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7 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Thanksgiving is a holiday known for feasting — turkey, dressing and all the fixings. Yet, while it may be a beloved aspect of our American heritage, Thanksgiving dinner isn’t necessarily a healthy tradition.

The average American consumes an average of 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. That’s more than double the daily recommended caloric intake of 2,000 calories for adults.

If you’re trying to watch your weight, the upcoming holiday may already be a source of some stress. Here are some simple tips for making your Thanksgiving holiday a healthy one.


Focus on more than the food 

Maybe easier said than done, but remember, Thanksgiving is really about, yes, giving thanks. Make gratitude the focus of your day and create quality time to spend with your loved ones. That’s less time spent at the dinner table.


Don’t skip breakfast

If you’re starving by the time Thanksgiving dinner is about to be served, you’re more likely to overdo it. Worse, you’ll probably be snacking all through the day as well. Eat a high-protein breakfast and drink plenty of water before the big meal.


Control portion sizes

Start by using a small plate and keep portions small. You may feel the pressure to try some of everything, but fill your plate with protein and veggies first, then add a small spoonful of the other dishes you’d like to try. Limit your selection of starches and sweets as much as possible.


Eat slowly

If you’ve spent the whole day (maybe even days ahead of time) preparing your Thanksgiving feast, take time to enjoy it. Savor every bite. Put your fork down between each bite and chew your food thoroughly. If you scarf down your food, your brain won’t have time to signal your stomach that it’s getting full — the first step to feeling overstuffed. As soon as you start feeling full, stop eating. You can always enjoy leftovers tomorrow!


Make healthy substitutions in your favorite recipes

There are plenty of ways you can enjoy a healthier version of some of your favorite dishes. Here are a few examples:

  • Swap mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes. Steam the cauliflower and allow it to sit for a few minutes to dry. Then toss into your food processor and puree. Add almond milk or a bit of Greek yogurt to reproduce the creamy texture of mashed potatoes.
  • Swap avocado puree for butter in baking recipes (especially chocolate recipes). The healthy fats in avocado puree can be substituted for butter, and on a one-to-one ratio. You can also use unsweetened applesauce in place of half of the oil (or butter) called for by muffin and other baked good recipes.
  • Cut the sugar from dessert recipes and substitute vanilla extract, nutmeg or cinnamon — whichever is most appropriate — to add sweetness without the extra calories. Stevia is an all-natural sugar substitute that might also work for some treats. And there’s always applesauce. Just remember that, for every cup of applesauce you use in place of sugar, decrease the amount of liquid in your recipe by one-fourth of a cup.
  • Add flavor with seasonings and broth, rather than butter. Baste your Thanksgiving turkey in chicken broth, and use broth to create a healthier alternative to gravy.


Avoid liquid calories

Save your calories for your food and avoid alcohol and sodas loaded with “empty calories.” Keep yourself hydrated with water or tea instead. Have a craving for a pumpkin spice latte? Try this recipe for a more healthy version of this seasonal favorite.


Get active

Start your day with exercise. Do a bodyweight workout in your living room, or sign the family up for your local turkey trot. (In fact, you can sign up for the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot here.) Rather than the annual post-Thanksgiving feast nap, why not get outside and enjoy a hike at a local nature preserve, go for a family bike ride or play a game of flag football?

However you choose to change some of your holiday eating habits this year, don’t let your efforts to keep the weight off stress you out. Start planning now to guarantee that your Thanksgiving will be both happy and healthy.