food on the table with two people having wine

5 Thanksgiving Staples to Avoid for Belly Fat

The holiday season is upon us, and while it can be a happy time shared with family and friends, it can also be incredibly stressful—not to mention hard on your waistline. 

In a 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the weight of American participants increased by 0.2% during Thanksgiving and 0.4% over Christmas, with Americans gaining 1-3 pounds between Christmas and New Year’s. That said, it is possible to stay fit and focused through the season with some simple lifestyle tweaks.

According to Vault Health’s recent national survey, 73% of men think that they have too much belly fat or a gut and 31% of men say that having less body fat is at the top of their health wish list. We’re here to grant your wish — below you’ll find a list of Thanksgiving dishes to avoid for belly fat.

Dr. Myles Spar is the chief medical officer of Vault Health, a telehealth startup offering personalized direct-to-consumer prescription treatments and testosterone replacement therapy to help men achieve optimize physical, sexual, and cognitive health. 

Not only has treated professional sports athletes for years as an integrative men’s health expert, Dr. Spar is also a triathlete and holiday-loving family man himself. Here are the top five Thanksgiving dishes he recommends avoiding for problem belly fat:

  1. Stuffing – You’re essentially chowing down on bread, butter, and sometimes sausage. Did I mention butter? And if you use the packaged stuffing, know that it’s designed to STUFF you full of salt, trans fats, and overly processed junk.
  2. Pumpkin Pie – Perhaps a more obvious answer since it’s a dessert, but pumpkin pie has more ingredients than just healthy pumpkin. The crust’s butter and flour, along with cream and sugar required for the filling, make for a large dose of saturated fat and calories. 
  3. Mashed potatoes – As with many Thanksgiving side dishes, the main culprits in mashed potatoes are the add-ins (in this case, whole milk and butter). Some recipes even call for cream cheese or shredded cheese too. Try going easy on the butter and use low-fat milk to keep the nutritionals in check.
  4. Dark turkey meat with skin – Dark turkey meat contains too much fat to be considered a lean, healthy meat— even more so when the fatty skin is left on. I know, it’s a delicious part of your Thanksgiving meal, but try swapping a piece for white meat and your belly will thank you later.
  5. Biscuits – Without any healthy tweaks, biscuits are essentially flour, baking powder, salt, butter, and milk or cream. That’s a large number of calories for little nutritional value and little satiety. And chances are, you’re topping that biscuit with butter, gravy, or jelly. 

Here are just a few of his other tips to stay healthy over the holidays.

  1. Savor Every Bite. Eating slowly, putting your fork down between bites, and tasting each mouthful is one of the easiest ways to enjoy your holiday meal without going overboard on calories.
  2. Go Easy on the Booze, You Lush. Don’t forget those alcohol calories that can add up quickly. Have a glass of wine or a wine spritzer and between alcoholic drinks, (or) enjoy sparkling water. This way you stay hydrated, limit alcohol calories, and stay sober.
  3. Be Realistic. The holiday season is a time for celebration. With busy schedules and so many extra temptations, this is a good time to strive for weight maintenance instead of weight loss.
  4. Be an Adult and Practice Self-Restraint. Thanksgiving tables are beautiful displays of traditional family favorites which are always abundant. Before you fill your plate and start gorging, survey the buffet table and decide what you’re going to choose. Try to select reasonable-sized portions of foods you cannot live without.
  5. Be a Kid and Get Moving Around. Create a calorie deficit by exercising to burn off extra calories before you dive into your favorite foods. The exercise can be fun and involve other family members/friends, too. Run a Turkey Trot, take a scenic walk at a nearby trail, or plan some outdoor fun before dinner like the traditional game of flag football. It’s a wonderful way for your family to get physical activity and enjoy the holiday together.



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