5 Ways To Have a Healthier Thanksgiving

Turkey and side dishes on thanksgiving table

Cameron Whitman / Stocksy United

Many want to enjoy their Thanksgiving day without feeling overly full or uncomfortable afterward. The good news is that it's possible to eat all your favorite foods and stay on top of your health goals. With some extra thought and prep, you can have the Thanksgiving you desire.

Food is meant to be enjoyed and this can mean, you let go of any fears or restrictions around food that are related to your weight or even your health in general. One day of eating will not highly influence how you look or feel in the long term. Eating for pleasure is part of an overall balanced and healthy lifestyle.

If sticking to your meal targets and goals is important to you on this day, there are some tips to help you remain balanced and feel good. Keep reading for more.

Don't Skip Breakfast

Step one to a healthy, happy Thanksgiving: Eat breakfast. Many people skip breakfast (and lunch), opting to restrict themselves since they will eat a big meal later.

But the last thing you want to do is skip meals before dinner. When you skip meals, by the time dinner rolls around, you’re so hungry that you end up overeating and feeling uncomfortable. Eating a nutrient-rich breakfast is the best prep for an all-out feast. Foods full of lean protein and fiber are best because they will keep your energy levels up and help you feel fuller longer.

As well, skipping breakfast or any meal may mean you don't get in enough nutrients. While one day of missed nutrient targets will not cause any lasting impact, if you are striving to obtain certain vitamins or minerals each day (such as iron, B12, folate, etc.), then you may not want to skip meals.

Here are some healthy breakfast recipes to start your day off right:

Stay Hydrated

This advice is useful on your average day, but it’s especially helpful on Thanksgiving. Many foods we eat on Thanksgiving are high in sodium. Water will help flush out your body and alleviate bloating.

Drinking enough water can also help you feel more alert and energized, which is likely something you'll appreciate on such a busy day. Adding soups to your holiday meals can also boost your hydration while improving meal satiety.

Try a Healthy New Recipe

When you think about Thanksgiving, you probably picture glistening turkey, creamy mashed potatoes with a pat of butter, golden-brown stuffing, and crisp apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream. And there is nothing wrong with that! For most people, there is no harm in indulging on occasion.

But if you prefer to add more nutrients to your holiday meal, consider trying a new recipe or variation of an old classic that has a few swaps. For instance, make your normal stuffing recipe using whole grain bread and sneak in some veggies. Mix some Greek yogurt and broth into your potatoes to replace a bit of the butter and cream. Top your green beans with slivered almonds instead of fried onions.

Adding a big salad or veggie-filled soup is another way to broaden the nutrient profile of your selections. You can enjoy all of your favorite classics while filling part of your plate with nutrient-dense high-volume foods that you also love.

If you eat more than you planned, let go of the guilt. You're allowed to eat foods just because they are delicious. Thanksgiving is only one day, after all!

Slow Down and Savor

This is one of the easiest ways to enjoy your holiday meal without going overboard. Just by eating slower, you'll consume fewer calories. If you eat too fast, you can easily eat past the point of fullness. However, eating slowly gives your brain time to signal from your stomach that it's full.

Slowing down also gives you the chance to appreciate the food before you. So eat slowly and really taste the food instead of wolfing it down. Put your fork down between bites and savor each mouthful of food. Enjoy all the delicious things you are eating.

Start an Active Family Tradition

Add a new physically active tradition to your family's celebration. When the Thanksgiving feast is over, adding a walk to your family tradition can be a great way to close out the holiday.

Walking is yet another opportunity for you and your family to do something fun together. It also gives you the chance to digest your food after such a large meal. By the time you make it home, you might even have room for dessert.

Plan out your activity goals and make them known to your family. Involve everyone and aim to start a new tradition of getting active, playing, and having fun. Backyard football matches are a great way to build memories and energize yourself after a big meal.

A Word From Verywell

Holidays are often centered around food and nothing could be more true about Thanksgiving. This is a time to celebrate and give thanks for the people and experiences you love and enjoy. Food is meant to be part of the joy in your life and one meal or day of eating (even overeating) will not derail your health or fitness goals. Adapting some simple strategies to help you feel your best can be a good idea if they help you enjoy the day.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Kuroda M, Ohta M, Okufuji T, et al. Frequency of soup intake is inversely associated with body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio, but not with other metabolic risk factors in Japanese menJ Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(1):137-42. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.10.004

  4. Ferriday D, Bosworth ML, Lai S, et al. Effects of eating rate on satiety: A role for episodic memory? Physiol Behav. 2015;152(Pt B):389-396. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.06.038

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.