20 Ways to Have a Healthier Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just two weeks away. For those trying to stick to a weight-management or health program, having a holiday that’s centered completely around food may seem like a diet apocalypse.

But it doesn’t have to.

Start planning now, and Thanksgiving can get you off to a good — and healthy — start to the entire holiday season.

Here are 20 ways you can have a healthier Thanksgiving:

Before Thanksgiving

1. Our first tip comes courtesy of Dr. Melina Jampolis, internist and board-certified physician and nutrition specialist, who specializes exclusively in nutrition for weight loss and disease prevention and treatment. She suggests, eating “clean” to “get a head-start on preventing holiday weight gain.” Consider one of the following: replace one meal per day with a protein shake, double your vegetable intake, or add interval training to your exercise regimen to burn extra calories.

2. Do a pre-holiday colon cleanse. Rid your body of accumulated junk, and motivate yourself to keep it clean during the tempting buffets of the holiday season.

Planning Your Menu

3. Lighten up your recipes with less fat, sugar and calories; add more whole grains, vegetables and fruit.

4. Connie Diekman, former President of the American Dietetic Association, suggests using fat-free broth to baste your turkey (in place of butter) and make your gravy (in place of fat-laden drippings). She also suggests replacing sugar with sugar substitutes, and pureed fruit in place of oil in baked goods. You can also try plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream in creamy dishes, such as mashed potatoes, casseroles and dips.

5. Look for healthful dishes. Here are some alternative recipes for a healthy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day

6. Start your day with a small but satisfying breakfast with protein and whole grains, like Nature’s Harvest. It will help give you more control over your appetite.

7. Start some physically active holiday traditions. Instead of just watching football games, organize your own Turkey bowl with family, friends and neighbors. Go on a pre-dinner or post-dinner walk. Many communities offer Thanksgiving Day 5K runs and family strolls.

The Meal

8. Manage pre-meal nibbles. Don’t fill up before the main event. Choose some raw fruits or vegetables.

9. Survey all of the options before loading your plate. Decide what you want, and skip the things you don’t.

10. Start filling your plate with the more healthful dishes, leaving a smaller amount of room on your plate for the extra-rich stuff.

11. Don’t waste your calories on foods you can have all year long. Fill your plate with small portions of holiday favorites that only come around once a year.

12. Choose wisely: white meat over dark, plain vegetables over saucy ones, roasted sweet potatoes over sweet potato casserole.

13. Indulge in favorites—even unhealthy favorites. Just keep your portions small.

14. Eat slowly, putting your fork down and enjoying conversation between bites. Savoing each mouthful, and as well as the presence of friends and family, is the surest way to feel full and satisfied with just one plate of food.

15. Go easy on the alcohol.

16. Drink plenty of water.

17. Skip seconds.

18. Wait a few hours before eating dessert. Fill the time with a family walk or active game in the backyard.

19. Be realistic. The holidays are a time of celebration. With busy schedules and lots of tempting food, it may be a time to shift into a mindset of weight maintenance, rather than weight loss.

20. Remember what Thanksgiving is really about. Thanksgiving is about family and friends. Focus on gathering to give thanks together rather than just on the buffet.

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