Intuitive Eating, Weight loss advice

5 Tips to Avoid Gaining Weight on Thanksgiving (or any Holiday)

The holiday season is a mostly wonderful time… but between the fun of getting together with loved ones, having more free time, and being surrounded by holiday decor, there lurks the fear of seemingly inevitable weight gain.

I spent years and years being so afraid of weight gain, and so desperately planning my post-holiday diet, that it was hard to enjoy the holidays at all. Especially Thanksgiving, because the whole day is so focused on food. But now that I’ve learned how to escape that cycle, I want to share some tips to help you stop worrying about your weight this holiday season too, so you can focus on what’s important instead 🙂

1. Eat more (of some things).

Sounds counterintuitive, I know.

But the science is clear: some foods are more satiating than others. Studies have found that if you eat 250 calories of potatoes, for example, you’ll feel more than twice as full as you would from eating 250 calories of cheese1. And as a result, you also eat much less after eating potatoes than after eating cheese.

And you can take advantage of this fact to help you pace yourself during your holiday meals.

If you’re mindful about having a good helping of those satiating foods (think starches & veggies), it’ll balance out the high calorie density, low satiety foods (think meat, cheese, & desserts), and help prevent you from overeating.

So what exactly does that look like? Try having a dish as close as possible to a plant based whole food–maybe mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a veggie side, or even stuffing–that you eat first or that you serve yourself extra of, to give you that baseline of satiation before going for seconds (or thirds) on everything else.

Another strategy is to have some snacks or appetizers before the big meal. This can help by making sure you don’t go into dinner feeling ravenous and overstuffing yourself before your brain can catch up.

2. Don’t plan to diet beforehand or afterwards.

This is a big one. Almost everyone who has ever dieted plans to diet before and/or after the holidays. But it’s exactly that mindset that leads to overeating and weight gain in the first place.

In fact, studies show that people who are most successful at losing weight in general are the ones who gain the most weight during the holidays2.

Sounds crazy, right?

A few years ago I would have thought so too, but now it makes perfect sense.

First, we know that dieting leads to yo-yo weight gain and loss in the long term. So dieting before the holidays is the perfect way to set yourself up to go into binge mode during the holidays and gain all that weight back… and then some3.

Second, when you go into the holiday season expecting to gain weight, that’s exactly what happens. It’s a very easy self-fulfilling prophecy, because the expectations are all in your mind, and it’s your mind that causes you to overeat. (Your body never asks for that!) When you start eating, you probably have negative emotions about how much weight you’re going to gain. And we know that for people who diet, negative emotions lead to more overeating.

It’s a vicious cycle that leaves you miserable during the holidays, and heavier (and still miserable) afterwards.

So what should you do instead? Ditch the diets, and start eating intuitively instead. (Check out my guide for how to get started.) Your mind and waistline (and probably your loved ones too) will thank you.

My plate of leftovers last Thanksgiving!

3. Plan to make yourself more holiday foods afterwards.

Part of what makes us overeat at holiday meals is that the food is scarce. Maybe it’s even “forbidden” the rest of the year.

If you don’t eat that pecan pie today, you might not get to eat it again until next year.

But the reality is that the only reason holiday food is scarce or forbidden is if YOU decide that you aren’t allowed to have it at other times. And that makes it so much more alluring. After all, there’s a reason they say that the forbidden fruit is sweetest.

And, science shows that people who avoid eating certain foods for dieting purposes end up overeating them later3.

If you don’t allow yourself to have certain foods most of the year, you end up overeating them even more during the holiday season because you know you’ll be deprived of those foods again soon.

This is not your last chance for pecan pie, so you don’t need to eat it like it’s your last time having pecan pie.

So this tip is an easy one: just allow yourself to have your favorite foods. (This is a good anti-weight-gain tip in general, not just for the holidays!) Either make some of your holiday favorites before the season starts to test out some recipes, or schedule a day after the holidays to make or buy those holiday foods you always crave. (And, of course, save leftovers from the holiday meal itself!)

Or best of all, go all out with intuitive eating and just eat what you want when you want it. No scheduling necessary. That’s how I’ve lost weight and maintained it–it just works.

With this tip, you’ll go into your holiday meals knowing that the pecan pie really isn’t that rare–and if you know there’s more where that came from, you’ll feel much less of an urge to overeat it.

(Can you guess that I really love pecan pie? 😉 )

4. Treat it like any other meal.

Try changing your expectations going into your holiday meals. If you don’t treat them like a big daunting event where you’re expected to overeat, you’ll be less likely to overeat.

Like the last tip, this is also about reducing the scarcity of the food: the goal is to get rid of that feeling that the Thanksgiving food (or other holiday food) is a limited resource. Don’t treat the food like it’s the special part of the day. That’s not what makes a holiday a holiday.

It’s the loved ones, the focus on what you’re thankful for, or even just a day off from work that makes it a holiday.

If you want to create something special and rewarding in your day, in place of focusing on the meal, you could also try treating yourself to some self care: is there a book you’ve been wanting to read, a videogame you’ve been dying to play, or some bubble bath you’ve been wanting to try? Treat yourself or set aside some time for yourself during the day to make it feel special.

5. Shift your focus.

Changing your mindset is so powerful. Mindset makes us overeat in the first place, and mindset can be the reason we stop.

This holiday season, try shifting your focus. Instead of thinking about how food will affect you and your body, focus on who you’re sharing that food with. Focus on why you’re there eating a holiday meal in the first place.

And, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, try replacing guilt, shame, and fear with gratitude. Gratitude that you have food to eat, loved ones to eat it with, and a body that allows you to enjoy the holidays. Maybe your body doesn’t look exactly how you want it to (yet), but try to appreciate it for what it allows you to do.

After all, practicing gratitude has been shown again and again to make people happier4, and even to improve their body image5.


And with that, I wish you all a very happy holiday season. I hope that these tips can help you enjoy it even more. ❤

References

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Peter_Petocz/publication/15701207_A_Satiety_Index_of_common_foods/links/00b495189da413c16d000000/A-Satiety-Index-of-common-foods.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4137466/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16261600
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735810000450
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1740144517302991
Recipes

My Vegan Thanksgiving Feast Menu: 7 Dishes Omnivores will Love too

Last year, I had my first fully vegan Thanksgiving. Of course, I’ve eaten vegan at every Thanksgiving since I went vegan 5 years ago, but I’m used to having at most 1-3 things to eat at potluck friendsgivings… but this time, ALL of the food around me was vegan!

I had so much fun getting to make this giant feast for my fiancé and I, and it turned out amazingly. And I’ll be doing it again this year for him and my lovely (nonvegan) soon-to-be in-laws! So, I’m sharing the dishes I made, and plan to make again this year, to give you some Thanksgiving inspiration!

1. Cheesy scalloped potatoes

Everything was amazing, but these were the star of the show. Here’s the thing with most vegan scalloped potato recipes: they’re wonderfully healthy, full of nooch and cashews and whatnot, and take a bit of time to prep. Usually I’m all about that. But for this, we wanted something 1) easy and 2) super decadent and stuffed with storebought vegan cheese… because, y’know, Thanksgiving. So here’s a sneak preview of my recipe before I do a whole post on it:

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • ¼ cup vegan butter (we use Miyoko’s)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegan half & half
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups vegan cheese shreds, we used a mix with cheddar & white cheese
  • Paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F
  2. Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they’re starting to get tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Now make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the flour, whisking constantly for about 2 minutes, or until the flour turns golden brown. Stir in half & half and cook until thickened, stirring often, for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Slice the potatoes into 1/8 inch rounds–I recommend using a mandolin to get the slices even. Place 1/3 of the potatoes overlapping in a single layer in the baking dish, seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon about 1/3 of the cheese sauce on top of the potatoes.
  5. Repeat for two more layers. Pour all of the remaining cheese sauce over the top layer of potatoes. Spread to ensure all of the potatoes are covered.
  6. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded cheese and a dash of paprika for color.
  7. Bake in the 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly.
Bottom: stuffing; left: roast surrounded by the bacon brussels sprouts; right: sweet potato casserole; middle: cheesy scalloped potatoes; top: pumpkin pie blondies

2. Stuffing

Simple vegan stuffing recipe by the Minimalist Baker

This was a nice healthy counterpart to the rest of the feast. It was refreshing to load up on lentils, veggies and starches in between digging into the rich scalloped potatoes and roast. You can also do prep for this the day before by chopping up all the veggies. Or, you could even make the whole thing the day before–it was great leftover!

3. Sweet potato casserole

Classic sweet potato casserole recipe by My Darling Vegan

I ended up making my own version of this and will be posting my recipe before long–but you can’t go wrong with any recipe involving sweet potatoes topped with toasted, buttery pecans! You can make the sweet potatoes and topping the day before, then wait to combine them til the day of: just add the topping and pop it in the oven once you’re nearing dinner time!

4. Roast

You could make your own roast, but for the time to taste trade off, I would recommend going store bought for this. Our favorites are the Trader Joe’s vegan roast, and the Field Roast line of roasts. (Tip: we’ve tried all the roasts we’ve seen in stores, and really did not like Tofurkey’s roast unfortunately)

Breaded Turkey-less Stuffed Roast With Gravy - product in packaging

Image result for field roast roast

5. Brussels sprouts with bacon

This one’s an optional side–any of your favorite veggie sides would work. You could also roast these in the oven if you have space, but a major plus of this version is you can leave the oven free for the roast, stuffing, scalloped potatoes, & sweet potatoes!

  • 6 strips vegan bacon (I recommend Upton’s naturals for this recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook the bacon in a pan until it’s your desired level of crispiness/chewiness.
  2. Remove the bacon, and chop it once cool.
  3. Melt the butter in the pan, then add the onions and brussels sprouts, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts turn golden brown.
  4. Add the bacon back into the pan with the sprouts, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
We wanted to consolidate the plates so we surrounded the roast (Field Roast celebration roast) with the brussels sprouts!

6. Pumpkin Pie Blondies

Pumpkin pie blondie recipe from Allrecipes

In addition to being a fun but easy fall-themed dessert, these were great for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, too! (I made them the day before because they keep great.)

7. Bonus dessert: Pecan pie bars

If you’re a big pecan lover like me, you might prefer this simplified version of a more classic dessert: pecan pie! I know there are already pecans on the sweet potato casserole, but I believe there’s no such thing as too many pecans on Thanksgiving. 😉 I didn’t make them last year but I’m planning to this year–they’re always a big hit at potlucks.

For the crust:

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil

For the filling:

  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream (or coconut milk for a lighter version)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350, and line a 9″ pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the crust ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, and coconut oil) and stir until they combine into a dough. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is slightly firm to the touch.
  3. Now for the filling: stir the coconut oil, maple syrup, and sugar in a sauce pan until combined, then boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add in the coconut cream and the pecans.
  4. Pour the filling onto the crust and spread it evenly.
  5. Bake until the filling is bubbling and set (no longer runny), 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving, surrounded by those you love ❤

Recipes

Hearty Vegan Pumpkin Soup with Pepita Cream Recipe

Now that temperatures are just starting to dip below the 80s here in California, I’ve been getting excited for soup season. I’ve been particularly pining for pumpkin soup to meal prep for work, but noticed that all the recipes I’d found weren’t nearly hearty (read: starch filled) enough to get me through the day.

So, I came up with my own! I wanted to add as much starch, protein, and fiber as possible while staying true to pumpkin soup flavor & texture, so I decided to add my favorite secret soup ingredient: chickpeas. Not only do they pump up the nutrition, but they make the soup really creamy.

This experiment once again confirmed my conviction that chickpeas are magical, and can and should be added to just about everything. (Including oatmeal–it’s good, I swear!)

Oh, and I whipped up a cream to top the soup with that looks and tastes fancy, but is super easy.

Did I mention this recipe takes only takes 20 minutes to make, and a serving (1/3 of it, about ~400 cals) has 19 grams of fiber and 24 grams of protein?!

Serves 3

Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 – 15 oz cans pumpkin puree
  • 2 – 15oz cans chickpeas
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 big cloves garlic
  • 2 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk (preferably light canned coconut milk)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vegan chicken bouillon (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Topping ideas: cranberries, pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpeas

Directions:

  1. Sauté onions and garlic until onions are translucent.
  2. Combine all ingredients in blender, and blend until smooth.
  3. Heat the soup on the stove or microwave when ready to serve.
  4. Add toppings, and enjoy!

 

Pepita Cream Ingredients (optional):

  • 1/4c dry roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4c raw cashews
  • 1/2c water

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Add more water, 1 tbsp at a time, if desired for thinner consistency.

Bonus: it can also double as a creamy pumpkin pasta sauce.

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