Tips for a Healthy & Happy Thanksgiving

by Sarah Frazier, ACSM-CPT

We all know the story: you wake up Thanksgiving morning, well aware of the marathon eating ahead. In preparation, you skip breakfast, and probably lunch too. At 3 pm, all bets are off and all healthy eating habits are thrown out the window!

It’s hard to resist seconds when this may be the only time of year for pumpkin pie, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole. But with a few tips, you will feel completely satisfied with your Thanksgiving meal, without feeling overly full and guilty later.

  1. Refuse the feelings of guilt or the “last supper” mentality. It’s so easy to choose a less nutritious meal and then throw the rest of the day out. Remember that you can have dessert and still be able to call it a “good day.” And although it may feel like Thanksgiving is the only day of the year for your favorite foods, it does not have to be! Most of these ingredients can be purchased year-round, and therefore you don’t have to over-eat for fear of having to wait 365 more days for it.
  2. DO NOT skip breakfast. It’s really tempting, thinking that you will save your calories for later in the day, but this is a huge contributor to over-eating at your Thanksgiving meal! Choose something light and keep in mind what food groups you may be missing out on at dinner. Don’t love your aunt’s cranberry salad? Add fruit to your breakfast to keep it balanced.
  3. Start with a little, and go back if you’re still hungry. It’s much more satisfying to go back for seconds if you are hungry, rather than just wanting to taste the food again. So start small, and know that you can always get more if you need it.
  4. Check in on your hunger and fullness signals regularly. This means about every 5-10 minutes, set your silverware down, take a sip of water and rate your fullness on a scale of 1-10. Generally, you should start eating at a 2-3 and stop at a 7-8.
  5. Life is short, have dessert. But be choosy! Usually, if someone brings chocolate chip cookies to Thanksgiving, I skip those and go straight for the pecan pie. Why? Because I know that I can get a good chocolate chip cookie most any day of my life. Pick a dessert that you really love and can’t get any day, and make sure it is a moderate portion size.