Between gravy, casseroles and grandma’s apple pie, you could end up eating two days’ worth of calories in a single sitting on Thanksgiving. But that’s no reason not to splurge a little on the one day of the year that’s all about eating. After all, who wants to spend a holiday counting calories? Instead, why not use the five days before the feast to ramp up your routine, so you can feel free to relax, spend time with friends and family and enjoy a few of your favorite fall treats (like these). Here’s how to detox the right way — so you can enjoy your holiday, no regrets.
Your Pre-Thanksgiving Detox Plan, Made Simple
Day 1: Skip Your Morning Latte
Let’s make one thing clear: There’s no juicing on this plan. Instead, making small tweaks to cut calories over the next five days can essentially help you “save up” for Thanksgiving, says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Jim White, RDN, ACSM-HFS. Cutting 500 calories each day, which is what’s often recommended for safe weight loss, would make a huge dent in your holiday meal, he says. That may seem hard to do, but consider this: A grande latte from Starbucks (made with whole milk) will run you 220 calories, and a pumpkin spice latte of the same size, without whipped cream, clocks in at 350 calories. It can be as easy as knocking a few of those extras off your daily menu.
Day 2: Cook at Home
Flexing your culinary muscles (perhaps with one of these healthy chili recipes) for the rest of the week is another way to slash calories while cleaning up your diet, says White. A recent study found that people consume an average of 200 more calories on days they eat out compared to days they cook at home. And people who prepare most of their meals at home consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than people who cook less often or not at all, research finds. Plus, you’ll save some cash for day-after Thanksgiving sales.
Day 3: Cut Back on Processed Foods
Toss the potato chips and Oreos out of your pantry (you’ll fill it with much tastier stuff in a few days!). Processed foods can be hard for many people to digest, so cutting back will help free up your digestive system, giving it a break before the holiday, says Daily Burn Fitness/Nutrition Coach Nora Minno, RD, CDN. Plus, many processed foods are filled with fat and sugar, which can lead to pre-Thanksgiving weight gain, she says. “You don’t need excess fat before a big meal.”
Day 4: Go for the Greens
Loading up on fruits, vegetables and lean protein in the meals leading up to Thanksgiving will not only give you a nutrient boost, but will keep you full longer, helping to ward off cravings, says Minno. (Here’s what 25 grams of protein looks like.) And filling up on a hearty breakfast of protein n’ greens for breakfast on Thanksgiving Day will help you make more mindful food choices (think: one of these awesome smoothies). “You don’t want to go into Thanksgiving starving; then you’re going to eat everything in sight,” she says.
Day 5: Fit in HIIT
Thanksgiving Eve may be one of the biggest party nights of the year, but going easy on the booze and fitting in a 30-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout in the evening will make you a much happier camper the next day, says Minno. Not only will you avoid a nasty hangover, but you’ll be burning extra calories while watching football, cooking or chowing down. “HIIT workouts can affect your metabolism for 24 hours after,” says Minno. “That’s going to help you more efficiently burn the calories you’ll be consuming on Thanksgiving.”
Originally published November 2015. Updated in November 2016.