I’m a big believer that Thanksgiving is not a day to diet. Once a year, you get to gather ’round the table with family and friends, count your blessings and eat delicious holiday dishes to your heart’s content. (Find Healthier Takes for Your Favorite Classic Thanksgiving Recipes That Will Save You 1,273 Calories—and You'll Never Taste the Difference.)
I’m not saying you should go nuts and have three servings of turkey, four different types of potatoes and two slices of pie with double the whipped cream. But I do think that you should definitely go ahead and eat a little of everything you like.
That said, as someone who has a master’s degree in nutrition with a focus in weight management, I know that, when it comes to eating, you must keep the holiday behaviors to the actual holidays. It’s a slippery slope, my friends. In my book, the menu on “Black Friday” does not look like the one on Thanksgiving Thursday (only made in the microwave instead). Let other people eat the leftover mashed potatoes and gravy, the stuffing and the candied sweet potatoes, while you try my “1,500-Calorie Day-After-Thanksgiving Detox Plan,” which I will share, happily, with you. (Photos: What Does a 1,500-Calorie Day Look Like?)
For breakfast, shoot for 300 to 350 calories.
For me, this means having a piece of leftover pumpkin pie and a cup of coffee with plenty of nonfat milk. (Why? Pumpkin pie is one of my favorite treats and if I don’t have it for breakfast, I’m going to eat it later, adding an extra 300 calories to my day.) Plus, pumpkin pie isn’t the worst thing in the world to eat: it has a little bit of fiber and more than 100% of your recommended daily value for vitamin A. But if you think having another piece of pie will launch you into full-blown holiday-eating mode, opt for something more ordinary, like an English muffin with some peanut butter and an orange or a bowl of oatmeal with raisins. The key is to start your day feeling satisfied.
At lunchtime, shoot for 325 to 400 calories.
Make yourself a big green salad and top it with leftover turkey and maybe even some green beans and whatever is remaining of the veggie platter. Toss with a few tablespoons of a lower-calorie dressing and have a small whole-grain roll.
Are you out battling the crowds at the mall? Treat yourself to a low-cal lunch at the food court. Here are some of the better choices.
A filling salad: Try Au Bon Pain’s Mediterranean Chicken Salad (290 calories, 16 g fat) with light olive oil vinaigrette (110 calories, 10 g fat) or Panera’s Asian Sesame Chicken Salad (400 calories, 20 g fat). If chicken feels a little too much like turkey, go for Moe’s Close Talker Salad (skip the shell and opt for no meat) with black beans, veggies, cucumbers and a Southwest vinaigrette (360 calories, 21 g fat).
Soup: Try Au Bon Pain’s large (16 oz.) Black Bean Soup (340 calories, 2 g fat) or Chicken and Vegetable Stew (390 calories, 23 g fat).
A chicken sandwich: Try Subway’s 6-inch Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich (320 calories, 4.5 g fat), Arby’s Roast Chicken Sandwich (400 calories, 16 g fat) or Wendy’s Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich with honey mustard (370 calories, 7 g fat).
A turkey sub: Try Blimpie’s 6-inch Turkey Sub, no cheese or sauce (320 calories, 3.5 g fat) or Quizno’s Pesto Turkey Toasty Bullet (345 calories, 13.5 g fat).
For dinner, stick with 500 calories.
Enjoy that leftover turkey in Crispy Turkey Tostadas (397 calories; 15 g fat)—which leaves room for a half cup of black beans or a glass of wine on the side. Or how about a bowl of Cream of Turkey & Wild Rice Soup (354 calories, 9 g fat); have it alongside a green salad with some low-fat vinaigrette and you've got yourself a meal.
Now...even if you ate the highest-calorie options for each meal, that still leaves you with about 250 calories to spend on snacks. Choose wisely: an ounce of almonds (170), an apple (about 100), some air-popped popcorn (100 calories for about 3 cups, no butter)—or if you’ve saved enough up and didn’t already eat it for breakfast, go ahead and have that slice of pumpkin pie!
What are your strategies for recovering from overindulging on Thanksgiving Day?
By Nicci Micco
Nicci Micco is editor-at-large for EatingWell and co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners. She has a master's degree in nutrition and food sciences, with a focus in weight management.
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