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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 unquestionably one of the most pleasant times of the year — a beautiful start to the widely anticipated holiday season. In countless households, Thanksgiving is dedicated to eating rich, fatty foods, sitting still, taking naps only to head back to the table for seconds. Overeating is allowed for an entire day. However, the majority of us gain weight immediately after Thanksgiving. The next thing we know, it's been two months of aimless eating. Figuring out how to stay healthy during the holidays can feel like a daunting task.

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. For some, you may want a little extra boost to ensure you get all your essential vitamins and minerals. You can still have a memorable, delicious spread though without sacrificing your family's health. 

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

Healthy Thanksgiving Tips for the Family

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.

For starters, choosing low-fat dairy and whole grains helps you consume fewer saturated fats, processed sugars, and calories. Another option is to prepare your vegetables in a 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. Substituting fresh foods for canned ones will also help. Additionally, try to stick to a single dessert that the entire family can agree on. This way, you can control the amount of sugar consumed.

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.

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

2. Seek out healthy recipes

Whether you're hosting or bringing something to further enliven the feast, nutritious foods are your best bet. Bear in mind that you are not only looking out for yourself, but also for your family.

From a healthier pumpkin pie to sneaking vegetables into your mashed potatoes, there are a variety of nutritious traditional and playful Thanksgiving meal dishes online to inspire you. Look out for tips that will help you in substituting healthier selections for unhealthy 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.

Backyard Thanksgiving Activities

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 for your family and friends.

Begin by taking a walk around the neighborhood or participating in sports as a family. A friendly game of soccer or football not only encourages everyone to be more active. Additionally, it's an excellent method to bond, enjoy, and catch up.

Thanksgiving Breakfast Options

4. Don't skip breakfast

It's common practice for a lot of people to skip breakfast due to the huge amount of food they're planning to consume in the evening. However, it's not the healthy way to go. According to Naheed Ali , MD, PhD of HealthcarePropulsion.com, “Breakfast is important. It is the start and the very first thing that we should do. It is the mouthful that represents dedication to a new day, a new existence.”

Consuming food in the morning enables us to exert greater control over our hunger. However, this does not mean we should begin the day with a large lunch. A simple, nutritious breakfast of cereals with low-fat dairy or an egg on whole wheat bread provides our bodies with the fiber and protein they require to control their appetite. Additionally, it helps in ensuring that you do not overeat at dinnertime.

Healthy Thanksgiving Snacks

5. Try not to snack

We understand: it's nearly impossible to resist eating when you're near the kitchen. You can't help but munch on the food that surrounds you.

People who eat a lot of food don't only gain weight. It could also make you not want to eat at the main event. The best you can do is to leave while the food is being made. Take the time to get to know the rest of your guests. Play with your kids or see old friends. Play games to keep things lively and fun. After all, Thanksgiving is also a time to spend with family and friends.

Healthy Thanksgiving Food Portions

6. Police your portions

Every member of our family has a different goal for their health and a different way of living. Even so, it's still good to keep an eye on what you eat and how much you're about to eat. This will help you stay healthy. The same goes with your children. You'd still want to somehow ensure they are eating their veggies while enjoying their cake or cookies.

A great Thanksgiving holiday tip is to keep a close eye on your servings. Avoid piling too much on your plate at once. Before you start stuffing your plate, take a look at what's on the table and decide which items you truly want to eat. While you're at it, stock up on vegetables and other more nutritious side dishes. If you feel compelled to taste a little bit of everything, take little quantities 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. According to Naheed Ali , MD, PhD of HealthcarePropulsion.com, "mindful eating is an awareness-based practice. When you eat thoughtfully, you take time to slow down, focus on the food you're eating, and relish each bite."

Hydration Tips

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 is not simply beneficial for digestion. Additionally, it may help you feel fuller more quickly 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.

Thanksgiving Cleanup

8. Get everyone involved in cleaning up

Cleaning up after Thanksgiving dinner is probably the least enjoyable task. However, it is made easier and more enjoyable when everyone participates. Additionally, it's an excellent method to get moving and burn off those excess calories.

Give everyone tasks to get the job done easier. You can even find some small tasks for your children, nieces, or nephews to participate in.

Healthy Thanksgiving Traditions

9. Make healthy Thanksgiving a tradition

A well-rounded, healthy Thanksgiving experience isn't just a time to spend with your family and friends. Additionally, it's an opportunity to encourage everyone to move and eat healthier.

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 positive,  healthier note.

Enjoy Thanksgiving with Family

10. Enjoy the holiday

We are not always given the gift of time with our family and friends. The holidays are an ideal time to create space for love and togetherness. For many, this may be the only opportunity they have to gather as a family and create a lasting memory.

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

Dr. Naheed Ali, MD, PhD

Dr. Naheed Ali, MD, PHD

Naheed Ali, MD, PhD, is a physician by education and a writer by choice since 2005. He earned an MD degree in 2008 and later completed Harvard Medical School's lifestyle medicine training in 2012, before obtaining a PhD in holistic health elsewhere in 2013. He brings more than 15 years of experience working in a remote environment and has more than 15 years of health-related publications to his credit. 

For years, he taught at colleges in the US where he lectured on various biomedical topics and delivered over 2000 hours of live presentations. He is also the author of numerous health titles from major New York publishers and his books have sold more than 20,000 hardcover copies worldwide.  Now a digital nomad, he’s currently a health and wellness writer for hire. His online home is HealthcarePropulsion.com.