Is Your Thanksgiving Buffet too Complex?

Most people overeat at Thanksgiving, it’s a matter of fact. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the average “Turkey Day” plate is 3,000 calories. That’s not counting “seconds” or any snacks people have before the big meal. One way to cut back on the calorie damage is to make healthier versions of your favorites. (Do you really need four sticks of butter in that stuffing?) One of my personal faves is making an apple pie with 1/2 cup of fresh cranberries and instead of a high fat top crust, use thinly sliced apples that get crispy with baking.thanksgiving dinner

But could there be something else going on that has nothing to do with how the food is prepared or the portion size you choose? Heck yeah. Is your diet diva going to tell you? Absolutely.

It’s called food “complexity” and “taste satiety.” Basically, you overeat at Thanksgiving because you are eating mindlessly. You’re not taking the time to intentionally slow down, serve yourself a small amount of food, and enjoy and savor each bite. If you did this, you’d get full well before you hit the 1,500 calorie mark, maybe even before hitting 1,000 calories.

When you have too many choices of foods, it’s hard for your taste buds to feel “satisfied.” They are unpacking all the tastes and flavors of the stuffing and then here comes a bite of potatoes and while they’re working on that they got a hit of turkey and cranberries. So as you pack on the calories the “taste satiety” signals stay low and you keep eating. You may even go for seconds because the brain is like “hey, I loooooooooooved that stuffing and I want more.” Meanwhile, you cleaned your first plate 15 minutes into the meal.

Now, I’m not advocating for boring Thanksgiving meals, but I do think it is possible to get all the pleasure and enjoyment out of Thanksgiving with healthy foods, eaten in the right portions. Remember that the holiday is about the people and the only thing that should be stuffed is the turkey.

If you want to try to overcome the “taste satiety” challenge, I’d suggest making sure there is a nice, healthy low-calorie green salad to include on your plate, take 3-4 ounces of turkey (no skin) and choose between mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and rolls. If you take small amounts of each, you might not get that “satisfied” feeling the tastebuds want. Don’t feel bad about passing on some of the items. There are always leftovers!

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