Tips for a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving Holiday


Thanksgiving turkeyThanksgiving is just around the corner (next week!) – and so is the abundance of food that is associated with this celebration. It can be an emotionally distressing time for many individuals who fear going to Thanksgiving dinner with their families for food and weight-related reasons. However, this holiday meal does not have to be a trap for derailing all of your weight-loss efforts and leaving you to
feel miserable afterwards. With a little planning ahead, you can enjoy yourself and stay on track at the same time!

Having a game plan will allow you to enjoy the special foods this holiday season is known for, but in moderation. Instead of feeling guilty for “overdoing it” and using the holiday as an excuse to go off your plan altogether, you can feel comfortable with your Thanksgiving choices and remain focused on your goals!

For example, if a sliver of pie will leave you wanting more sweets for months to come, then it may be best to choose a healthy serving of fruit in place of dessert . Or, you can add pumpkin to yogurt or ricotta cheese for a low-calorie and seasonal flavor instead. Staying committed to your long-term plan is worth making some sacrifices and substitutions where needed, while eating mindfully and still enjoying your favorite dishes during the holiday.

Strategies to Help You Have the Happiest and Healthiest Thanksgiving Day

To plan ahead for the holiday, consider these tips for staying focused and determined to keep up with your nutrition and fitness routine:

  • healthy-yogurtEat Breakfast – Start your day like any other day with a healthy meal within an hour or so of rising. Whether you usually replace the first meal of the day with a protein shake or eat a sensible meal with some lean protein, stick to your plan! You will not only feel more satisfied, but you’ll avoid feeling ravenous by the time the turkey is on the table. You will also have the energy to cook or prepare for the day’s festivities.
  • Plan for Activity – Sign-up well in advance for a Turkey Trot (usually a 5K run that is fun for the whole family), take a long walk or hike, or play a group sport after the meal. Either way, you will be burning extra calories all day and night to help compensate for the extra calories you consume. It’s also a stress-free way to spend time together with friends and family.
  • thanksgiving turkey feastMake a Plan for Leftovers – If you host the meal at your home, send guests home with leftovers or freeze them if you know you will not be able to take your mind off them. If you can save them for the next day, only keep enough for another day’s meal versus a week’s worth. Using leftover turkey in various ways will provide several healthy meals throughout the week rather than indulging in high-calorie side
    dishes for days to come.
  • Control Your Portions – Eating turkey first will help satiate your appetite, and chewing your foods will help you slow down and savor each bite. Practice portion control by using a small plate and filling it up with protein and non-starchy vegetables. If there is not one planned on the menu, make sure to offer to bring one (asparagus, haricot verts, Brussels sprouts and greens all make excellent side dishes for the holidays). By the time you get around to the sweet potato casserole or pumpkin pie, you will not be as hungry or have room for a large serving of them.
  • family exerciseFocus on Family and Friends – Regardless of who
    you spend the holiday with, remember it is more about what you are thankful for than the food. Make a list of what you are grateful for and how much progress you have made toward your health goals. If possible, surround yourself with an accountability partner who has similar goals and can help you avoid second and third helpings. Plan a fun activity in addition to something active – maybe you enjoy starting your Christmas shopping and want to make a list for Black Friday sales, or you’d like to go see a new movie.

However you spend this Thanksgiving, keep in the forefront of your mind what is important to you and avoid allowing others to negatively influence your food choices or pressure you to overeat. Pay attention to your hunger signals and stop when you are satisfied, before you are uncomfortable. Continue sipping water between meals and try sipping on a cup of hot tea or coffee while everyone is having a second meal or dessert! Your body will thank you for staying on track and the added activity will help you feel your best mentally and emotionally as well. Tomorrow is a new day!

About the Author: 

Pam Helmlinger

Pam Helmlinger, RD, LDN, CDE, is a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian specializing in bariatrics. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from Harding University in 2001 and her experience includes ten years at Tristar Centennial’s Center for Weight Management. She holds a certificate of training in adult weight management from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and became a Certified Diabetes Educator in 2012. She has a passion for helping patients throughout their weight-loss journey from medical weight-loss to preparing for surgery and maintaining weight-loss for the long-term. 

Learn. Connect. Engage.

learn, connect, engage icons

Gain the tools you need to succeed in your health journey. Join the OAC Community at NO COST and get access to: Valuable Education – Ongoing Support – Meaningful Connections – Much More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *