5 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

It can be difficult to stay healthy during the holidays. Thanksgiving is typically celebrated by feasting, followed by seconds, maybe thirds, and topped off with desert. Of course, then you have the post feast nap, a few hours of watching football, and then an additional leftover turkey sandwich and a slice of pumpkin pie.

In many households, Thanksgiving is dedicated to either eating rich, unhealthy foods foods, sitting still, or doing both. There are ways to make Thanksgiving healthy, however. Here are a few ideas for a healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

Plan a healthy Thanksgiving menu.

Thanksgiving dishes don’t have to be unhealthy. Turkey is a lean protein, and adding a few fruits, vegetables, some low-fat dairy, and whole grains makes for a balanced and healthy plate. Eating healthy on Thanksgiving isn’t all that difficult to manage.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, make a few healthy dishes. Place some vegetables on the table, and don’t soak them in butter, cover them salt, or bury them in cheese.You can still make room for your relative’s favorite cream of something soup casserole, but include some truly healthy options on your Thanksgiving table.

If you’re visiting friends or family for the holiday, you have less control over how healthy your Thanksgiving meal is. Offer to bring a side dish like a salad, or a healthy desert option.

Of course, you don’t have to completely omit those unhealthy comfort foods on Thanksgiving. You should, however, limit the amount of unhealthy foods you eat. It’s OK to have a slice of pumpkin pie, a pat of butter on some mashed potatoes, or a bit of gravy on your turkey and dressing, but you don’t want unhealthy foods in excess. Put healthier foods on your plate first and limit yourself to your favorite less-healthy foods.

Eat stuffing, don’t eat until you’re stuffed.

There’s a fine line between being full and overeating. Overeating is unhealthy in and of itself, but it also lends itself to unhealthy behavior. Who wants hop up and go for a walk or a bike ride when you can barely waddle to the couch without feeling as though you might get sick? Here are a few tips to avoid overeating on Thanksgiving:

  • Choose smaller portions rather than heaping mountains of food on your plate. The first bite tastes best! The 17th bite probably doesn’t bring you near as much enjoyment.
  • Pay attention to what goes on your plate, and notice what you’re eating.
  • Eat slowly. Get the maximum pleasure from your choices.
  • Wait a few minutes after you finish what’s on your plate. If you’re still hungry, consider going back for a second helping.
  • Have a sense of how much food you want to eat, and try to stick to it. If you want to try a bit of everything, get a small amount that would allow you to try each food without overindulging.
  • Listen to what your body tells you. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat more.
  • Limit snacking and grazing. If you’re going to eat food, put it on a plate, and don’t eat from serving dishes or containers.

Stay hydrated.

Choose water over soda, juice, or alcohol. Water is the healthiest beverage there is, and your body needs it to survive and function properly. Drinking water can also help you feel full, which can help prevent overeating.

Make water festive by infusing it with lemon or cucumber slices, or garnish your glass of water with traditional cocktail glasses. Consider serving sparkling water for extra fun.

Start active and healthy Thanksgiving traditions.

Make a point to get up and be active. Play football in the yard, hold a living room dance party, or go for a stroll with the family. Start an annual tradition of a Thanksgiving day hike or bike ride.

Of course, you might not be able to encourage the rest of your family to get up and stay active. If chess or watching a game on TV is the family tradition, you can still be active. Get your run or bike ride in during the morning before festivities begin, or find some other time to fit exercise into your day.

Keep your family safe from foodborne illness

1 in 6 Americans get sick from contaminated food or beverages each year. Here are some tips to help keep your family safe from food-borne illnesses.

    • Make sure that foods, especially meat or dishes with raw eggs – are cooked thoroughly. Using a meat thermometer is a good way to feel confident that your turkey is cooked to the proper temperature.
    • Keep raw meat separate from other foods, and always use separate knives, utensils, and cutting boards when preparing these foods.
    • Wash your hands and clean your preparation surfaces before cooking.

Nothing beats the sight of spectacular spread, but you don’t want to leave food out all day long. The “Danger Zone” is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep hot foods hot, cold foods cold, and don’t leave foods in the “Danger Zone” for more than one hour.