On The Table

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The Healthiest Thanksgiving Menu & Food Ideas

Overwhelmed with the thought of preparing a healthy Thanksgiving menu? Learn how to enjoy Thanksgiving healthily and happily with these planning tips!

The Healthiest Thanksgiving Menu & Food Ideas

The infamous turkey baking in the oven and loved ones catching up around the table before Thanksgiving dinner. Those are just a few of the cherished moments during Turkey Day.

Despite the delight holidays are supposed to bring, they can also bring a time of stress. This may be due to worry about sticking to a healthy diet or feeling pressure to meet certain holiday standards.

Learn how to enjoy Thanksgiving healthily and happily with these planning tips and a delicious menu!

Stress-Free Thanksgiving Planning & Health Tips

Stressed about having thanksgiving foods ready and anxious to not overeat? Tend to both physical and mental health using these prep and planning tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving.

1. Be Proactive

Having a guilt-free Thanksgiving can start well before the main event! Be proactive with health by exercising daily to enhance energy levels during a busy week.

Map out a daily workout plan and strategize fun fall activities, including:

• Hitting the gym or outdoor hike on Sunday
• Doing a quick circuit workout before work on Monday
• Scheduling an evening cycling class for Tuesday or Wednesday
• Participating in a turkey trot on Thanksgiving day and/or Planksgiving challenge

Also, be proactive when it comes to having Thanksgiving foods ready. This includes nailing down that Thanksgiving menu (see below), along with ensuring that frozen turkey is thawed in time!

On that same token, compile a shopping list before hitting the store for a swift grocery trip. If able to, set the table the day before so one less task is off your Thanksgiving checklist.

2. Go for Annual Thanksgiving Foods

Rather than going for ordinary foods throughout the year, go for ones that tend to be consumed and enjoyed annually. For instance, swap out the chicken for ham or turkey, dinner rolls for sweet potatoes, and cookies for pecan pie.

Also instead of scarfing them down, truly relish and appreciate the flavors and time committed to preparing the Thanksgiving feast. 

3. Sit Away from Food

Not so surprisingly, research has shown people are more likely to overeat if food is in arms reach. To lessen the food's proximity, set it in the kitchen, ultimately making yourself or guests get up for a second plating.

4. Stop When Full

If feeling full, stop yourself. Overdoing it is not only uncomfortable physically but may lead to mental anguish.

Slow down the eating process by:

• Savoring the flavors of those special dishes
• Setting the fork down between each bite
• Sipping on water throughout the meal
• Starting to notice when hunger is relieved, or at least 20 minutes

Less overindulging also means more energy to converse, mingle, and perhaps take a scenic hike with loved ones!

5. Just Say "No"

From grandma's infamous pecan pie to the neighbor's new Thanksgiving appetizer recipe, it is okay to just say "no" to trying all foods on the table.

If guilt strikes too hard to take all offered food, politely inform them of your fullness. Or, ask for a to-go piece to try out later!

6. Freeze Leftovers

If hosting Thanksgiving this year, enjoy those annual favorites for months to come by freezing leftovers. Doing so can lessen food waste and reduce guilt about having to throw away spoiling food or scarfing them down so they do not.

Truly do not want the temptation of some of the foods lingering around the house? Prepare take-home "turkey" bags for guests.

7. Mingle with Loved Ones

Take the focus away from food and distract yourself by mingling throughout the room. While you may feel guilty about that second slice of pie, you will never feel guilty about catching up with loved ones!

What's On the Thanksgiving Menu?

Looking for classic Thanksgiving favorites or new school Thanksgiving food ideas? Look no further than these healthy Thanksgiving recipes to your Turkey Day menu!

Cranberry and Feta Farro Salad

Step aside, traditional cranberry sauce! This cranberry and feta farro salad is not only packed with heart-healthy ingredients but overflowing with flavor. Offering the perfect balance of salty and sweet, the salad is the perfect complement to the Thanksgiving meal.

The salad can also be prepared the day before Thanksgiving for easy assembly. It is also easy to transport to gatherings.

Glazed Carrots and Turnips

Adding veggies to the Thanksgiving meal offers additional nutrients and fiber. But not the ones with gobs of butter and other unnecessary ingredients...

This honey-glazed carrots with herbs recipe uses heart-healthy olive oil in the entire recipe. It is also easy and quick, taking only 40 minutes total to prepare and cook.

Truly, eating veggies has never tasted better on Thanksgiving!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

These crispy Brussels sprouts are seasoned and roasted to absolute perfection. They are also simple to prepare and require just a few basic ingredients likely already on hand.

The recipe can also be transformed into a healthy Thanksgiving side dish guests can customize. Versatile topping ideas include pancetta and balsamic vinegar, so there is a flavor profile for the entire guest list to enjoy.

Prefer other roasted vegetables? Try roasted cauliflower, broccoli, or other favorite fall vegetables like fennel and rutabaga.

Classic Italian Green Beans

Green bean casserole is a fixture on the Thanksgiving menu, but these classic Italian green beans deserve some recognition!

Juicy Roasted Turkey

Skip the fryer and roast your turkey this year to lessen total fat. With fat content reduced, baked turkey acts as a lean protein source.

This juicy Thanksgiving turkey recipe is seasoned with fresh herbs, including parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, and lemon pepper. Its rich flavor is sure to please all this Thanksgiving.

Protein and Fiber-Packed Mashed Potatoes

Traditional, silky mashed potatoes are often filled with tons of butter and salt. But adding a dollop or two of plain Greek yogurt can offer protein to a normally starchy side dish.

Leaving the skin on the potato provides a significant source of fiber. Also, cut overall carb and calorie content with this delicious mashed cauliflower with mushroom gravy recipe.

As a pro tip, keep potatoes in a slow cooker to keep warm, especially if transporting.

Sweet Potato-Pecan Casserole

Traditional sweet potato casserole recipes are often laden in sugar and calories. However, this sweet potato-pecan casserole takes a healthful spin by reducing sugar content and offering healthy fats from pecans.

Along with its rich flavor and nutrients, one of the greatest perks is the dish can be prepared ahead of time. This offers more time to spend with loved ones on Thanksgiving Day!

Pumpkin Pie and Apple Crisps

If looking for a vegan Thanksgiving dessert, and a low-carb recipe for that matter, try this healthy pumpkin pie!

For a gluten-free option, prepare these pumpkin pie tartlets that use heart-healthy almond flour as the main crust ingredient. Also being perfectly portioned, they moderate overall calorie content.

Apple Crisp

Prefer apple pie over pumpkin instead? Then this apple walnut crisp recipe is a must on your Thanksgiving menu!

From slightly tart apples to warm spices, the apple crisp has it all! And not to mention, each slice contains just a mere 180 calories.

Recapping Healthy Thanksgiving Planning and Menu Ideas

If dieting and trying to lose weight, the holidays can be stressful for staying on track. However, know that enjoying that Thanksgiving menu can and should be enjoyed!

Continue structuring the week with healthy lifestyle habits, including daily movement and a balanced diet. On Thanksgiving day, make it a goal to continue nourishing the body with wholesome foods while mindfully indulging in seasonal favorites.

The next day, allow yourself some grace and get right back. Besides, the habits you do day-in and day-out are what matter most - not the extra helpings of those Turkey Day favorites you enjoy one day out of the year!