Stuff yourself, not the turkey: holiday portion control tips

Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams, corn on the cob, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, family awkwardness — there are just so many reasons to gorge yourself on the fourth Thursday of each November.

In the words of portly comedian Kevin James, “Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.”

James isn’t alone. We are a nation of overeaters. According to World Health Organization surveys taken between 2000 and 2008, two-thirds of Americans are too fat, and the numbers on the scale keep going up. Inside one of the world’s fattest countries, South Carolina is one of the fattest states.

The Palmetto State ranks eighth nationally in terms of its percentage of obese adults (30.9 percent), according to a report recently released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Those statistics suggest the turkey won’t be the only thing getting stuffed around here this Thanksgiving.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though.

The average American eats somewhere between 16 to 18 pounds of turkey each year. No need to knock that out in one sitting there, Hoss. Leave that kind of work to professional eaters such as Joey Chestnut or Takeru Kobayashi.

Like the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, you need a Thanksgiving Day game plan.

And like those teams’ coaches, you could use assistants. Hilton Head Health Institute, located inside Shipyard Plantation on Hilton Head Island, just opened a Culinary Arts Center to promote the benefits of healthy cooking.

The center will host a special cooking workshop Nov. 3-5 titled, “Cooking Healthy: ‘Tis the Season.”

The workshop will feature interactive cooking demonstrations and hands-on kitchen sessions, teaching students how to prepare healthy versions of their favorite holiday dishes.

Find more information on the class and other Hilton Head Health workshops online at


Here are some eating tips to keep in mind this Thanksgiving, provided by Bob Wright, director of lifestyle
education at Hilton Head Health.

Portion control is a must. None of us want to offend Aunt Sally by not trying her signature dish, so rather than letting her give you a giant spoonful (or two or three), serve yourself and only take a bite-sized portion.

A few key points to remember when filling your plate: Fill it half with fruit and veggies, a quarter with a low-fat protein (such as skinless chicken, fish, turkey or lean beef) and the remaining quarter with either whole grains, legumes or a starchy vegetable.

Although it might seem like it  makes sense at the time, don’t try to “bank” calories by skipping meals. The combination of hunger and entitlement (I earned it!) will lead you to consume far more calories than you will save. Instead, try to have six small meals daily or eat small healthy snacks throughout the day. These small snacks won’t only keep you from getting hungry and overeating at a later meal, but they’ll also help stabilize blood glucose levels, promote the consumption of fruits and veggies and potentially increase your metabolism.

Allow yourself a reasonable amount of treats. Because there are sure to be many delicious homemade goodies, be selective. Ask yourself if you really want it. If so, have a small portion, savor every bite and enjoy it without guilt. Keep holiday treats out of sight. Tell family members where they are, but bring them out only for visitors.

Write down your planned meal and set it as a goal to stick to for the day. Keep track of snacks, drinks, meals, dessert and physical activity.


By Lance Hanlin