How to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving
healthy thanksgiving dinner. roasted turkey on holiday table with pumpkins and vegetables. healthy living. happy thanksgiving.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, everyone is busy coming up with a menu for the big feast. Thanksgiving is famous for being all about overindulgence and eating, but it can be a stressful experience for those who need to be careful about what they eat, such as seniors and diabetics, or even just for individuals who are highly health conscious, since Thanksgiving meals tend to be rather high in unhealthy substances such as sodium, sugar and fat.

Of course, it is not a good solution to completely skip the festivities just because you are afraid of weight gain or if you are worried about there not being anything that you are able to eat. Believe it or not, it is actually possible for you to enjoy the holiday and stay healthy at the same time. Here are some simple but effective tips for you to enjoy a healthy thanksgiving.

Making Healthier Food Choices

Watch your portions

If you can, try to limit yourself to just one plate. This helps to prevent over-stuffing yourself. Sample small portions of each dish, and avoid going back for seconds if you can. In the case that you are tempted to return for seconds, wait for about 20 minutes to half an hour first. This is because it takes a while to feel full, and after waiting for about 20 minutes you may find that you no longer want to go for seconds.

Don’t gobble down your food

Since it takes a while for you to feel full, try to eat slowly. If you gobble all your food down, you probably won’t feel satiated even after you have cleared your plate. This increases your likelihood of going back for seconds even though you have in fact already eaten a lot.

Have breakfast in the morning

Some may think that it is a good idea to skip breakfast in the morning in order to save up calories for the big feast. This is a common misconception. By skipping your morning meal, you will be ravenous by the time the Thanksgiving feast comes around, and you are likely to end up overeating. To avoid this, you should have a small breakfast so that you will have more control over your appetite. Including some protein and fiber in your breakfast will also help to take the edge of your appetite.

Stay properly hydrated

Ensure that you drink adequate water throughout the day. Not being properly hydrated will result in thirst, which is often mistaken as hunger pangs. This will cause you to overeat as well.

Make healthy substitutions

Thanksgiving dishes tend to be richer and more filling than your everyday fare, but here are some healthy substitutions and choices you can make in order to have a healthier Thanksgiving meal. These are especially ideal for seniors and diabetic, and for any individuals who need to watch their diet.

  • Instead of eating the dark meat with skin, opt for the white meat without the skin. When you make this substitution, the same 6oz portion of turkey can have a difference of 190 calories and 17g of fat.
  • Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey, and in your gravy.
  • Don’t add the marshmallows on your sweet potatoes. You can choose to add other spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg to keep things flavorful. This helps to reduce your caloric intake by about 100 calories.
  • Skip the pecan pie for dessert. Instead, you can go for healthier dessert options such as a pumpkin pie. This cuts more than 100 calories from your Thanksgiving meal.
  • Use fruit purees instead of oil in your baked goods.
  • Try using plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream when making your creamy dips, mashed potatoes, or casseroles.
  • Make your own cranberries, instead of going for the jellied cranberry sauce. This saves you more than 100 calories.

Healthy Thanksgiving activities

Aside from making healthier food choices, you can also choose to engage in some healthy Thanksgiving activities in order to neutralize the effects of the rich and calorie-dense meal.

Socialize during the meal

Instead of focusing on the food, engage in conversation with your friends and family. After all, you can’t talk and eat at the same time!

Volunteer to help clean up

Instead of spending your time finishing up the leftovers or going back for seconds or thirds, why not volunteer to help your host clean up? This not only helps to take your attention away from the food, but the physical act of cleaning up itself will also help you to burn some calories. Not to mention, your host will definitely appreciate the gesture.

Plan a post-meal walk

After enjoying your scrumptious meal, go for a post-meal walk together. A brisk walk will help you to burn some calories. It is also a great opportunity to get some fresh air and to bond with your friends and family.

Plan to work out the next morning

Most people will feel bloated the lethargic the day after Thanksgiving. Instead of lazing around the house, plan a work out. The knowledge that you have committed to burn off the extra calories the day after allows you to feel less guilty when indulging during your Thanksgiving meal. What’s more, knowing that you have an early-morning workout the next morning might keep you from reaching for that additional glass of wine!

If you are worried that you will not have the discipline to keep to your morning workout, schedule a fitness date with a friend for that morning. You can then keep each other accountable, and you won’t be able to bail!


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