A Foodie’s Guide to Holiday Eating

By Michelle May, M.D.

What How I Eat on Thanksgiving

Because I write and speak about fearless and mindful eating, people often ask what I eat. I usually just say I’m a foodie-I eat what I love and love what I eat.

I’m not trying to be evasive but balanced eating isn’t just about what you eat. It’s about how you think about what you eat. Since the holidays can be a challenge, I decided to finally answer the question, “What do you eat?” by sharing my typical Thanksgiving.

48 hours in the life of one foodie

The day before Thanksgiving, I eat my usual breakfast: a yogurt parfait made with homemade granola and fresh fruit, and black coffee. I’ll go to my favorite yoga class in the morning and when I get hungry again, make something yummy and satisfying like a Panini or a Southwestern salad (greens, black beans, shredded cheese, salsa, and a few tortilla chips crumbled over the top). I might have walnuts and dried cherries for an afternoon snack; not only are walnuts are a good source of omega 3’s, they remind me of holiday baking with my grandmother.

We’ll pick up vegetarian and pepperoni pizzas for Wednesday’s dinner because it’s easy and we love them. I usually have three slices of the vegetarian. For pizza, I’m willing to feel a little full when I’m done-a “6” on the Hunger and Fullness Scale for those who’ve read any of my Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat books-but not stuffed.

Our family tradition is to go hiking near our home on Thanksgiving morning. November is beautiful in Phoenix and we have the largest urban trail system in the country. When we get home, we’ll eat a late breakfast that won’t mess up the kitchen-for me, probably yogurt and granola again but no fruit, knowing what’s coming.

The first of the two Thanksgiving dinners we attend is around 2:00. By the time we arrive, I’ll be hungry (a “3”). Although there will be a lovely veggie tray out, I’ll skip it to avoid filling up before the main event. I keep myself busy setting up the buffet which also gives me a chance to check out all the options. We have a big family and everyone brings their specialties so I get to be very choosy about what I’ll eat.

thanksgiving gourmet dinnerBy the time everything is ready and we’ve given thanks, I’ll be around a “2.” I prefer to eat with the intention of feeling better when I’m done than I did when I started. I’ll aim for a “6” or “7” since we have another house to hit in a few hours. I set myself up near the end of the line. It gives me a chance to chat with people that I don’t often see. By the time it’s finally my turn to serve myself, I’ll know exactly what I want to try.

I skip the roll and butter, the fruit salad, and the relish tray since I can have those any time. There are two different kinds of stuffing so I try some of each to decide which I prefer. I take a little turkey but pass up the cranberry sauce if it’s shaped like a can. I zero in on the green bean casserole and mashed potatoes and gravy, two of my favorites.

Since I usually end up with more than I intended, I eat mindfully-slowly and attentively. I’ll leave what I don’t love and have seconds of what I do. I might sample just a bite of my husband’s pie; even though I’m full, I still feel good-and I don’t want to spend the afternoon sprawled out on the couch complaining! By the time we get to the next house a couple of hours later, they’re ready for dessert-and I will be too.

That does it for me on Thursday. Friday will be back to normal-except that I get to have leftovers for lunch!

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