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Healthy Living

7 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 11/26/2013
Last Updated: 11/26/2013

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Are you worried that Thanksgiving marks the start of an unhealthy month (or two)? Are you determined to make it different this year?

We've got some tips. While you might have heard some of these before, a reminder can only serve to help, don't you think?  Sometimes it takes a while before it actually clicks.

But this year we're offering up some new tips that you might not have run across before, like things you thought you couldn't eat but can/should.

Here's a short list to help you have a healthy Thanksgiving.

  • Eat breakfast. You might be tempted to save up all the calories for the "big meal," but that usually backfires because you end up with an "I deserve it" mentality, which often leads to overdoing it. Instead, start your day with a filling, but healthy, breakfast like a bowl of hot oatmeal or whole-grain cereal or an egg-white omelet filled with vegetables and sprinkled with a little low-fat cheese. Most important: don't show up for Thanksgiving hungry!
  • Be active. Most gyms are open Thanksgiving Day (at least, part of the day) and feature fun workouts. Working out early will not only give you the energy to get through a busy day, but it will lift your mood and rev up your metabolism. If you can't get to a gym, try taking a walk. And there's no shame in grabbing some of your Thanksgiving guests and insisting you walk off your turkey after dinner, either.
  • Eat whatever you want. Just eat less of it. There's nothing worse than regretting never having tasted that homemade apple crisp that smells so good or not trying the pumpkin pie that you look forward to all year. Saying no to foods you love and won't likely see for another year will only make you feel deprived and frustrated. Instead, have a plan: tell yourself that you will let yourself eat whatever you want, but that you'll put just a small amount of that something(s) on your plate—and not take seconds.

By the way, go for a bit of chocolate, preferably the dark stuff. A German study that reported on chocolate's health benefits also found that you need only consume about six grams a day—about the equivalent of one square of a chocolate bar—to reap the benefits, which include lowered blood pressure.


  • Help out. Obviously, if it's your house, that's a given. But if you're a guest this year, helping to clear the table and wash or dry some dishes will not only keep you from sitting too much, it'll keep you from lingering at the table and picking at the leftover food.


  • Bring something. Yes, that's a given, too: you're unlikely to show up empty-handed. But here's your opportunity to prepare a healthy dish in the event your host favors a heavy hand in the cooking department. For instance, bring your own version of sweet potatoes. Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa suggests baking yams in foil at 400 until the syrupy juice starts to seep out (usually about an hour), peeling and slicing them, then layering them with some pineapple slices and a bit of cinnamon.
  • Snack on some nuts. While there's no guarantee your host will have them, consider bringing a nice assortment for before or after the meal. A has found that adults who ate a small handful of nuts (about a one-ounce serving) seven or more times a week were less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than those who didn't eat nuts. Regularly eating nuts also reduced mortality risk for heart and respiratory disease and cancer.
  • Scope out the spread. Nutrition expert Kerri Glassman and cofounder of MommyCoach () offers a good suggestion to people going to parties: Rather than jumping right in and filling your plate with all the goodies set out before you, take your time. Studies show that people eat more when they're offered a greater variety of foods, she says. "By taking a tour of all the food first, you won't fall into this trap," says Glassman. This way, you can look at everything and decide what's healthiest and what to put on your plate.


Thanks for great practical tips, Sheryl. Wishing you all the best for the holiday season, Joan

You are very welcome, Joan, and wishing you the very same!

We usually try to take a walk while the turkey cooks - a great way to fit in some exercise and build an appetite. Great tips

Who needs to sit around waiting for the turkey to cook? Walking is a great use of time, I think.

Great tips! I've been using many of these ideas to keep my weight down while traveling. Of course I'll be applying them to Thanksgiving Day as well. I like your idea of scoping out the spread. It's a good way to eat mindfully.

Traveling can make it quite challenging, Donna, but it sounds like you've been successful!

These are such great tips. From past experience I know I have felt more "entitled" to partake of the feast when I have exercised in the morning. And I love your advice to eat what you want, just less of it.

Thanks for weighing in, Helene :). Hope you were able to eat what you wanted at Thanksgiving!

Great tips. I'm off to Jazzercise this morning before the feast today! Happy Thanksgiving, Sheryl!

You didn't need my advice, Lois- sounds like you made your own decision to exercise before the big meal. Good for you!

I had tweeted this before Thanksgiving. Great advice and yes, I ate whatever I wanted and didn't stress over it.

Thanks, Estelle...hope you enjoyed the holiday!


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