10 Tips for a Healthier Thanksgiving Day

Get Active

Burn off extra calories before you ever indulge in your favorite foods.  Increase your steps or lengthen your fitness routine the weeks ahead and especially the day of the feast. "Eat less and exercise more".
Make fitness a family adventure. Take a walk early in the day and then again after dinner. It is a wonderful way for families to get physical activity and enjoy the holiday together.

Eat Breakfast

You might think it makes sense to save up calories for "the big meal", however, experts say eating a small meal in the morning can give you more control over your appetite. Start your day with a small but satisfying breakfast -- an egg with a slice of whole-wheat toast, a bowl of whole-grain cereal, hot porridge, or your favorite green smoothie.  Then you won't be starving when you arrive at the gathering. "Eating a nutritious meal with protein and fiber before you arrive takes the edge off your appetite and allows you to be more discriminating in your food and beverage choices," says Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, former president of the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

Lighten Up

Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner or bringing a few dishes to share, make your recipes healthier with less fat, sugar, and calories.

There is usually more sugar and fat in most recipes than is needed, so no one will really notice the difference if you skim calories by using lower calorie ingredients.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Use sugar substitutes (honey/agave etc.) in place of sugar and/or fruit purees instead of oil in baked goods.
  • Reduce oil and butter wherever you can.
  • Try plain yogurt or low-fat sour cream in creamy dips, mashed potatoes, and casseroles.

Police Your Portions

Thanksgiving tables are bountiful and beautiful displays of traditional family favorites. Before you fill your plate, survey the buffet table and decide what you're going to choose. Then select reasonable-sized portions of foods you cannot live without.  
Don't waste your calories on foods that you can have all year long.Fill your plate with small portions of holiday favorites that only come around once a year so you can enjoy desirable, traditional foods.


Try to resist the temptation to go back for second helpings. Leftovers are much better the next day! If you watch what you eat on Thanksgiving and try to limit yourself to one plate, you are less likely to overeat and have more room for a delectable dessert! 

Survey the Scene and then choose the "Best Bets" on the buffet. I know each of us has our own favorites, but keep in mind that some holiday foods are better choices than others. White turkey meat, plain vegetables, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy (depending upon how it is prepared), and pumpkin pie tend to be the best bets because they are lower in fat and calories. If you keep your portions small, you can enjoy whatever you like! 

Slowly Savor

Eating slowly, putting your fork down between bites, and tasting each mouthful is one of the easiest ways to enjoy your meal and feel satisfied with one plate full of food, experts say. Choosing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, salads, and other foods with lots of water and fiber add to the feeling of fullness.

Spread out the food and fun all day long.  I love suggesting a walk with the family after our big meal and before we gather for dessert. We eat midday, and instead of another meal at dinnertime, we continue the feast with dessert a few hours after the main meal.

Go Easy on Alcohol

Don't forget those alcohol calories that can add up quickly. Have a glass of wine or a wine spritzer and between alcoholic drinks, (or) enjoy sparkling water. This way you stay hydrated, limit alcohol calories, and stay sober.

Be Realistic

The holiday season is a time for celebration. With busy schedules and so many extra temptations, this is a good time to strive for weight maintenance instead of weight loss. Shift from a mindset of weight loss to weight maintenance. Nurture yourself instead of torturing yourself. You will be ahead of the game and feel a lot more pleasure and joy along the way. 

Focus on Family and Friends

Thanksgiving is not just about the delicious bounty of food. It's a time to celebrate relationships with family and friends.

The main event should be family and friends socializing, spending quality time together, not just what is on the buffet. Enjoy!