How to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving

For many, Thanksgiving Day is dedicated to carving turkeys, ladling gravy, slicing pies, and watching football. An endless selection of decadent deserts, three – or more – servings of turkey dinner, and an entire day sitting on the couch watching television isn’t exactly the recipe for good health. That doesn’t mean you have to forgo the festivities, however. There are many ways that you can make your Thanksgiving holiday healthier. Here are a few tips on how to have a healthy Thanksgiving.

Choose healthy Thanksgiving recipes

Turkey is a healthy, lean protein source, so you’re already ahead if you want to serve a healthy meal. There may be traditional dishes that aren’t that healthy, but no one wants to miss them — whether it’s cathead biscuits or pecan pie. But you might find that your guests will appreciate healthier side dishes and desserts.

Here are a couple of new recipes to try out this year. They might become family favorites!


2 c. thinly sliced Brussels sprouts
2 thinly sliced apples
1 bunch celery, thinly sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. chopped pecans


1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
2 T Dijon mustard

Combine salad ingredients in salad bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients and toss salad.

What about dessert?

A typical 29 ounce can of pumpkin puree packs 3 grams of fiber and just 5 grams of sugar. It’s low in fat and a Vitamin A powerhouse. Traditional pumpkin pie with eggs and evaporated milk ramps up the protein. Depending on your choice of crust, pumpkin pie is quite nutritious as desserts go.

If you want an option with lower fat and sugar, consider our rustic pumpkin cake with half the sugar of pumpkin pie and just 6 tablespoons of butter. You can replace the butter with olive oil if you prefer.

Plenty of dried fruits and nuts add fiber and flavor, too.


6 T butter
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 29-oz can pumpkin puree
1 t. orange extract
2 c. white whole-wheat flour
2 T pumpkin pie spice
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. chopped walnuts


1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T orange juice

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and pumpkin. Combine dry ingredients and stir into pumpkin mixture. Stir in fruit and nuts.

Bake in a Bundt pan at 350 degrees till a knife pushed into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Combine orange juice and sugar till smooth and drizzle over cake if desired.

Practice healthy eating habits

  • Don’t skip breakfast or lunch in anticipation of overeating at Thanksgiving dinner.
  • If available, use a smaller plate to help manage the amount the you eat.
  • Limit portion sizes.
  • Enjoy your food, don’t race through it.
  • Let your food digest before deciding to eat more.
  • Stop eating once you feel full.
  • Choose healthy Thanksgiving dishes over the unhealthy ones.

Drink plenty of water

Soda, juice, and alcoholic beverages contain lots of extra calories and sugars. Choose water instead. Drinking plenty of water can also help you feel full and help prevent overeating.

Get up and be active

Thanksgiving often means lots of sitting. Try starting a new active tradition for Thanksgiving. Suggest a game of touch football in the yard, go on a walk or hike, or go for a bike ride with the family.

You don’t have to abandon guests or force your family to go outside. You can offer the host to help clear away dishes or help clean up after the meal instead of sitting. Another option is to get your daily exercise in either before or after the festivities.

Be thankful and enjoy the holiday

Be mindful of your mental health over the holidays. Remember that Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for, and appreciative of, the good, positive things in your life. Don’t get overwhelmed with the stress of meal planning or entertaining.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

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