A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

Tips for Managing Holiday Temptations

Thanksgiving is almost here, and many of us are looking forward to gathering with family and friends—and of course, eating the delicious food. But, for those trying to practice a healthy lifestyle, this time of year can be filled with challenges. So, what can we do to enjoy all the holiday has to offer, while still maintaining or even beginning a regime that will allow our bodies to function at their best?

Dr. Carrie Bordinko, Chef Chris Lenza, and Performance Nutritionist Sherry Ward from Benessair Health ( are here to give us some great tips on having a healthy and happy holiday.

“Maintaining a healthy body composition is really important because body composition is tied to many chronic illnesses,” says Dr. Bordinko, who founded Benessair to provide clients with the best programs for overall health, weight management, and athletic performance.

Planning your meals

To best prepare for the upcoming season and the hurdles that may await, Dr. Bordinko finds planning ahead critical.

“If you think forward about how you’re going to make choices throughout the season, you will survive with flying colors,” she says. “For many of us, it comes down to meal planning, and that’s where Chef Lenza comes in. He is able to help people understand the balance between different macronutrients and having healthy, holiday-type foods that still stay within those macronutrients and those calorie restrictions that we all need to be consciously aware of.”

Says Chef Lenza, “Challenge yourself to shop at the farmer’s market. You’re going to find seasonal foods there that are going to be nutritious and taste really good for your holiday events. For something as simple as pumpkin pie, buy an actual whole fresh pumpkin and roast it yourself. This way, you’ll have control over the ingredients in that pie as opposed to one that you purchase.”

He also recommends using healthier fats such as olive oil, and incorporating avocados and healthier nuts and seeds into your diet.

“Also, transitioning from processed flours to using ancient grains can really be beautiful on your holiday table.”

In addition, he advises using more whole foods and being cognizant of your portion sizes.

Dr. Bordinko agrees.

“Fillers are being used in our mass production processes, and what most people will notice when they transition to whole food cooking is that they get fuller with less calories,” she says. “For those who have a little bit more control issues, I tell them to put only protein on their plate first. After they finish the protein, they can then start looking at the other food sources like fats and carbohydrates. Two things will occur—first, they fill up on the good food source, and second, after about 20 minutes, the brain sends chemicals out to their body that tells them they’re kind of full, so they’re going to naturally consume smaller portions of those less healthy foods.”

Incorporating fitness

“Leading up to the holidays, if you’ve already established a fitness program, continue to work on that,” says Ward. “Oftentimes those new to fitness go all-in prior to the holidays, then resume for only a few days afterwards. The important takeaway is making it a lifestyle habit so that way you can always prepare and be ready for those life events or seasons.”

During the holidays, most of us are going to be spending a lot of time with family, so Dr. Bordinko suggests developing ways that everyone can play together and burn calories together.

“Here in the Southwest, we have beautiful weather in November. The heat is gone, and you can get outside and do some of the good old-fashioned things that many of us grew up doing, like playing ball and throwing a frisbee.”

You’ll be burning a large number of calories and you won’t even realize it because you’ll be having fun and laughing, which, she says, is not only physiologically beneficial, but also very uplifting.

“We definitely know through medicine and exercise science that the more somebody completes physical activities in some capacity, the more their body will actually crave healthier foods,” says Dr. Bordinko. “It’s amazing how much your body will tell you if you just take the time to listen.”

Preparing yourself mentally

“You should tell yourself that there is no reason to consume absolutely everything on the table,” says Chef Lenza. “But, if you want to have some of everything on the table, take a small portion of each.”

Adds Ward, “I think we have our priorities backwards when it comes to food and family. Our main takeaway should be realizing who’s around the table and not what is on the table. It’s the one day where you actually have time to spend with your loved ones, and we should focus on that.”

“Many of us want that well-rounded, Normal Rockwell picture of our plate with the turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, and stuffing, and if you can break away from that habit, you can do really well on maintaining calorie control during those holiday meals,” says Dr. Bordinko.

“We have to look at the bigger picture and not just this season,” adds Ward. “There are ebbs and flows throughout the year and there’s always going to be a holiday, a birthday, or a wedding, so we have to prepare and plan for those events in our lives.”

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