to your in-law’s house for the Thanksgiving feast, or munch on one while waiting for the turkey to come out of the oven.  Apples are popular during the fall season, so chances are that your host will have some in stock.

Vegetables can also help with calorie control. An earlier study, included in a 1998 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, compared a group of people eating a low energy density meal to a group consuming a high energy density meal.  Both meals consisted of a pasta dish, but the low energy density meal contained a larger proportion of vegetables.  Study results showed that participants in the two groups ate equal weights of food, but those in the low energy density group consumed fewer calories overall because of the lower calorie content of the vegetables.  Serve yourself a reasonable portion of turkey, and fill the rest of your plate with Thanksgiving favorites such as corn, green beans, and carrots. 

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Make Time for an Intense Workout

You may associate the Thanksgiving holiday with several lazy days spent at home watching football, but taking the time to squeeze in a few workout sessions can help you to burn off hundreds of calories.  High-intensity interval training, in particular, may be especially effective if you want to burn off calories from your Thanksgiving meal.  A 2015 study inResearch Quarterly for Exercise & Sport found that compared to moderate-intensity exercise at a steady pace, high-intensity interval training increased metabolic rate both 12 hours and 21 hours after exercise.  High-intensity interval training also increased metabolic rate compared to baseline measurements 12 hours after the exercise. 

The good news about this type of workout is that it can promote fat burn even if you only exercise for a short period of time. In a 2015 study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, & Metabolism, subjects warmed up with a five-minute jog and then performed four 30-second treadmill sprints, resting for four minutes between each one.  During the 24 hours following the exercise, subjects experienced a 22 percent increase in calorie burn.  Increase your calorie burn with with your own interval workout on Thanksgiving Day. After warming up, run as fast as you can for one minute, and then recover with a two-minute walk or jog. Perform this cycle a total of five times, and you will blast away calories in just 15 minutes, leaving you with plenty of time to enjoy the holiday with your family.

If you commit to exercising a few times during your Thanksgiving holiday, you can compensate for some of the extra calories you consume with your turkey dinner.  Control your calorie consumption by filling up with protein, fruits, and vegetables, and you can get through this Thanksgiving without increasing your waist size.

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