Seasonal Diet Tips

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10 Ways to Stay Healthy This Thanksgiving

With the fall holidays often being a difficult time for weight loss, we've created these 10 healthy Thanksgiving tips to help you maintain your goals all while enjoying the delicious fall holiday!

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

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 10 tips!

10 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

Tend to both physical and mental health with these tips for a healthy Thanksgiving:

1. Wake Up Thankful

2. Attend to Hunger

3. Balance a Thanksgiving Dinner Plate

4. Stay Hydrated

5. Practice Mindful Eating

6. Question Seconds

7. Keep Active

8. Remember to Breathe

9. Create a Game Plan

10. Ease Up on Holiday Standards

1. Wake Up Thankful

Each awakening morning, we are granted the opportunity to have a great day and live in the moment. And on Thanksgiving, what better way to start the day than with namely giving thanks?

Before allowing your mind to jump to a busy to-do list, consider starting a gratitude journal. Give gratitude to good food ahead and even better company!

2. Attend to Hunger

It may seem like a good idea to skip meals to save room (and calories) for the main Thanksgiving dinner. However, disregarding hunger can cause lead to ravenous feelings and overeating once that meal comes.

So second to waking up thankful, start the day with a high-protein breakfast. Doing so fuels the body with the energy it needs to tackle your to-do list and paves the way for healthy choices throughout the day's entirety. Nutritious and delicious ideas include:

• Fruity and/or chocolaty high-protein smoothies

• Greek yogurt parfait with fresh berries and sliced almonds

• Salmon with a sunny-side-up egg

• Quinoa bowls with sweet and savory options

Enjoying a healthy snack can likewise satisfy hunger and deter cravings. Convenient snacking options include:

• An apple with peanut butter

• Carrot sticks and hummus

• Edamame

• Hardboiled eggs

Ultimately, attend to hunger rather than dismissing it. This helps fight cravings and the urge to overeat on calorie-dense foods.

3. Balance a Thanksgiving Dinner Plate

Holiday feasts may seem like a green light to fill your plate with mounds of mashed potatoes, gravy, and green bean casserole. However, one can certainly eat healthily during the holiday season while enjoying those favorites.

Follow these guidelines to help balance a Thanksgiving meal plate:

• Fill half the meal plate with non-starchy vegetables. Roasted Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans are great healthy Thanksgiving side dishes.

• Allocate one-quarter of the plate with 3 to 4 ounces of protein. This includes the roasted turkey or ham.

• Use the remaining quarter for starch and complex carb. Examples include roasted carrots, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. A small dinner roll can also fit onto a balanced plate.

• Complement the meal with a healthy fat source. For instance, drizzle olive oil or add chopped pecans to leafy spinach greens.

• Feel free to add a small serving of fruit or sweet treat. This may include some cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie. These pumpkin pie tartlets are also a healthy Thanksgiving recipe to keep portions controlled.

All-in-all, watch portions and stick to the concept of moderation. Using smaller plates can also help control portion sizes.

4. Stay Hydrated

Keeping hydrated can boost energy levels and improve post-Thanksgiving digestion. Sipping on water before and during the main course can subside feelings of hunger as well.

If deciding to drink alcohol, also do so in moderation. Women and men are recommended to limit drink intake to one and two drinks, respectively. 

Try to avoid sugary mixers as well. Using sparkling water and fresh citrus fruits is a great way to offer flavor without added calories.

5. Practice Mindful Eating

Some of the offered foods are only available at Thanksgiving, so savor the flavor of your favorites. Mindful eating, or a nonjudgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations while eating, is a great practice to do so.

Practice mindful eating using some of these tips:

• Eat and chew foods slowly.

• Put the fork down between each bite.

• Tune into internal hunger and satiety cues.

• Recognize the present external world.

• Appreciate the food at hand.

6. Question Seconds

Even after savoring the flavor and watching portions, you may find yourself wanting to go in for another round.

But before going for a second plate, wait at least 20 minutes. This is because it takes about that time for the brain and belly to communicate just how hungry you truly are.

If still feeling hungry, try to satisfy it with eating nutritious foods. Also, repeat watching portions and practicing the concepts of mindful eating.

7. Keep Active

Along with nourishing the body with valuable nutrients, give it the opportunity to keep active. Exercise keeps you energized and focused to enjoy the Thanksgiving activities with a positive mindset.

Ways to keep active on Thanksgiving day may include:

• Taking the dog on a walk in the morning.

• Signing up for a turkey trot.

• Gathering the family for a Thanksgiving hike or game of flag football.

• Walking the neighborhood with a loved one after dinner.

8. Remember to Breathe

With so much going on throughout the day, it is easy to get caught up in stress. But remember to breathe and grant yourself a sense of calm, as doing so can help separate anxiety and relink you to holiday joy.

Instead of allowing your Thanksgiving to-do list to stress you out, divide and conquer! Along with meal prepping the night prior, delegate chores and tasks to your spouse, kids, or other friends and family members willing to chip in.

Also following a productive Thanksgiving day, it is okay to want to unwind. Plan for a leisure activity you enjoy, including:

• Piecing together a puzzle you have been working on.

• Taking a warm bath.

• Cozying up by the fire with a good book.

• Writing in a journal

9. Create a Game Plan

Out of everyone else, you know yourself the best. So use that to your advantage!

Identify which foods are your biggest weakness and create a game plan. For instance, tell yourself "I will allow myself a small piece after dinner" if you know that sweet potato pie is your biggest weakness. Then, position yourself away from the dessert table to lower its temptation.

10. Ease Up on Holiday Standards

At the end of the day, Thanksgiving should be enjoyed with loved ones. So ease up on strict standards and enjoy good food with even better company.

Truly enjoy the ambiance of Thanksgiving by disconnecting from social media as well. Instead of being distracted on your phone, live in real-time with family and friends!

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on November 15, 2016. Updated on January 12, 2020.

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