It happens every Thanksgiving: You gorge yourself on turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing and sweet potatoes and green beans and some type of casserole you're not really sure you like but it's mixed in with the gravy so you'll eat it anyway ...
Before you know it, the button on your pants has literally popped open, which is totally fine, because you'll be cozier for your nap, as long as you can keep your head off the table long enough to make it to a couch or a bed. But do you really want to be this sleepy immediately following the best meal of the year? Probably not. Do it right this Thanksgiving and avoid a food coma with these tips from the pros.
Start with samples
Try before you buy. Taste a little bit of everything that looks good to you and decide what you actually want for seconds, if you're still hungry. If you're trying to cut back, this is also a good way to still feel indulgent without totally depriving yourself on the rich dishes and still getting a few bites of all the good stuff.
Eat off a small plate
"Instead of using a dinner plate, go for the smaller dessert plates," Melissa Burchill, RD, of Zone Manhattan said in an email. "You won't be able to fit as much food on these. This will help you portion your meal, which will reduce the risk of overeating." Sure, your family may make fun of you for option for the tiny dish-ware, but who will be really laughing when they're all in a food coma later and you're in charge of the TV clicker.
For some, the goal of Thanksgiving may be to eat as much food as possible, but you may want to rethink that priority. "Eating too fast can actually lead to over eating," Burchill said. "If you plan on taking second, and third, servings, make sure to serve small portions. Also, slow down and take breaths between each bite."
Have a game plan
Don't starve yourself 'til dinner! According to registered dietitian Samantha Cassetty, eating a light meal a couple of hours before the feast, can help keep your appetite in check. "A light meal could be a salad with tuna or chicken, a bowl of lentil soup, or Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts. The idea is to think of your willpower as a muscle that needs to be fueled properly," she said in an email. "Next is to have a meal strategy. One that works well is to pile your plate with veggies and turkey but stick with one over-the-top side dish. That means making a choice between the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, the mac and cheese, the corn pudding, etc. If you can't live without a taste of each, truly make it a small spoonful — such as the size used to eat ice cream instead of the size used for serving. Use the same method for dessert, too. It's okay to have a small piece of pie but you want to avoid the pie sampler platter. For extra credit, take a walk after your meal."
Fill up on healthy foods first
"Try to go for the healthier options available first, like salad, turkey without the side of mashed potatoes, etc." Burchill said. "If you fill up on healthy foods, there will be no room left for the bad stuff." This may work for some, but those of us with ever-expanding stomachs may want to try another tactic.
Never arrive hungry
Even if your plan didn't work out early in the day, there's still time! "Have a healthy high protein-and-fiber snack to avoid arriving at your family or friend's home in starvation mode," Erin Clifford, a Chicago-based holistic wellness coach said in an email. She suggested eating a handful of nuts, string cheese or a hardboiled egg and fruit before your meal starts. If you're hosting, it's even easier to sneak in some lean protein before the meal officially starts!
Keep a plate design in mind
"Fill half of your plate with vegetables and healthy salad, then fill a quarter with white turkey meat, or a vegetarian option like beans, and a quarter with your favorite holiday dish," Clifford recommended.
Note your alcohol intake
Holidays are celebratory — or stressful — either of which can mean you're drinking more than usual! Not only does drinking add on calories, carbs and sugars to your meal, but "once you have a few cocktails your inhibitions go right out the window, which makes you less likely to monitor your eating and may even result in a late night binge," Clifford said. Drunk eaters, take note, this may not be your night to be downing the pumpkin beers. Plus, don't you want to remember all those good tastes?
Don't succumb to peer pressure
If grandma is trying to get you to gorge on another plateful of food, you don't have to listen and eat more just because she's cheering you on. Be polite, be mindful, maybe slip an extra slice of turkey to the family dog if it will make everyone happier.
Try not to combine milk and salt
"One main reason people feel so ill after Thanksgiving Dinner is because a lot of these old school recipes call for milk or cream and salt," Britt Barrett, health coach and founder of Daily Ayurveda said in an email. "This is a food combination that does not fair well in the body." Not combining milk and salt is a common rule of Ayurvedic medicine, a 3,000-year-old Eastern wellness system that promotes healthy diet and lifestyle. Worth a try!
Sip hot water or ginger tea after your meal
"This will help warm up your digestive fire and get things moving," Barrett said. Ginger is proven to help aid digestion and treat upset stomachs. Sipping peppermint tea may also help sooth your upset stomach, if you did, in fact, eat too much.