10 Tips for a Healthy (and Guilt-Free) Thanksgiving

  • Written By:Lauren Slayton
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Ah, Thanksgiving. It’s so much more than one meal. I see Thanksgiving as a gateway. It’s a gateway to a weekend, often filled with leftovers and overindulging. And it’s also a gateway for the holiday season, the potential bane of every health-conscious person’s year. So, what are you to do if you don’t want to fall into the annual Thanksgiving trap? Here are some of my tried and true tips and tweaks:

1. Timing is everything

I’m not sure why, but most Thanksgiving meals are at weird times. Maybe it’s called for 1pm or 3pm, which is tricky to plan for. But you can actually use this to your advantage. Heard of intermittent fasting? Without getting too into it, intermittent fasting research tells us that when we eat matters. Try condensing the hours you eat (from your first bite to your last) to 8 hours on Thanksgiving day. Even better? Do this the day after too. You’ll mitigate weight-related damage, indigestion and sleep disturbances.

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2. BYO Veg

If you’re polite, perhaps you ask your host, “What can I bring?” And the seasoned hostess lies and says, “Just bring yourself.” If you’re concerned, as you should be, about healthy options on Thanksgiving, call ahead and ask something like, “Would you like me to bring a beautiful veggie plate and dips?” Or offer to make a batch of crispy Brussels sprouts or a hearty kale salad. Offering to bring a side dish is often well received and you’ll be thankful for your selfishness.

3. Remember, It’s a journey

When I ask you to describe your typical Thanksgiving day, will you tell me about pie and stuffing? Your in-laws or siblings? Maybe football watching? Well, you’re forgetting the two hours you might spend in traffic or with plane delays. Whether it’s planes, trains or automobiles, bring a large water bottle (check out this autumnal beauty) and a travel snack.

4. Everyone has that relative

If you’re planning what you’ll cook or wear for Thanksgiving (avoid leggings, stretchiness as they are wardrobe enablers), give some thought to the family dynamics. After years of nutrition counseling, I’m willing to bet that everyone has, at least, one relative who looks you up and down, asks blunt questions they shouldn’t or is adept at insults. I have one, you have one, so let’s not be shocked or sad when they do their thing. And let’s certainly not overeat or overdrink because of them.

Try to keep your indulgences to Thursday only.

5. Create your healthy traditions

Nutrition advice is often a sea of ‘nos.’ Over the holidays, many people balk at “no” advice. It’s a lot easier to comply with additive items. Maybe you start your holiday day with lemon or apple cider vinegar water. Or down some of Welleco’s green elixir or this chai calming goodness pre-meal. For a healthy nightcap, go for some ginger or mint tea. These healthy rituals will leave you feeling better and also infuse a little wellness into a treat-centric day.

6. No Hors

If there’s one “no” I suggest to clients for Thanksgiving, it’s appetizers or hors d’oeuvres. You don’t need half a cheese plate or a dozen pigs in a blanket before a major meal. Limit yourself to the veggie plate you brought (see above) or seafood.

7. One plate rule

Would you ever go to a restaurant, order an entrée, eat it all and then ask, “Could I have some more food?” You wouldn’t (I hope). So why refill your Thanksgiving plate? Take your plate, try to fill it halfway with unadulterated veggies, a fourth of your plate protein and a fourth of your plate your carb(s) of choice. And no seconds — seconds lead to unbuttoning.

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8. Walk this way

Some people plan a massive workout on Thanksgiving. And if you Turkey Trot or Turkey Burn, hats off to you. Regardless, try to take a short walk after dinner. Even a ten-minute walk can do wonders for your blood sugar.

9. Tame your treats

Most clients have a clear treat favorite on Thanksgiving. There are the sweet potato people and the pecan pie-ers. I’m not about to suggest you forego your faves — have your treat on Thanksgiving, but don’t indulge in pie for four days straight. Try to keep your indulgences to Thursday only. Leftover turkey is fine, stuffing yourself with stuffing? You know how that story ends.

10. Enlist help

We’ve seen something interesting over the last few years: instead of hearing from everyone on January 1st (there’s still a rush), we’re getting a bunch of new clients in November. It doesn’t matter if it’s Foodtrainers, a food-tracking app or a new workout, try adding in some accountability ahead of time.

A little strategy goes a long way. See which tip or trick resonates with you and try it out. And then maybe the holiday gateway will be closed.

Lauren Slayton, MS RD is the founder of Foodtrainers and the author of the book The Little Book of Thin (Perigee 2014).

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