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10 Healthy Thanksgiving Tips for the Family

It's that time of year where the family gets to eat throughout the day and gorge on festive spreads on the table! Thanksgiving is undoubtedly one of the most joyous times of the year -- a wonderful start to the highly anticipated holiday season.

healthy thanksgiving dinner

In countless households, Thanksgiving is dedicated to eating rich, fatty foods, sitting still, taking naps only to head back to the table for seconds. For one whole day, overeating is welcomed. However, most of us pack on the extra pounds as soon as Thanksgiving day is over. The next thing we know, it’s two whole months of eating aimlessly.

The good news is healthy eating during Thanksgiving is possible, and no, it doesn't involve cutting off that tasty stuffing or foregoing sugar and fat completely. You could still have a memorable, delicious spread without sacrificing your family's health.

Below are healthy Thanksgiving tips that will help you get through the holiday unscathed.

1. Plan ahead

It's all about dedicating time to plan your Thanksgiving meal. If you're hosting it this year, the key is to strategize what you're going to serve, and how you're going to cook your dishes. This way, you could also make time for other activities you can all enjoy together.

healthy thanksgiving meal

For one, opting for low-fat dairy and whole grains cuts you back on saturated fats, refined sugar and excess calories. Another is cooking your vegetables the healthier way. Don't soak them in butter or flavor it with too much salt. Steaming, boiling or roasting them makes for a healthier side dish. Swapping out canned food with fresh substitutes will go a long way too. Furthermore, try to have only one dessert that the whole family can agree to. This way, you can limit the amount of sugar.

The good thing about turkey is it's lean meat, which is all the more reason not to leave it out if you're not vegan or vegetarian. Just remember to use fat-free chicken broth when making your gravy and holding off on adding too much butter.

2. Seek out healthy recipes

Whether you will host or offer to bring something to enliven the feast further, healthy recipes are your best bet. Remember: you're not only looking out for yourself but your family too.

healthy thanksgiving recipe

From a healthier pumpkin pie to sneaking in some veggies into your mashed potatoes, there are tons of nutritious traditional or playful Thanksgiving dinner recipes available online to guide you. Look out for tips that will help you switch out the unhealthy options with better ones. Go for recipes that little ones will enjoy too. You'd want them to gorge on nutritious meals that are good for them, and not just go straight to desserts and snacks.

3. Make time for physical activity

The rest of the day will be all about feasting with family and friends. Once you've planned out what your Thanksgiving dinner feast will be, make time to start with some physical activities.

family playing sports

 Begin with a family walk around the neighborhood or engage in sports. A good old friendly game of soccer or football doesn't only help everyone become more active. It's also a great way to bond, enjoy and catch up.

4. Don't skip breakfast

It's common practice for a lot of people to skip breakfast because of the incredible amount of food they're about to face for dinner. However, it's not the healthy way to go.

healthy breakfast

Eating in the morning allows us to have more control over our appetite. But that doesn't mean we should eat a big meal to start the day. A small, nutritious breakfast of cereals with low-fat dairy or an egg with whole wheat toast gives our body the fiber and protein to curb our appetite. It also aids in ensuring you're not going to eat too much come dinnertime.

5. Try not to snack

We know: it can be quite irresistible not to graze when you're around the kitchen. There's so much food around you that you can't help but snack on them.

person snacking on table

Grazing not only adds more unwanted weight. It could also ruin your appetite for the main event. The best you can do is to walk away while food is being prepared. Engage with the rest of your guests. Play with your kids or catch up with old friends. Play games to keep the atmosphere alive and joyful. After all, Thanksgiving is also about spending time with family and friends.

6. Police your portions

Our health goals and lifestyles differ from one family member to the next. However, it's still helpful to watch what you eat, and how much of it you're about to. The same goes with your children. You'd still want to somehow ensure they are eating their veggies while enjoying their cake or cookies.

portion on plate

A great Thanksgiving holiday tip is to police your portions. Don't pile on a lot on your plate at once. Before you fill up your plate, survey what's on the table and see which ones you really want to eat. While you're at it, get more vegetables or other healthier side dishes. If you can't help but try a little bit of everything, get small amounts of each. Go for slices of turkey breast so there's less fat. Got room for dessert? Just have a tiny slice of the pie or a fruit to round it out.

It's helpful to eat slowly and savor every bite. Listen to your body. If you're not hungry, try not to eat more. The last thing you want is to pack on the weight that will be harder to shave off, especially if you don't exercise regularly.

7. Stay hydrated

It's a festive time, which can make it a tad more difficult to stay away from sodas, alcohol and sugary drinks. Just be sure to drink a lot more water and stay hydrated. 

water cocktail mix

Water doesn't only aid in digestion. It could also help you feel more full easily and prevent you from overeating. If you're hosting, you can make water extra fun by adding cucumber or lemon slices into it and using cocktail glasses to serve it in.

8. Get everyone involved in cleaning up

Cleaning up is probably the least favorite thing to do during a Thanksgiving dinner. However, it's made easier and fun when everyone gets involved. Plus, it's a fantastic way to get moving and burn all those extra calories.

family helping clean up

Give everyone tasks to get the job done easier. You can even find some little things your children, nieces or nephews can do to get them in on it.

9. Make healthy Thanksgiving a tradition

A well-rounded, healthy Thanksgiving experience isn't just a time to spend with your family and friends. It's also an opportunity to get everyone active and eat better options.

flatlay of thanksgiving feast

Make it a point to include physical activities and plan for healthier dishes during this time of the year. It's a great way to start the holidays and eventually end the year on a high, healthier note.

10. Enjoy the holiday

family enjoying Thanksgiving

We're not always given the gift of time with our loved ones. The holidays are the perfect season to make room for love and togetherness. For many, this may only be the time for them to gather as a family and have a memory they'll cherish for a long time.

So kick back, relax and make the most of your holiday.