thanksgiving dinner

Healthy Choices to Get you Through Thanksgiving

By: Dr. Peggy Malone

Can you believe October is here already? I have been loving the cooler fall days and nights and I’m so looking forward to this coming weekend to spend some quality time with my family for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is often a time where our health and wellness is not necessarily top priority and this sets the tone as we head through the next couple of months filled with holiday parties and indulgences.

Do you love Thanksgiving dinner but hate the way you feel afterward? I’d like to give you some tips today on how you can make better and healthier choices through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and beyond as the holiday season approaches.

For my American friends and readers, this is definitely still relevant stuff even though your Thanksgiving holiday isn’t for a few more weeks. If you start thinking about some of these healthy choices now, you will definitely make some healthier choices at your upcoming Thanksgiving holiday!

In terms of health and wellness, I like to guide people with regards to what you eat and drink, what you think, and how you move.

For our healthier Thanksgiving choices let’s start with what you eat:

What You Eat

This weekend is known as the time for heaping plates filled with all the delicious comfort, home-cooked fabulousness that we can get. That is usually followed up with sweet yummy desserts that are overflowing with sugar. This year let’s focus on something a bit healthier.

First, eat before you head to the party. Don’t show up to dinner starving or you will be more likely to make poor choices. Eating a nutritious meal with protein and fibre earlier in the day before you arrive takes the edge off your appetite and allows you to make better choices.

When the appetizers come out, focus on the veggies. They are a great healthy way to get your tummy a bit full with something good for you before you start in on the main meal.

There are usually many many dishes at a Thanksgiving table and our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. So take a look around the table or the buffet before you start and make a plan of what you will serve yourself.

Start with smaller servings of the turkey, the cooked veggies, and fill half your plate with salad… then add a tiny bit of that delicious stuffing and potatoes. I would skip bread or rolls all together.

Take your time and enjoy the meal. The faster you eat, the more you eat. It takes about 15 minutes for your brain to register the feeling of being full. Think about how you can scarf bite after bite of food down with ease, then about 15 minutes later you realize you are so full you are sick and you can’t even fit one more bite in you.

Try putting your fork down between bites and chat with your family. More talking and less eating will slow you down and you will be surprised at how this method works to help you to eat less!

Stop eating when you are full. This one sounds like a no brainer, but the hype of the holiday often pushes people to eat lots and then go for seconds. Decide before the meal to go slow and listen to your body for the “I’m full” signal.

For dessert, if you must indulge… just have a tiny taste or consider a healthier alternative to pumpkin pie or cheesecake like my healthy pumpkin applesauce muffins!

What You Drink

Make sure to drink plenty of water. Water is super important for many of your bodies systems and drinking it will help you to feel a bit more full before you start shoveling in the Thanksgiving deliciousness 🙂

If you eat slowly and drink plenty of water with your meal, you shouldn’t feel the need to overeat or go for seconds.

Many people like to indulge in a few adult beverages at holiday time. It’s a good idea to enjoy alcohol in moderation. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which makes it that much easier to justify a third helping of your mom’s mashed potatoes or stuffing. Drinking water or sparkling water between your alcoholic beverages will help you stay hydrated, limit alcohol calories, and stay sober.

What You Think

Some of you might be wondering what this one has to do with making healthier choices at Thanksgiving. Well quite a bit actually.

First, by thinking positively and believing that you are worth it, you are more likely to stick with the healthy choices that you know are good for your body.

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about finding your “Why”. Before you head out to Thanksgiving dinner where the tempting treats will be, it’s worth checking in with your big ‘Why’.

Why do you want to get healthier and stay that way? If you feel tempted, it’s a good idea to have this at the top of your mind through this weekend to keep you on track.

The other thing that is worth mentioning here is that holiday time can be very stressful for many people. Families often have dynamics that aren’t the easiest and holiday time will sometimes exacerbate this.

To keep your stress levels manageable, decide before you go that you will have a good time and stay positive and if that annoying uncle or cousin starts pushing your buttons… excuse yourself politely and go for a walk. You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.

Remember that it’s called Thanksgiving for a reason. Enjoy your holiday and your family and be grateful for them.

How You Move

Often we travel long distances by planes trains or automobiles to be with our families at holiday time.  This sustained sitting posture can cause all sorts of grief to your body. Make sure to stop and stretch every hour or so to break up the sitting.

If you have a regular exercise plan, stick with it! Get up early to get your workout in if you must or make sure to include some physical activity in your day each day this weekend. It counts even if it is a 10 minute walk!

When everyone is full and happy after a big meal, instead of sitting around and getting sleepy, why not encourage everyone to head out for a family walk. It’s a way to get everyone moving. If your family isn’t into it… go yourself. Get your body moving!

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be the start of the slippery slope downward as we come into the holiday season.

By making some healthier choices this weekend, you will be on track to a healthy autumn and a healthy holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Live Well,