Family Time

10 Tips for a Healthier Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving happens to be my favorite day of the year.  Not only are all of my favorite foods in one place, but my grandma comes to visit us from WI and we celebrate Christmas with her too- we call it Thanksmas.  She makes all of our old family recipes, complete with about 100 sticks of butter and a pound of salt, so I definitely feel the struggle just like everyone else.  But even as a fitness professional, I thoroughly enjoy my day and show up to dinner with my Thanksgiving pants on. ready to be just a little too full.

I get a lot of clients asking me what they should or should not be eating during their holiday get-togethers, but I am a firm believer in “counting the memories, not the calories.”  That doesn’t mean though that it’s a free for all fat fest!  The average American eats nearly 4500 calories just during their Thanksgiving dinner… that doesn’t include visiting multiple houses or all of the snacks that are eaten while waiting for dinner to be done.  So I have compiled my best tips to help you enjoy your day GUILT FREE without an “eat this, not that” type of list!


-Healthy Thanksgiving Tips-

  1. Don’t Deprive Yourself.  This holiday comes once a year and it’s about being thankful for what you have and the people around you, not how many calories you are eating.
  2. Morning Physical Activity.  Get moving!  Sign up for a 5k Turkey Trot, join a turkey bowl (football) game, get a group together for an activity.  This year we are getting a group together to play ultimate frisbee in the morning.  In the past while my husband was playing turkey bowl, I would load the kids up in the jogging stroller and go for a little run.  It doesn’t matter what it is, just get active!
  3. Meal Prep.  Have a couple of healthy meals all ready to go so that while you are cooking or waiting for dinner to be ready you have something to eat.  I know my family puts out a fat spread of cheese, sausages, chips, etc. while waiting for dinner.  I usually skip that and have one of my prepped meals instead.  When I am cooking I start to get hungry and instead of “accidentally” breaking a deviled egg so it has to be eaten, or “testing” everything I am cooking 100 times, a real meal or a protein shake will keep me on track.
  4. Bring a Healthy Side Dish.  If you are visiting someone’s house, bring a side dish that isn’t quite so calorie-laden, or one that is made with more natural ingredients.  I always like to bring my Paleo Pumpkin Pie because most boxed and even homemade pumpkin pies are full of so much sugar and other ingredients that will hurt my stomach.
  5. Just say no.  Some years we have visited multiple houses, like 4, on Thanksgiving and everyone wants you to eat their food.  Avoid the guilt and say no thanks!  I reserve my meal for my family because I grew up eating that food, so traditionally it will always be my favorite.  If I had 3 other meals I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my favorite food!  If I am hungry at these other houses I typically eat a bit of turkey and some kind of vegetable and leave it at that.
  6. Drink a Large Glass of Water.  Before eating your dinner drink a large glass of water.  It keeps you from doing a full out binge and consuming too many extra calories, will help flush a bit of all that extra sodium that inevitably comes with the meal, and keeps you hydrated because you’ll probably enjoy a glass or so of wine with your meal.
  7. Protein and Veggies.  Your plate should be dominated by protein and veggies!  Turkey, green beans, deviled eggs, sweet potato casserole.  These are still full of crazy calories, but it’s not all empty carbs like stuffing and mashed potatoes.  That doesn’t mean skip the stuffing, just don’t let that take up your plate.  It’s all about portion control!
  8. Skip Seconds.  No really, why are you going up for another plate of food?  You don’t need it!  You aren’t going to enjoy this round more than the first and seconds make you feel sick.  Save room for dessert!
  9. Eat Dessert.  You heard me, eat it!  It’s thanksgiving, enjoy that pie!  Just don’t take the biggest piece available.  My family usually has multiple desserts and I eat ALL of them.  The trick is to take a few bites of all of my favorites, not full pieces.  Other keyword:  favorites.  Don’t just eat something to eat it.  Pick you favorites and move on.
  10. Family Walk.  Get the whole family moving by going on a post-dinner long walk together.  It’s fun to ask the kids what they liked best about their meal, have little races along the way and enjoy your time together.  That’s what it’s all about after all 🙂

I hope that these tips help you enjoy a wonderful holiday season!  Just remember that you can indulge without OVER-indulging!

Happy healthier Thanksgiving!


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