Hey! I am so glad you are here reading this because this is probably the most valuable post I’ll write this holiday season. About 4 years ago, as a senior in college, I wrote an article for a local athletic club that laid out my top 10 tips for a healthy Thanksgiving. I gave ideas such as, swap out this to make x, y and z healthier, or workout in the morning so you can burn more calories before indulging later on. Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed I even put that out there! At the time I thought they were great tips, but they lacked balance and promoted dieting behavior. Thankfully, as time has gone on, my perspective on health and balance has evolved.
This year I’m coming out with a new set of My Top 10 Tips For a Healthy Thanksgiving, and it may not be what you are expecting. Instead of a set of rigid rules that inspire deprivation, we’re focusing on enjoying every moment of this beloved holiday. Thanksgiving comes one time a year, and although the food is FANTASTIC, it’s about much more than stuffing and pumpkin pie. But let’s not down play the stuffing and pumpkin pie. They’re arguably the best part.
When I sat down to write this, I struggled with the title a little bit. One part of me didn’t want to use the word “healthy” because number 1, it’s a difficult word to define. Health isn’t a destination and it isn’t static. To say this is what you have to do to have a healthy Thanksgiving doesn’t quite make sense since health is personal and different for everyone. Number 2, I didn’t want you to get the wrong impression that without following these tips, you are “unhealthy” by any means. But I decided to stick with, My Top 10 Tips For a Healthy Thanksgiving, because you’ll hopefully see after reading these tips that health is more than eating kale. No offense, kale, you know I still love you. You can enjoy all the foods that Thanksgiving has to offer and still be healthy. If you prefer to make “healthier” dishes on Thanksgiving, go for it! There’s just some dishes that taste best with lots of butter. 🙂
My Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving
1. Eat breakfast and a small lunch –
It may seem like a good idea to save calories for the Thanksgiving feast, but believe it or not, you aren’t doing your body any favors by doing this. Breakfast will give you the energy you need to take on the tasks of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for your family, and it will ward off the hangries. And don’t forget to have something small for lunch if you’re hungry. Again, waiting too long to eat can make you cranky and more likely to overeat until you’re uncomfortable at dinner.
2. Allow yourself to eat any foods you desire –
You know what’s great about giving yourself permission to eat the foods you want? You no longer need self-control because there is no longer deprivation. Yes, you can eat whatever you want on Thanksgiving. Remember, there will likely be leftovers, and if there isn’t, you can eat these foods year round if you wanted to! There’s no need for an all or nothing mentality. If there’s a dish(es) that you look forward to eating every year, eat it! Odds are you’ll end up eating more of other foods to fill the empty hole in your heart that the food you really wanted would have filled. Eat what you want and you’ll feel much more satisfied.
3. Avoid self-deprecation and diet talk –
I know it can be hard, but there’s no need to make others around you feel uncomfortable about what they are choosing to eat just because you are uncomfortable with your choices. I speak from experience because I once was that self-conscious girl needing validation for my food choices! Sometimes I still catch myself beginning to whine about how much I ate and how I shouldn’t have done that, but all that does is tell others around me that they should reconsider how much they ate and maybe feel badly, too. It’s just one meal. It does not warrant cutting out food groups or restricting calories the next day. Trust your body; it can handle it.
4. Cook your turkey to 165 degrees Fahrenheit –
This is the MOST IMPORTANT tip on this list. No, seriously! Nobody wants to get sick on Thanksgiving, so make sure to check the temperature of your turkey in the thickest, meatiest part…the thigh. It should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The only food you should avoid on Thanksgiving is a turkey that isn’t cooked through all the way!
5. Avoid leaving food out for longer than 2 hours –
Another important tip to keep you healthy on Thanksgiving; any food left at room temperature for more than 2 hours should be thrown away. So, if you want leftovers (who doesn’t?!), make sure to refrigerate as soon as you’re done eating.
6. Take your time to eat –
Easier said than done, right?? We’ve been waiting all year for this day! But that should help you savor the moment even more. Thanksgiving happens once a year, so savor it, enjoy it, and give your body time to recognize when you’re full. It doesn’t mean you have to stop eating when you’re full, but slowing down will help guide you to a place where you can stop eating before becoming uncomfortable. Take a bite, put your fork down, and enjoy the company of your friends and family.
7. Stay Hydrated –
Hydration will help with digestion, which will help you feel more comfortable after a big meal. Drinking water is probably the easiest tip on this list! Keep a cup or water bottle near you all day as a friendly reminder to take a drink.
8. Go for a light walk after dinner –
Not to burn off the calories you just ate because that’s dieting behavior and can lead to feelings of guilt for how much you just ate. What a Thanksgiving buzz kill! Instead, going for a light walk after eating can help with digestion and make you feel more comfortable. Plus, family time outdoors is wonderful!
9. Make memories with your family and friends –
Thanksgiving has become all about the food, and for good reason!, but it is about so much more than that. For many of us, we drive or fly long distances to get together with the people we love, so take the time to fill your heart with memories shared between those you are grateful for. Play games, go see a movie, get outdoors, etc!
10. Give Thanks –
Expressing gratitude brings you closer to those you love, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and giving thanks is an easy way to feel GOOD.
I hope these tips come in handy this holiday season and bring to light that being healthy during the holidays doesn’t mean skipping out on all of the foods you love and enjoy. A balanced life has room for ALL foods.
HAVE A HAPPY THANKSGIVING!