Twelve Realistic Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

When you’ve got a health goal you’re trying to reach or maintain, the holidays can be tricky! And Thanksgiving is really all about the food isn’t it? Most people will find themselves overeating on Thanksgiving Day; it’s really hard not to! But this year can be different! Here are some tips to mitigate the damage and help you enjoy the holiday with a little less guilt!

Healthy Thanksgiving tips

Start the day with some exercise. Go for a walk, run, or swim. Whatever you like to do. While it may not burn off enough calories for your upcoming meal, it helps you start the day off with your health goals in mind!

Allow yourself to indulge in one meal. This is more of a mental rule to set for yourself. By telling yourself you have a big meal coming up that you may indulge in, it can help you avoid overindulging in the upcoming week.

Eat normally or a little less the day of the holiday meal. Many people have traditions of certain breakfasts they make on holiday mornings. These often come with loads of calories that could undo your day before it even starts. Try either modifying the recipe to be healthier, or just have a normal breakfast with the knowledge that the holiday meal will be big enough.

Manage holiday stress in healthy ways. Holidays are often loaded with stress. Practice healthy stress management strategies so you don’t find yourself eating and drinking because of it. Try these: deep breathing, walking away, meditation, listening to music, and positive self-talk. There are many more, but those should get you started!

Plan what you’ll eat for the holiday meal in advance. You know what will be there: turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, etc. Think about it beforehand and have a plan for how you’ll handle it. You’re way more likely to be successful with a solid plan. Decide what foods are special enough for you that you absolutely want to eat. Then think about the foods that aren’t so special that you can have anytime. Focus on the special foods in reasonable amounts, and have less of (or none) of the less special foods. 

Fill half of your plate with vegetables. Okay, I know the vegetables on a Thanksgiving table aren’t usually very healthy, but they’re still loaded with fiber that will help fill you up with fewer calories.

Bring a healthier dish. No one will tell you ‘no’ to bringing a dish to a big meal! Bring a healthier dish that you know you can fill up on if there are few other options.

Make a beverage plan. Beer, wine, apple cider, hot toddies… They all add an awful lot of calories to an already indulent day. Decide ahead of time what your plan will be to keep it in check. Will it be drinking water? Keeping it to one other beverage? Plan for what’s realistic for you, and follow through.

Watch the seconds! You know how this goes. You finish your plate of food, and you’re pretty full but you’re still looking forward to dessert. You’re sitting at the table chatting, and other people start taking seconds of what’s left. Before you know it, you’re having another spoonful of potatoes or stuffing, another forkful of turkey, etc. All it does is make you feel more uncomfortable, and THEN you’re still having dessert. Consider a ‘no seconds’ rule for yourself. Get up from the table when you’re done.

Pick one dessert. Which dessert item are you most excited about? Pick that one, have one serving of it, and be done. At this point in the day, most people are thousands of calories in the hole, and unbuttoning their pants! Try something different this year. (Also, stuffing yourself like that increases your chances of a heart attack immediately following the meal!)

Don’t take home leftovers. What will you do with unhealthy leftovers? Eat them of course. Avoid continuing the overindulgence into the next day and week by leaving leftovers to someone else.

Get back on track at the very next meal! Even if you overdid it on Thanksgiving, start the next day anew. Have a healthy breakfast and go for a walk. Get back on track immediately.

Remember that being nutritious isn’t about never eating ‘not-so-good-for-you foods.’ It’s about eating those less often and with intention, rather than regularly and mindlessly. Overdoing one meal won’t undo your goals for getting and staying healthy. Staying off track will, though! Make a plan, and a contingency plan. You’ve got this!


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