How to Keep Your Hand Out of the Thanksgiving Cookie Jar

If you're like me, and probably most other humans on the planet, you like to eat during the Thanksgiving holidays. It's the one time of year that we encourage binge eating, sitting around in our fat pants, sleeping off the turkey dinner you had, watching football.  Forget the history behind Thanksgiving - we have made it all about the food!

But, that presents its own challenges.  When I was growing up in Illinois, we had our homemade family recipes, all farm-rich butter and fat-laden, I'm sure. But, what about now? You're an adult and you can make your own decisions now! And maybe (just maybe!) you're absolutely disgusted by your childhood memories of whole sticks of butter melting in the green beans. 

So how does one avoid all of this temptation?  Let's focus on what you CAN do to avoid the nonstop eating leading up to Thanksgiving!  

Make a meal plan and STICK to the grocery list.

We've got little over a week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, but it's prime meal-planning time!  As you start to write your grocery list to stock up on the holiday must-haves, consider what you already have in your pantry. Now, no one is asking you to treat Thanksgiving like an episode of Chopped (although, it could be fun!), but consider creating unique recipes with staples that you already have.  Not only does it help to cut down on the cost of groceries, but it means that you're not buying unnecessary supplies! 

You know what else makes grocery shopping impossible? Hunger!  Don't go to the grocery store hungry.  I've done it a thousand times; you've done it. You come home after a trip to the grocery store wondering why on earth you ever thought you needed chocolate-covered espresso beans.  You were hungry and it seemed like a good idea at the time, right? Definitely not!  More often than not, the items that found their way into your cart were junk-food, sugar-loaded, nonsense items that you didn't need.  Cut it out.  Make a list, stick to the list!

Another great and easy way to stick to your list is to use an app called Ibotta.  If you haven't used it already, it gives cash back (through Venmo or Paypal!) for uploading your grocery store receipts when you finish shopping!  There's a lot of great cash back offers on Thanksgiving staples right now (green beans and cream of mushroom soup, anyone?) and it's a great way to add a little extra cash in your pockets around the holiday season! Plus, Ibotta gives cash back on a variety of online shopping retailers, too (Amazon grocery, yesss!).  I'm kind of a nerd when it comes to saving money in random places, so give it a shot!  

Here's my code for a free $10 welcome bonus if you sign up for Ibotta! 

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Consider healthy (and hidden!) food swaps

I get it. No one wants to be that weird aunt that brings that weird dish to Thanksgiving (that's a post for another day!).  You know what I mean. The weird dish that everyone tastes just to be polite, but definitely scraped into the trash or fed to the dog when no one was looking.  Or even worse, don't be that person that brings the paleo pumpkin pie that sits forlornly in the corner because everyone knows you made it from some exotic nut butter powder fluff.  

Don't get me wrong. I am absolutely that person when it comes to cooking healthy recipes! I'm always game to try something new and  I'm definitely not afraid to experiment with healthier options. That being said, they aren't all good.

But, I have worked with some "hidden" swaps. Most of the fat and added calories in many recipes come from the higher sugar, butter, and oil content! One of my favorite sneaky swaps is using applesauce in lieu of sugar. Of course, simply choosing a lighter option for milk (2% vs whole milk) or yogurt (0% or 2% instead of full-fat!) can help reduce the caloric impact on your waistline!

But when in doubt, this handy chart from Svelte provides some good ideas for swapping!

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Avoid grazing while cooking. 

Just absolutely cannot modify grandma's favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? You don't have to.  But that means that the calories that you do ingest while making them still count. Be mindful in your cooking; don't simply use this as an excuse to mindlessly eat. Any good chef will tell you that you need to taste as you go for quality control.  But any good drug dealer will tell you not to get high on your own supply.  See what I mean? 

If you're going to eat the cookie - save it for dessert. 

The same caveat goes for making food earlier in the week. If you like to make everything ahead of time, make sure that you're sealing it from yourself and prevent the "just one bite" disappearing theory. Place it in a serving dish, seal it with saran wrap and walk away! No one wants to see you fork marks as you pull it out to place it on the table. 

Traveling? Bring a snack! 

Doing little to no cooking this week? That's fine!  But that probably means that you're traveling. Help prevent the endless airport food trap by making yourself a snack for the airport.  Turn down the airline peanuts and pull a KIND bar or piece of fruit from your bag.  I like to travel with a peanut butter and honey sandwich (easy and portable!) for long plane rides. Whatever works for you, but find something with a bit of fiber and protein -- it will help hold you over for those cravings!

And perhaps, most importantly:

Give yourself some grace

Over-restriction does not work.  If you constantly berate yourself over what you are (or are not eating!), you develop a negative association with food.  Negative associations and feelings towards food can be more dangerous than the occasional slip-up.  Thanksgiving comes once a year, and although it might seem like this one day is going to derail any and all nutritional goals that you have for yourself, remember that it is just that: one day, in a span of 365 yearly ones, in a span of a lifetime.  This one day is a drop in the pool that is your life.  

You don't have to run a thousand miles to "earn" dessert at the table.  You also don't have to hide from the dessert table.  Keep your portions within a reasonable size. Accept that today you might be a bit less than perfect, take the time to enjoy what you are eating, and go back to your routine the following day.  

Love your food but love your body, too.

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