The great Thanksgiving plate

How to plan your Thanksgiving day so you don't break your weekly Points Budget and undo your weight loss progress.
Published November 10, 2016

Few holidays are as food-focused as Thanksgiving. From the turkey to the buttered rolls to the creamy, cheesy sides, holiday temptation abounds. So your go-to event-prep tactics—like having a nutritious and energizing breakfast or chewing gum while cooking—might need a few reinforcements. A little advance planning (call it a "plate rehearsal"), a few Points value calculations, and tapping into your mindfulness mojo can be just what you need to feel more relaxed, in control and ready to enjoy all the day has to offer. (If you’re going by plane over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house, you can even stay on track while you travel with tips for healthier mid-air meals.)

The holiday eating game plan

You can print out and use our Great Plate to sketch out the foods you intend to eat, the serving size, and Points for each. Even if you don't stick to your "plate plan," the activity helps boost your awareness so you're more likely to make mindful choices. But setting a smart strategy for Thanksgiving is about more than listing the foods you plan to eat. How about adding a few of these simple maneuvers to your playbook?

1. Build a budget

Consider your Weekly Points and decide how you want to factor it into your Turkey Day budget. Don't forget to leave some flexibility for holiday favorites, like a piece of grandma’s irresistible pumpkin pie.

2. Choose wisely

Serve yourself veggies first (ones you like, of course!). Decide whether you really want that sweet potato casserole (or whether you’re just scooping up a serving out of habit). Or whether you'll have a serving of stuffing or mashed potatoes. (Or perhaps a half-serving of both?) If you're not hosting the meal, call whoever is to get a sneak peek at the menu. Volunteer to prep a plan-friendly dish for the feast; get some tasty ideas from our Thanksgiving recipe roundup.

3. Take an anchor along

If you're worried about wavering from your plan, take a small item (a picture, a goal written on a piece of paper, a Bravo star from your weekly meeting) you can keep in your pocket or place discreetly near your plate that will remind you of why you're making smart choices in the first place.

4. Don't be a pushover

You may be "encouraged" to try aunt Grace's famous stuffing or cousin Tom's cheese straws. If you've accounted for these foods (or you're fine with eating and tracking them), enjoy! But if you really don't want something, just picture yourself choosing foods that match your pre-planned plate and then politely and confidently refuse whatever you don't want. You can always ask to take a serving home to eat "when you're not so full." (What you do with it once you're home is your decision!)

5. Take a post-turkey trot

As soon as you're finished eating, excuse yourself from the table. The longer you linger, the more enticing those picked-over, half-empty platters and bowls will look. Invite guests for a stroll around the neighborhood. It'll offer you a nice opportunity to catch up with friends and family, and help you digest your meal.

6. Track, track, track

Pre-tracking is one of the best strategies to help you stay on course because it's easier to make healthy decisions when you're not staring at tempting food. If you can, pre-track all your meals for the day. Even if you end up eating more than you planned—track it! Accountability (not perfection) is key.

7. Liberate leftovers

If you're the host, you'll probably have leftovers. So, if you won't be able to sleep knowing that there's half a pie in the kitchen, freeze leftovers immediately or give your guests doggie bags to take home.

However you choose to tackle Turkey Day, keep in mind that it's just one day. Savor the moments with your friends and family. Take time to reflect on the things that really matter. And remember that tomorrow you'll wake up with a clean slate.