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thanksgiving table with turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and  pies

How to Navigate the Thanksgiving Buffet

holidays lifestyle Nov 12, 2022

Thanksgiving is notorious for its delicious food. Turkey with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, fresh rolls… the list goes on. And that’s just the main meal. We can’t possibly forget the appetizers, holiday drinks, and dessert.

Are your eyes bigger than your stomach? Do you find yourself stuffed year after year? Do you usually wake up the next morning, still full, with a bloated belly and gas?

Not this year.

This year you will arrive at Thanksgiving with a plan. We’re going to tell you how to navigate the Thanksgiving buffet so you can enjoy your meal without overdoing it.


Don't starve yourself all day

Yes, by skipping breakfast (and lunch), you will be saving calories for Thanksgiving and you will definitely be hungry for all the holiday food. However, you will be so hungry that you will overeat, leading to an upset stomach, feelings of regret, and a not so very fun night.

Eat a hearty and balanced meal (breakfast or lunch, depending on if you enjoy Time Restricted Eating) with plenty of protein (at least 30 grams), healthy fat (hello avocado, we're looking at you!), and fiber-rich veggies. Depending on the time of your Thanksgiving meal, eat a small protein-rich snack before heading to the gathering. You will be energized and just hungry enough for the holiday buffet. You will stick to portions that agree with your stomach.

Make Your Own Healthier Dish 

You can’t control what dishes friends and family bring to Thanksgiving, but you can control what dish you bring. Cook a healthier recipe you will want to eat and make sure to load up on that plus the turkey (give us all the protein!). Just make it delicious and don't tell them it's better for them. 

Limit Yourself to One Lower-Sugar Thanksgiving Drink

Please, enjoy yourself and have a holiday alcoholic beverage. The key here is moderation. Have one drink and make sure that drink is low-fat and low-sugar. A glass of low-sugar wine or a vodka with a flavored sparkling water will do the trick.

Avoid sugary ingredients like pre-made mixes, simple sugar, and sodas. Instead, use freshly squeezed citrus juice, seltzer, maple syrup, or real fruit slices. Bonus: fruit adds antioxidants! You can even add fresh herbs or a cinnamon stick (not in the same drink) for added flavor.

For creamy-based cocktails, skip the cream and whole milk and try an unsweetened non-dairy milk alternative. Less sugar and less fat.

All of this goes the same for any mocktail drink.

Load Up on a Small Plate 

If you have a hard time with portion control, try using a small plate at the Thanksgiving buffet. You can trick your brain into feeling more full with less food. You’re more likely to eat until you are full and not feel obligated to clean a large plate of food.

Note: the small plate theory may or may not work, but it doesn’t hurt to try it out!

Choose Foods You Actually Want to Eat

Yes, there are so many delicious-looking and yummy-smelling foods at the holiday buffet. It doesn’t mean you have to try every dish. Only pick the dishes you actually want to eat. You can be choosy.

It’s okay to say no; you won’t hurt anyone’s feelings if you’re polite about not trying a dish. If you have to take a bite or two to save face, that’s okay. Be kind to yourself.

We like to select foods that only show up once a year, such as stuffing or sweet potato casserole. We steer clear of store-bought dishes, since these are filled with processed ingredients. Not worth it.

Listen to Your Body… and Save Room for Dessert

What we’re saying is, you don’t have to be stuffed to the rim after dinner, where you’re forcing yourself to eat a forkful of apple pie.  

Eat slowly. Enjoy every forkful of food. Take time to converse with family and friends between bites. You will be more attentive to your body and how full you’re feeling.

Instead of Seconds, Save Food for Leftovers

Thanksgiving is only once a year. It seems only reasonable that you stuff yourself with Grandma’s special mashed potatoes. Well, there is no rule against leftovers. Instead of heading to the buffet table for another heaping of those mashed potatoes, put them in a container for the next day.  

Key Takeaways

Eat a hearty meal in the morning so that you don’t arrive at Thanksgiving absolutely starving. Load up on the foods you really want to eat and will truly enjoy. Enjoy your meal and eat slowly. Stop eating when you’re full and take home leftovers.

Eat, drink, and cranberry!