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10 Healthy Thanksgiving Activities for Family & Friends

Thanksgiving is a special time to offer thanks and gratitude, and it’s also a time where many of us put our healthy diets on hold and splurge. I mean, you’d be crazy to turn down your aunt’s famous pumpkin pie or your grandma’s mashed potatoes and gravy, right?! You are certainly grateful for those Thanksgiving dinner traditions.

But Turkey Day doesn’t just have to be all about stuffing yourself—leave that to the turkey. Why not start some of your own Thanksgiving traditions that include healthy activities for family members and friends?

From physical to philanthropic, here are 10 tips surely to get everyone moving and staying healthy on Thanksgiving Day.

1. Run (or walk!) a turkey trot. You may just want to lie around in your pj’s all morning, but why not get your day off to a great, heart-pumping start with a jog or walk. It’s also a good way to shed some calories before a big Thanksgiving meal.

Many organizations host turkey trots in local cities or you can organize one for your neighborhood and engage families and kids—even your furry animal friends. You may be surprised who will show up!

2. Lend a hand to others. This time of year is especially difficult for some families and individuals who don’t have the means for a Thanksgiving meal. Soup kitchens and meal delivering services typically have an overwhelming response on Thanksgiving, so they are always in need of an extra pair of hands.

Check out Feeding America for volunteer food bank opportunities in your area, ask your local place of worship or research online. Whichever one you choose, this activity will spread the spirit of the season.

3. Take a hike. In some parts of the country, this is a nice time of year to get out in nature. Hiking is a great way to enjoy some fresh air and exercise. Find a local trail and go for a pre- or post-meal hike with your friends and family.

4. Lighten up a bit. Grandma’s mashed potatoes sure taste better with lots of butter, heavy cream and salt, but why not complement this side with some items that save on fat, sugar and calories. For example, try using sugar substitutes in place of sugar or fat-free yogurt or sour cream in dips and casseroles. Trade out those snack bowls of candy corn and potato chips with healthier alternatives to satisfy a sweet tooth or salt craving.

For other Thanksgiving meal ideas, check out “Tips for Eating Healthier on Thanksgiving” and “Your Tasty Comfort Foods Get Healthier with 9 Smart Strategies.”

5. Eat a healthy breakfast. You may want to hold off eating breakfast to make room for the big meal later, but it’s important that you don’t skip it. That’s because saving up calories for your Thanksgiving meal rarely works. You may end up spending more time overindulging on belly busters instead of a tablespoon-sized portion.

Start your morning off on the right foot with a balanced breakfast, like hot whole-grain cereal and an egg-white omelet with veggies.

6. Play outdoor games. A great way to burn off your Thanksgiving meal and stave off the tryptophan coma, is to get your brains and bodies moving with some family-friendly games. The activities are endless. You can play a game of football, turkey tag or a scavenger hunt. Here are 20 Thanksgiving-themed games to try.

7. Walk it off. If games aren’t your thing, another way to work off that Thanksgiving meal is to take a stroll. Walking will burn a few calories and let your mind unwind after being stuck inside. It’s also another way to get your recommended 10,000 daily steps.

8. Stay hydrated. You’ll probably eat lots of sodium-laden foods, so make sure you are drinking plenty of water. In fact, drinking water can actually help suppress your appetite. You will have a better handle on maintaining your portions and staying hydrated could even help to kick start your metabolism.

9. Skip the seconds. Try to resist the temptation to go back for second helpings. Don’t forget, holiday leftovers are much better the next day. Just remind yourself of that turkey/cranberry sandwich you can enjoy tomorrow. Plus, by limiting yourself to one plate, you’re less likely to overeat and have more room for your aunt’s pumpkin pie.

10. Share your gratitude. Thanksgiving is more than what’s presented on the table—it’s about the people who surround it. It’s an ideal opportunity to help teach, reinforce and remind yourself and your children that it’s important to be grateful daily and to express that thankfulness with others.

However you plan on celebrating Thanksgiving, take time to reflect on and share all you have to be grateful for, whether that be good health or quality time with family and friends.

For additional holiday reads, check out:

Wellness Holidays Fitness