A healthier Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean saying no to the most delicious, rich foods. You can (and should) enjoy whatever you want when you make mindful eating choices that are based on how you feel.
A Healthier Thanksgiving: How do you want to feel?
I’ve written about balance and how what is most important is to focus making choices that leave you feeling good. When it comes to holiday eating, that can mean different things for everyone. The season of family gatherings, cocktail parties and work events is upon us, and your healthy equilibrium can fall to the wayside – especially in the food realm. As you know my food philosophy focuses on eating real food rather than following any particular diet or restricting the things you crave, like mashed potatoes or all the Thanksgiving desserts. (I’m looking at you, pumpkin pie!) Here are some of the ways I approach Thanksgiving and the holidays to keep my mind and body happy.
Don’t go hungry, don’t go full
You don’t want to sit down to Thanksgiving totally famished or you’ll absolutely eat so much you’re stuffed. No one likes to feel stuffed as roasted turkey! But you also want to make sure you bring the best sauce to the table: hunger. Eating healthy early in the day and having a regular breakfast and lunch will set your stomach up to be hungry. Make your first two meals as vegetable-based and healthy as possible. A green smoothie for breakfast and a salad for lunch. (We tend to eat a Thanksgiving dinner around 5:00). I make them on the petite side so I work up a good appetite.
Warm up and hydrate with some tea.
Tea is a great pick-me-up any time of the day, and it will help curb your appetite while you’re waiting for the bird (or tofurkey…!) to cook. Plus, if it’s super cold where you live, you need tea in your life! It’s good for the heart and brain, helps to hydrate you, and is an easy way to find a moment of zen in your day. Try drinking yerba mate for extra antioxidants! Think of your tea (or water) as pregaming for the big night ahead – go to the feast hydrated and feeling good, especially if you’re going to enjoy some cocktails.
Bring your own healthy-ish recipe.
The best way to ensure there is a Thanksgiving side dish with greens on the table is to make it yourself. Even if others don’t seem excited, you can bring your friends and family over to the green side with dishes that combine healthier greens with delicious richer ingredients like bacon or crumbled blue cheese. (And for the days that follow, try this squash salad that is leftover-friendly or the kale caesar I shared yesterday!) Think lightened up green bean casseroles or vegetables roasted in lots of fall flavor (a dash of cinnamon makes all the difference!)
Portion size is everything.
Nobody wants to skip out on the best of the best Thanksgiving dishes: the sweet potatoes with marshmallows or the decadent stuffing. Definitely have some of those! But, don’t go totally crazy and get so full that you can’t walk. Have some of your favorites, but balance them out with healthier options too – like that green side you brought. : )
Notice the superfoods
From the antioxidants in cranberry sauce to the roasted brussels sprouts, wild rice, butternut squash soup, and even olive oil, there are a lot of superfoods at the holiday table! Thanksgiving gets a bad rap for being all about the fat, but there are plenty of healthy Thanksgiving recipes packed with roasted vegetables and fiber and nutrient-filled foods. Don’t think that every bite is bad. Most of these bites are good! It’s only when you eat them all 100x over that you feel a little bad afterwards.
Turn leftovers into healthy dishes
Break out the slow cooker and find a great soup recipe for all that leftover turkey! Turkey and wild rice soup is a favorite. Turn leftover veggies into a brussels sprout salad. Turn cranberry sauce into cranberry sauce smoothies (they’re a thing!) for breakfast or snack. Make turkey sandwiches with whole grain bread and arugula (plus cranberry sauce spread on top, of course!)
Make time for the outdoors.
I used to get up and run six miles on Thanksgiving. Add that to the ways motherhood has changed me! But a group family walk or sports in the front yard is always a great idea. A nice long walk, especially after a big meal, does wonders for the mind and body. It’s great for digestion and an active way to get family together outside. (How cute was little Mazey!?)
Don’t Drink Too Much
Drinking too much the #1 way I wake up on Black Friday full of regret. It’s easy to get carried away when there are 5 bottles of wine open. I want to try them all! I eat start the meal by saying I’m going to have two big glasses – one at happy hour and one with dinner. OR I have 3-4 half glasses so I can try more things. I know myself – I have to keep a tally or I will get carried away in the merriment! My mom would tell you to make wine spritzers with club soda. Mix a little white wine for the flavor, and add some bubbles. I’d tell you that I’d rather have 100% of the wine flavor and just sip slowly. Smaller glasses might help you too – there is lots of research suggesting the size of the glass, bowl, plate impacts how much you enjoy and how satisfied your brain feels. One study showed that daily wine volume purchased was 9.4 % higher when sold in larger glasses.
Don’t waste stomach space on things you can eat everyday
I LOVE buttery rolls, but I usually skip them on holidays because I can have one any day of the year. Save room for the foods that you can only have at the holidays: special sides, perfectly crispy turkey skin (yum!), your aunt’s famous triple chocolate pecan pie.
Enjoy it all.
Enjoy every single bite. Savor it. Thanksgiving only comes around once per year, and you’re not going to make or break healthy habits in one day. The worst thing you can do is to shove food in without savoring it. (This is me at the cheese plate!) Best of all, focus on sharing food with others. That’s what a happy Thanksgiving is all about!