Thanksgiving Day is near, and while it is considered the start of the holiday season, it also is the time of eating too much until the new year.

This year, take the time to make a plan for how to navigate through the holiday without having a food coma.

One of the first things many people tend to drop off their holiday eating radar is fruits and veggies. Make sure to include these daily AND at holiday meals. Fill up half of your plate with veggies, and embrace seasonal produce.

We all think of the traditional foods such as turkey, dressing, rice, gravy and desserts as part of the holiday. Branch out with new healthier traditions that feature produce, and consider making a new healthy side dish featuring a different type of squash, leafy greens, apples, pumpkin or pomegranate.

Other tips to help avoid a food coma:

» Stick to regular meals and snacks. Saving up for the big event only encourages a food coma. Instead, eat regular meals and snacks to build willpower, making it much easier to stick to a plan.

» Savor the flavor. Eat slowly and really taste the food instead of wolfing it down. Put your fork down, close your eyes and enjoy the flavors you love.

» Be more mindful of fullness. Wait 10 minutes before going back for seconds to give your brain time to catch up with your belly.

» Have a plan. Look over the entire buffet or table before you pick up your plate. Take bigger portions of healthier options and smaller portions of heavier dishes.

» Engage the three-bite rule. If you want to try something or not feel deprived, keep the portion to three bites instead of ladling large portions of everything. This gives you a good taste without going overboard.

» Make trade-offs. Leave off foods that aren’t that appealing to have more of what you love, or skip alcohol to have a dessert. Making mindful choices will help you avoid being overstuffed.

» Make sure to include activity. Take a walk after the meal or plan an activity for the family that gets everyone moving — tag football, Frisbee, pumpkin bowling, etc. Moving instead of sitting around stimulates digestion and metabolism.

» Hydrate! Even mild dehydration increases food cravings, so aim for drinking enough water throughout the day.

» Bounce back quicker. If you decide to go for the Thanksgiving meal with no restrictions and enjoy a food coma, make sure to bounce back into healthy eating after the main event instead of beating yourself up and continuing to overeat.

» Be thankful for abundance. We all have so much to be thankful for, and an abundance of food is a blessing. We can enjoy the deliciousness without stuffing ourselves like a turkey!

For more information on adopting healthier lifestyle changes, contact Kitty Finklea, lifestyle coach, registered dietitian and personal trainer at McLeod Health and Fitness Center, at 843-777-3000.

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