Lisa Lillien is the author of the popular Hungry Girl website and email newsletter, featuring smart, funny advice on guilt-free eating. She is also the author of ten books, six of which debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Monday for slimmed-down celebrity recipes and more.
You, brave soul, are about to venture into a mall or other superstore on the busiest shopping day of the year. Much like a warrior, you cannot go in without a plan of attack and the proper weapons. Follow my lead, and emerge victorious and with great discounts!
Parking Lot Zen
There’s always a struggle to snag the spot closest to the entrance, but let that go. Find a spot further back, and consider this day a great chance to get in a lot of walking and burn off some of that Thanksgiving feast. Use your smartphone or fitness tracker, or a simple pedometer, and see how high that number gets on your shopping excursion! It all starts with the walk from the parking lot.
The key here is to stash items in your purse that a) won’t get smashed to bits, b) are loaded with protein, and c) don’t take up a lot of space. Your best bets for Black Friday: protein bars and jerky. Choose sturdy but chewy bars, like Quest, that can withstand getting tumbled around as you dig for your wallet. And there are so many different kinds of jerky out there: beef, chicken, turkey even soy. (The soy kind is better than it sounds!) The protein will squash your hunger, and the salty savory taste will help keep you away from those salty food-court snacks. Speaking of which…
A Meal Plan
All-day mall trip? There are tricks to getting a decent meal from the food court – just be ready to modify orders. Your best bet is a sub/deli shop: Get a small turkey breast sub on wheat, skip the cheese and mayo, and load up on veggies. (Wanna go lighter? Request it over shredded lettuce instead of bread.) Thinking Mexican? Have a grilled-chicken salad (no cheese or crispy toppings, and definitely no fried tortilla bowl!) with salsa instead of dressing. And a Chinese place that serves steamed chicken or shrimp with veggies is a total score.
The vibe will be hectic, but don’t get too caught up in the hurry. Give yourself plenty of time to browse. (Walking up and down the mall will help you get those steps in!) It’s easy to fall into the “I’m cranky!” trap at the mall, but that’ll only lead you right to the buttery pretzels and cinnamon buns in the food court. So chill out, and try to have some fun!
As important as it is to give yourself enough time, it’s also critical to know when to pack it up. If you didn’t already stop for a meal in the mall, don’t pull a desperation move and hit the drive-thru for a burger and fries. Have this page ready and bookmarked on your smartphone it’s a direct link to the best options at a slew of chain restaurants. Or if you’re the super-prepared, think-ahead type, set up a slow-cooker meal before you leave, so dinner will be ready when you arrive home – this mac ‘n cheese is always a winner.