Have ya’ll seen the movie Four Christmases? It’s that really terrible Christmas movie with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn. Trust me; it’s not good. But the movie is very relatable to many couples/families that run around on the holidays attending multiple gatherings on the same day. Thanksgiving is particularly difficult because you only have one day to see various families; which could mean many Thanksgiving feasts! This has been my story for the past several years and I know that I’m not alone! So, as a dietitian, I thought I would share my “making it through multiple Thanksgiving dinners” survival guide.
- Plan ahead – instead of scrambling around on Thanksgiving morning to get that last-minute recipe done, do some prep work or make the entire thing the day before! There are several Thanksgiving dishes that actually taste better on the second of third day – look at these for examples: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/make-ahead-turkey-gravy/ or https://belleofthekitchen.com/2015/03/03/smores-chocolate-fudge-cake/. You can also do some prep work, like setting out the bread that you’ll use for stuffing to dry it out, preparing the turkey for roasting, and getting your garnishes around.
- Take 30 minutes of you time – if you’re like me, you need some alone time to unwind and just not be around people. Of course, this is very hard to do on Thanksgiving because the holiday is about being thankful for what and who we have in our lives. However, I have found that taking just 30 minutes in the morning to read or journal helps to ready me mentally for the chaotic day ahead.
- Get some activity – I’ve lost count of how many years I’ve done the turkey trot. It’s not an enormous amount of exercise and I don’t participate to feel better about the calories I’m planning to eat later – stressing about that is really not cool. I do the turkey trot with friends. It is one of my favorite fun races because I get to see a few friends that only come home for the holidays; and we’re doing something active together! I have found that seeing people that are not family members on Thanksgiving is helpful on this stressful day; and exercise is a natural mood booster!
- Take a break – screaming kids and bickering aunts is enough to drive you crazy; I get it! When things are getting just a little too loud or hectic, take a break! Go for a walk or find an empty room to take a 5-minute breather (or a 30 minute nap 😊). I usually end up bundling up and taking a 10-minute walk after the 2nd meal just to get away and get in some movement after eating two dinners.
- Be choosy about your foods – this is my go-to advice for everyone that asks me how to not overdo it on Thanksgiving. First, you should indulge somewhat – this is partly what Thanksgiving is about. Second, if you are trying not to go full ham, my advice is to scan the food and decide what you really want. There are probably dishes at Thanksgiving that you only get once a year – Aunt Betty’s rhubarb pie or your dad’s sweet potato casserole – these are the foods you should be enjoying! If there is a bowl of regular potato chips or Hershey’s kisses sitting out, assess if you actually want those things. These are items that you can get all year. I say, save room in your stomach for the most delicious, once-a-year type foods!
- Tap out early – dinner and dessert are eaten, football is over (the Lions won), and the kitchen is cleaned. If you are feeling exhausted and stuffed to the brim, say goodbye to your host or guests. It is okay to not be the life of the party on Thanksgiving. You can leave early to get home, reflect on the day, and get ready for a productive Friday! You’ve already been to two parties – it’s okay to admit you’ve had enough and head home for some peace and quiet.
There you have it! That is how I have survived 6 years of multiple Thanksgiving gatherings. Hopefully you were able to find one or two tips that can help you get through the plethora of holiday get-togethers! At the end of the day, don’t forget what the holidays are really all about – be thankful and hold tight to those that you love. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving(s)!