Haylie McCleney: Tips for a Healthy Turkey Day

By Haylie McCleney | Nov. 21, 2017, 2:29 p.m. (ET)

Haylie McCleney has been a member of the Women's National Team since 2014.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It is an amazing time to catch up with family and friends and to be home to get some much-needed down time. It’s also, however, one of the biggest times of year to overeat and under-exercise.

As the holidays approach, one of the things I often get asked is “How can I enjoy my holiday without feeling like complete garbage after?” People want to spend time with their family and friends and enjoy company, which is perfectly okay. But, too often I see athletes come back from a holiday break, having eaten too much and exercised too little, and see their training goals go back to where they started instead of continuing to move forward.

By no means am I saying not to enjoy your family time over the holidays. Have a slice of pie, have some holiday punch, and get some much needed rest and recovery, but if you are committed to having a healthy Thanksgiving, here are five simple tips you can follow!

1. EAT ALL YOUR MEALS

A lot of people, since they know they are going to eat a big family meal either for lunch or dinner, will skip meals earlier in the day. This is NOT a good idea because it sets you up to overeat later. Stay on the lighter side of your earlier meals. For example, have some Greek yogurt and granola with berries or peanut butter banana toast for breakfast. For lunch, try to get some greens in with a salad and a light source of protein (eggs, chicken).

2. PORTION CONTROL

I know, everyone’s favorite. But really, if you think about it logically and you don’t want to overeat, simply don’t overeat.

I love this illustration from the American Heart Association. Try to line your plates up like this! Even if the foods tend to be on the unhealthier side, you will at least be aware of how your plate should look. Another tip for portion control: try to only make one trip to the buffet line. Yes you can eat dessert as well, but portion control still applies here. For a piece of pie, the slice shouldn’t be bigger than your fingers when you make the “PEACE” sign!  

3. PROTEIN AND FATS FIRST

Science has shown that protein and fats are more satiating than carbs. Try to eat these sources of foods first, then dive into your big carbs. This should help you from overeating!

4. EXERCISE

Getting a workout or a run in the morning is a great idea to get your body moving even during the holidays. If your gym isn’t open, consider going for a short run or even a walk around your neighborhood, or run some sprints at the local high school. If neither of these are an option for you and you hate cardio, a backyard football game with your family works too (I will be taking this option). Get creative and get moving. Something is always better than nothing! Try to get in 30-60 minutes.

5. DRINK WATER

Sodas, teas, and other holiday beverages (punch, egg nog, etc) are full of unwanted carbs and calories. Try to drink as much water as possible throughout the day. It will keep your brain more focused so you can enjoy your family without thinking about your post-gathering nap.

Bottom line, enjoy your time with your family and be thankful for all the amazing things in your life. One of the biggest blessings you have is your body, so be nice to it over the holidays!

-- Haylie