If you’re worried about all the extra calories you’ll likely consume on Thanksgiving, nutritionist Roberta Anding says don’t stress about it. She thinks Thanksgiving Day should be crowned America’s national “Cheat Day.”

Her advice: Indulge and enjoy, but consider staying away from the leftovers.

“Holidays are supposed to be enjoyed with food and family. It is part of every single culture worldwide,” she says. “I don’t think you should be counting calories on Thanksgiving. You shouldn’t be thinking, ‘That’s 250 calories.’ Enjoy it. It is one day and then it is done.”

pumpkin pie

‘You can’t gain five pounds in one day’

Anding says the average Thanksgiving dinner is around 2,000 calories, but it’s not that one holiday meal that is making nearly three-fourths of Americans overweight or obese.

“You can’t gain five pounds in one day,” says Anding, a lecturer in kinesiology at Rice University and dietitian and sports nutritionist for the Houston Astros baseball club. “It defies the law of calories in, calories out.

“I don’t think you should be counting calories on Thanksgiving. … Enjoy it. It is one day and then it is done.”

“I don’t think one day blows you out of the water, as long as it’s that singular meal and it’s not the leftovers and the pies the next day and the pies the day after that. I think it’s the leftovers that often get people,” adds Anding.

“If you just do the math … if that was your only day that you did that, in reality you can make adjustments for that, and you can compensate for that over the next week or two to keep yourself weight-neutral. And that to me is oftentimes the goal during the holidays.

“The American way is ‘more is better,’ and that’s what I thinks hurts people in the long run,” Anding says. “A day becomes a week, and that becomes more difficult to undo.”

This is “food season”—the time of year when tempting treats abound, so it can become very difficult to make it a singular event, she said.

“Enjoy the holiday, eat what you want that day, but the next day go right back on your regular plan.”

Anding says that people often feel obligated to eat everything, even if they don’t like it. “I like pumpkin pie, but I don’t love it. So I’m not going to eat pumpkin pie just because it’s there. I’m going to eat apple pie, which I really do love. To me, it’s choosing what you love; don’t choose everything. If my favorite thing on Thanksgiving is stuffing and I don’t care about dinner rolls, then I’ll enjoy the stuffing.”

How about a post-turkey day walk to burn off some of the calories?

“A walk around the block after a 2,000-calorie meal isn’t going to do a lot in terms of calorie burning,” she says. “Exercise is good for so many reasons besides just calorie burning. Consider it part of your holiday stress-reduction plan and a good excuse to get away from the tempting leftovers.”


This text is published here under a Creative Commons License.
Author: David Ruth-Rice University
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