We’ve all been there: you ate a little too much on Thanksgiving and now you’re feeling sluggish and not so healthy. But don’t worry! One day won’t derail your weight loss goals. There are plenty of simple tweaks you can make to get things back on track. So check out our post-Thanksgiving detox plan ... and why not start today?
1. Stay hydrated.
Post-Thanksgiving, the weather starts to feel more wintery (at least in most states!), so you might not be reaching for your water bottle as much anymore. But there are plenty of good reasons why you’ll want to fill up your cup after Thanksgiving. For starters, drinking water may help support your weight loss goals. One study1 found that dieting adults who drank about 16 ounces of water before their meals lost more weight than those who just focused strictly on dieting.
Staying hydrated might also boost your metabolism, one small study found.2 The benefits only lasted about an hour, but drinking approximately two cups of water boosted metabolism by 30% during that time. Drinking H20 also can help break down food that you’ve digested3 — and who wouldn’t want that after a Thanksgiving meal?
The amount of water needed is different for everyone4 (for example, if you live in a warm climate, you may need more water than someone lives in a cool climate). A general rule of thumb is to drink a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day — however, you may need to drink more if you’re physically active, thirsty or live in a warm environment.
2. Be mindful of leftovers.
Photo by Amy Newton-McConnel on iStock
It can be all too tempting to want to fill your plate sky high with leftovers the days after Thanksgiving. We get it: You don’t want anything to go to waste — especially Aunt Edna’s sweet potato casserole!
But with leftovers, it’s important to follow the same guidelines that you would when you’re eating your Thanksgiving meal. For example, you’ll want to choose one protein (like turkey without the skin), one starch (like sweet potatoes or corn), and then two vegetables (like green beans and a salad). Remember to also watch your portion sizes — use this handy visual guide to help.
You can also use those leftovers in a super healthy way — try putting some light meat turkey strips on top of a veggie-packed salad. Or throw any leftover green beans into a healthy soup.
3. Eat your veggies.
Sure, Thanksgiving dinner is centered around the turkey, but the main dish can easily be out shadowed by all the starchy side dishes (we’re looking at you sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing and rolls!).
So why not post-Thanksgiving, make vegetables the star of the show for most of your meals? For lunch, opt for a salad or cooked veggies with a lean protein. For dinner, make veggies the base of your meal, using cauliflower rice instead of the regular variety.
Looking for a healthier take on mashed potatoes? Try this simple mashed cauliflower recipe.
Here’s why you’ll want to make sure you’re loading up on veggies after Thanksgiving: Eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables and consuming a moderate amount of fruit is an important part of weight management.5 Veggies and certain fruits are typically packed with beneficial fiber that can help you feel satisfied with fewer calories.5 Plus, some high-fiber options like leafy greens and peas might also help balance your blood sugar (which is especially important if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes).6
4. Get moving.
Photo by Zukovic on iStock
After a busy day or two with family, the last thing you probably want to do is hit the gym. You might be feeling sluggish after the holiday meal and exhausted from all the social time. Still, it’s worth it to get your heart pumping (and remember, you don’t have to go to the gym to be active!). Something as simple as a 15 to 30-minute walk around your neighborhood can do the trick.
Exercise is a great way to help control your weight7 and get you back on track after the holiday. The health benefits of exercise extend beyond weight management: Being active regularly might also lower your risk of heart disease — by improving your circulation and strengthening your heart.7 Plus, you may also be able to lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.7
So post-Thanksgiving, make it a goal to get the recommended amount of fitness. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (like swimming or brisk walking), or a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (like running or taking a dance class), plus strength training two times per week.8
Also, consider starting a fit family tradition next year. Run or walk a “Turkey Trot” race in your hometown, or play a game of catch or flag football outside with your family members while the turkey is cooking (just make sure someone is still keeping an eye on the bird!).
5. Log more zzz’s.
Leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, you likely had a million things going on — whether you were traveling to visit family, hosting relatives, or just whipping up a dish to bring to the festivities. Needless to say, you’re probably exhausted!
Even though post-Thanksgiving is still a busy time of year, you’ll want to focus on getting quality sleep after turkey day. One recent study found that overweight and obese people who didn’t sleep well lost less weight compared to those who logged better sleep, when taking part in a weight loss program.9
According to the National Institutes of Health, a lack of sleep can affect a range of essential functions — from your blood pressure and cardiovascular health to your appetite and mood.10 Skimping on sleep might also raise your risk for obesity and heart disease.10 The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night11 to support your overall health. (Try these sleep hacks like keeping your phone in another room, so you aren’t tempted to scroll through social media before bed.)
And while December can be a crazy time, if you make sleep a priority, it may help you stay on track with your weight loss goals and help you feel more rested in the process.
Ready to start your healthy post-Thanksgiving detox? Give these tips a try this holiday season!
Looking for a weight loss plan that’s science-backed, has delicious food and is easy to follow? Check out the different menu plans that Jenny Craig offers and find the one that works best for you!
Leslie Barrie has a health writing and editing background, and holds her master's degree from Columbia University Graduate Journalism School. Over the past 10 years, she has worked at various magazines in New York City, such as Woman's Day, Health, Seventeen, and more. When she's not writing about health, she likes living it — she enjoys running, hiking, swimming, and yoga (even though she's not the best at it, it helps her to relax!).
Favorite healthy snack: a piece of dark chocolate with a handful of almonds
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
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