• Allison Mankowski

8 Tips for a Happy AND Healthy Thanksgiving

For anyone who has been trying to improve their eating habits, the holidays can be extra stressful. Just thinking about the typical Thanksgiving day can be enough to make even the most dedicated healthy eater say, “Screw it” and decide to give up until January 1st. I mean, just look at all of this deliciousness...

Hours of appetizers followed by a huge dinner with rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, veggies covered in cheesy sauces, turkey and all the other family specialties, and then top it off with pie and more pie. Not to mention all of the wine, beer, soda and other high calorie beverages that often come with family celebrations. Is it even possible to be sensible when it comes to holiday eating without being miserable and feeling deprived? Guess what…it is! Read on below to learn how to make your holiday happy AND healthy!

1. Don’t go into the big meal hungry.

Eat a breakfast with normal (or slightly smaller) portions that includes quality carbohydrates, protein and fruit or veggies. If the big meal isn’t until later in the day make sure you still get light, healthy snacks as usual. Eating breakfast and snacks can keep you from going into dinner too hungry. Being starving at dinner will make it hard not to overeat.

2. Don’t plant yourself in front of the snacks and appetizers.

If you have a lot of snacks and appetizers available, grab a plate, take small portions and then walk away to enjoy time with friends and family. If you hang out by the food all day, chances are you will keep eating. Set a limit and remove yourself from the temptation! If this is hard, chewing sugar-free gum or sipping on water can also help keep you from constantly snacking.

3. Stick to drinking water through the day.

As you are hanging out before dinner, keep your water bottle or a glass of water nearby. Drinking water and limiting the high calorie beverages like juice, soda and alcohol will keep your daily calorie count down. You don’t need to eliminate these completely, but try waiting until dinner instead of drinking them all day long.

4. Don’t forget about portion control.

Choose small portions of your favorite foods. Eat them slowly and enjoy every bite. You don’t have to deprive yourself, but don’t overload your plate. Eating slowly will help you enjoy the meal and allow your body to send the “I’m full” message. This should help keep you from getting to the uncomfortable, overstuffed feeling.

5. Get some physical activity.

Take some time during the day to go on a walk with family, play a game of basketball, take your younger family members to the park, anything that gets you moving. This will help you feel better physically and mentally!

6. Load up on healthy choices.

Some traditional holiday foods are actually good for you! Things like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cranberries and veggies are full of important nutrients. Turkey is a great lean protein source. Try to fill up on these choices and limit portion sizes of other options. Use your plate as a guide and try to make half of your plate fruits and veggies (not the ones covered in oil or creamy sauces!), a quarter of your plate protein (stick to white meat) and a quarter of your plate carbohydrates (look for whole grain options or sweet potatoes).

7. Focus on your friends and family, not the food.

Too often, holidays revolve around the abundance of food. Don’t forget about what really matters---the people you enjoy that food with! Don’t make the day only about the food, instead spend time talking with everyone, play a game, share pictures or remember stories from past holidays.

8. Don’t make it a multi-day indulgence.

A bit of indulgence on Thanksgiving is expected and I encourage you to enjoy yourself and eat those foods that make you happy! But, be careful of the leftovers and making it a week-long celebration. You should get back into your normal routine once the big day is over. Of course all those leftovers can be worked into a typical day, but be smart about the frequency and quantities!

Above all, remember this is a time to celebrate what you are thankful for. It’s okay (really!!) if one of the things you are thankful for is delicious food! One day of enjoying your favorite foods and indulging a bit will not eliminate the hard work you’ve put in throughout the year, but if this day is the start of a month of over-indulgence you might be setting yourself up for a struggle. Hopefully using these suggestions and being mindful of your choices through the day will help eliminate some of the food-related stress and guilt so you can instead focus on enjoying the start of this holiday season!


Locations in Mt. Pleasant, Ann Arbor, and Metro Detroit

Registered Dietitan

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Tel: 989-400-3491

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