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Tips For Eating Healthier On Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks. But, you may find it hard to focus on gratitude when staring down a table filled with delicious dishes like candied sweet potatoes, gravy-doused turkey, creamy mashed potatoes and pies of all sorts. You may think it’s impossible to stay healthy during this food-filled holiday, but there are steps you can take to make better choices, while still enjoying this holiday.

We spoke with Nicole Hahn, a clinical dietitian at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. She suggested the following Thanksgiving eating tips to stay on track:

  • Begin with breakfast: Skipping breakfast and saving your calories for Thanksgiving dinner is a no-go. Eating breakfast, and even a light mid-day snack, can help control your hunger and cravings, so you don't overeat at the main meal.
  • Eat foods high in fiber and protein: Focus on these foods for your breakfast and snack to help keep you satiated.
  • Develop a plan: Before you head to the table, make a plan that focuses on eating what you really enjoy and not just filling up on everything offered.
  • Stick with small: Dish out smaller portions and even try using a smaller plate.
  • Contribute a healthy choice for the Thanksgiving meal: Offer to bring an item to the gathering with greater nutritional value, like a veggie dish or large green salad.

While Thanksgiving foods are traditionally prepared with a lot of sugar, salt and saturated fat, there are ways to make healthy alternatives that also taste great. Hahn offers these tasty tips:

  • Green bean casserole: instead of using cream of mushroom soup, try sautéed green beans with garlic, olive oil and almonds, or use a soup with lower saturated fat.
  • Butternut squash: This is a rich-tasting alternative to candied yams; or try a hearty pumpkin soup.
  • Dressed up dressing: Try making a stuffing or dressing with a higher fiber grain like farro or quinoa and add more herbs and spices rather than salt to increase the flavor.
  • Veggies: Roasted veggies—like carrots, Brussels sprouts or squash—are a delicious side dish.
  • Dessert: Offer a sweet alternative to pie by roasting apples and pears with cinnamon.

Traveling for the holidays? Hahn offered additional tips for making healthy choices for Thanksgiving.

“If possible, pack snacks or small meals to take with you, like fruit and cheese bites, or veggies and hummus and stick to eating at regular mealtimes,” Hahn said.

In addition to making healthy food choices, Hahn suggested finding time for physical activity, like an after-meal family soccer or basketball game or taking your four-legged friend for a walk.

“While making healthy choices is important at this time of year, also remember that Thanksgiving is just one day,” said Hahn. “One food, or one day of eating foods that are traditionally higher in fat and salt, will not outright derail your pursuit of consuming an overall healthy diet.”

Find more tips for healthy holiday eating.

Holidays Nutrition