When a huge feast like Thanksgiving looms, people might feel tempted to skip a meal or two to reserve calories for the big event. But this is actually a bad idea, according to nutrition experts.
Fasting prior to a holiday dinner can have mental and physical repercussions, according to Lisa R. Young, author of The Portion Teller Plan and adjuct professor of nutrition at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.
“Number one, there is a psychological component going on,” Young told The Huffington Post. Young says that when you intentionally fast in order to feast, your brain is essentially planning for a binge. In other words, you’re giving yourself permission to overindulge when you do finally eat.
Additionally, experts say skipping a meal could result in cognitive and emotional effects, like moodiness or irritability. So you’re not doing your noggin any favors by passing on breakfast or lunch.
“You should never, ever let yourself get so ravenous that you will just eat anything,” Young continued, noting that it can take a toll on your body. “You really want to keep your blood sugar steady so you aren’t hungry. If you’re hungry, you’ll just grab the first thing you see mindlessly.”
Blood sugar levels can drop from skipping or postponing a meal. And when you have dips and spikes in blood sugar, Young explained, the body becomes hungry and you are more likely to crave sugar (hello, several slices of pumpkin pie!).
“You should never, ever let yourself get so ravenous that you will just eat anything.”
Young suggests eating protein and fiber the morning of Thanksgiving, such as an egg with fruit, toast with nut butter or a yogurt. This will prevent you from doubling-down on multiple servings later on.
If your holiday meal starts later and you’re hungry around lunch, have something light such as split pea soup or vegetables and hummus, and save meat for dinner. All of this will prevent you from walking into the holiday famished, which research shows makes you more likely to overeat or binge.
However, all of this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dig into your Thanksgiving feast. Young advises eating as many vegetables and protein as you’d like. Then choose one of your favorite starch-based dishes or desserts. (“Maybe that’s mac n’ cheese. Have about a fistful and enjoy it,” Young said.)
Whatever you do, take it easy on yourself both physically and mentally. According to Young, by not indulging in the food you really want, “you’ll end up dreaming about it and you’ll feel deprived.”
“I don’t think you have to diet on this day and I don’t think one day is going to hurt you,” Young stressed. There’s a way to savor it and not overdo it.
So, don’t skip out on that pecan pie your aunt makes better than anyone. Just don’t starve yourself until you finally have a bite.
Happy (and healthy) chowing, everybody!