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How To Create More Balance This Thanksgiving

By Sara McGlothlin

I once got asked if there was something I eat or drink on the day of Thanksgiving to balance my blood sugar, improve my digestion, increase my energy, and otherwise prep for the big feast. My first thought was that I don’t do things that differently on Thanksgiving, and then I realized that mindset might put me in the minority. I tend to treat the holiday like any other day (for the most part) and create an 80/20 plate like I would any other dinner. True, there may be some aspects of the event that make it special, such as the friends and family with which I am gathering, or the types of side dishes and desserts I only enjoy once a year, but overall, I still like to maintain my morning routine, move my body in some way shape or form, and look through the lens of nutrition and health when I sit down to eat.

There was a time when I didn’t think this way. Thanksgiving was all about the food, or rather the food anxiety around whether I would eat too much, drink too much, and go to bed with regret (and a stomach ache!). The holidays in general felt like being caught in a cycle, swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other. As I started to learn more about the nutritional science of blood sugar management, develop a mindfulness practice, and view health from a more positive and loving place, things finally shifted and clicked into place. Sure, the holidays can be stressful, but I no longer felt the physical stress I had put on myself for years when I was stuck in a yo-yo dieting mentality. When it comes to Thanksgiving specifically, my morning routine, movement, meals, and mindset create a foundation for feeling my best self.

Morning Routine

My family doesn’t eat our Thanksgiving meal until the early evening, so I try to maintain my morning routine like I would any other day. After waking up, I will do a short meditation (about 10 minutes) before making my bulletproof coffee. These two things alone calm my nervous system and balance my blood sugar. I will then journal, free writing whatever comes to mind. While I normally practice gratitude by writing down at least three things I am grateful for, on Thanksgiving, I try to pay special attention to appreciation. I will also read something uplifting to put myself in a positive state of mind.

Movement

Moving my body is important to me every day, but especially on Thanksgiving. This isn’t about punishment or creating a calorie deficit. It is more about moving any anxious energy around and out. I will be honest – the holidays in general can be a challenging time, so movement helps my mental health as well as my physical health. It makes me feel more grounded so I can show up as my happiest self.

Meals

On Thanksgiving, I still find myself eating three meals, even if lunch is a little lighter than normal. Breakfast, or what I eat first, is most important for blood sugar balance, so I focus on healthy fat and protein in the form of an Empower Bar and a green smoothie, or a protein smoothie bowl topped with Granola Clusters. Smoothies/smoothie bowls provide the opportunity to add in nutrition with leafy greens and superfoods. If you like eggs in the morning, making a veggie omelette with avocado would also be a good choice! Lunch may be a salad with some protein (like chicken or fish), a grain-free wrap with homemade chicken salad, or some veggies and hummus or guacamole to tide me over until the main meal. If I didn’t have an Empower Bar for breakfast, having one with yogurt or cottage cheese is a great option.

I do not advise undereating in order to “save up” for your Thanksgiving meal, especially if you don’t eat until later. Not only does this increase the likelihood that you over-indulge to the point of discomfort, but it will wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Even if you are eating less in the beginning of the day, try to at least have some protein and healthy fat first. Staying hydrated throughout the day is also important, especially if you plan to drink alcohol with dinner.

When it comes to the Thanksgiving meal itself, I fill my plate with turkey (protein), salad (leafy greens) and veggie-heavy sides. I will enjoy smaller portions of the less nutritious fare like stuffing and casseroles to get a taste, but these dishes are not the star of the show. I eat to satiety and don’t go back for seconds to avoid feeling overly full. Plus, I love Thanksgiving desserts! I am able to enjoy a slice of pie without any guilt.  

Mindset

Your mindset creates your foundation for how you want to feel, both on, and at the end of, the day. If what you have done in years past works for you, keep doing it! Many people give themselves permission to treat this day like a well, treat. I like feeling energized and healthy, even on Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season, so I carry that mindset with me throughout the day. It helps guide my choices in a conscious way. I “play the whole tape;” in other words, I utilize forward-thinking as a tool to how I want to feel in the near future. As humans, we can choose something that will offer instant gratification but may not serve us in the end.

Another great mindset shift is having confidence in the fact that you have more control than you think you do. You have control over your behavior, choices, habits, thoughts, and perceptions. All of these things combine to create your reality. While you may not have control over exactly what is served, you have control over the food that you contribute, or what is at the end of your fork. While you may not have control over what a relative says to you, you do have control over your reaction, or whether you respond with anger or compassion. Sometimes this is all easier said than done, but awareness is key.

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