Healthy Thanksgiving Tips from a Registered Dietician

6 min readNov 11, 2021

By Silvia Carli

Celebrating a Big Life Change And Enjoying Holiday Season (Image Source: Shutterstock)

For most of us, Thanksgiving isn’t a green juice and power yoga kind of day. When we think about Turkey Day, we picture mashed potatoes and gravy, buttered rolls, dessert, wine, and watching football on the couch. And you know what? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of that. While I’ll always be the first to encourage you to prioritize eating well and practicing portion control, it’s fine to leave room for treats — and that includes a slice or two of Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie. Here, we’ll talk more about finding the balance between healthy eating and enjoying the holidays. These healthy Thanksgiving tips are realistic and won’t leave you feeling deprived.

Thanksgiving is A Holiday for Gratitude. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Your Thanksgiving Meal: It’s Okay to Indulge!

Do you like to pack your plate full of the good stuff at Thanksgiving? Do you go heavy on stuffing, potatoes, and green bean casserole before drenching everything with butter and gravy? Do you follow it up with two kinds of pie and wash it all down with a glass of Beaujolais? Hey, I say go for it, and if the voice in your head gives you a hard time, tell it to be quiet. Holidays are meant for relaxing, spending time with loved ones, and indulging in rich food and drink.

Holidays are Meant For Indulging in Rich Food and Drink (Image Source: Shutterstock)

The problem with the holiday season is that it’s easy to overdo it for weeks on end. When Thanksgiving rolls around, you may still be munching on leftover Halloween candy both at home and in the office. And a big Thanksgiving dinner usually generates nearly a week’s worth of leftovers, especially if you’re the one hosting. By the time you’ve finished them, holiday parties and other events are popping up everywhere — your friends’ homes, your kids’ schools, your workplace. And sure, there may be a perfunctory veggie plate or fruit salad at each gathering, but chances are it’ll be obscured by mountains of sugar cookies and pitchers of eggnog.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with digging into your favorite foods on special occasions. Let’s explore some ways to balance indulgent holiday eating with your health and fitness goals.

Healthy Thanksgiving Tips: The Holiday Week and Beyond

Get Back on the Healthy Eating Track ASAP

Okay, so you’ve just finished an amazing Thanksgiving meal, and you’re more stuffed than the guest of honor. It’s tempting to think that because you’ve overeaten, you may as well give up on your healthy eating plan. But that isn’t the case! When you’ve finished that big piece of apple pie with ice cream, resolve to get back to your best habits at your next meal. Keep in mind that you can serve yourself your holiday leftovers in much smaller quantities in the days to come. If you feel stuck in a cycle of overdoing it, check out this smart primer on how to stop binge eating.

Make Time for Exercise

If you’re one of those people who feels absolutely gross after plowing through an especially big meal, you’re not alone! Plan to take a brisk walk after you’ve finished your Thanksgiving meal. You can invite your friends and family to join you if they’re feeling as bloated as you are. You’ll burn calories, take pleasure in one another’s company, and sleep better that night. Going for a long walk is a great holiday workout. It’s low impact, great for weight maintenance or loss, and can help you beat the stress of the season. Be sure to wear well-cushioned sneakers with strong arch support.

Going for a Long Walk is a Great Holiday Workout (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Practice “Booze Control”

It’s so easy to consume hundreds of extra calories in the form of sweet holiday drinks. Whether it’s a gingerbread latte with whipped cream from your favorite cafe, or a custom cider cocktail at your office holiday party, those pesky little calories can add up quickly. That’s especially true when alcohol is involved. When you’re at a gathering where liquor is served, practice “booze control.” If you’re dying for spiked eggnog, help yourself to one glass, and then switch to water or diet soda. If you love to go back to the bar for seconds and thirds, choose alcoholic drinks that are relatively low in calories, like light beer or red wine.

When You’re at a Gathering Where Liquor is Served, Practice “Booze Control.” (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Make Good Choices and Healthy Substitutions

Traditional holiday fare generally includes a metric ton of sweet stuff. And while I’ll never tell you to forgo your favorite gingerbread or chocolate peppermint bark, I will encourage you to consume them in moderation. If you have a chronic sweet tooth, resist the temptation to indulge every one of your sugar cravings. When you’re craving something warm and comforting, treat yourself to one of these healthy hot drinks. If you know you’re going out for a company holiday dinner at a fancy restaurant, have a salad with lean protein and low-fat dressing for lunch. Making these small, positive choices can add up to a happier and healthier you by the time New Year’s Day rolls around.

Traditional Holiday Includes a Metric Ton of Sweet Stuff (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Enjoy This Holiday Season!

Again, I can’t emphasize enough that it’s okay to eat the foods you love this holiday season — in fact, I encourage it! How sad would life be if we stopped eating our favorite seasonal goodies in the name of staving off a few extra pounds? It’s a fact that you don’t need to give anything up to lose weight or avoid gaining it. Remember, portion control and exercise are everything here. If you burn more calories than you consume, you won’t put on any unwanted pounds.

Eat The Foods You Love This Holiday Season (Image Source: Shutterstock)

And, by the way, if you ring in the new year with your pants feeling a little extra snug, that’s okay too. You don’t need to be mad at yourself or feel guilty about it. There’s never a wrong time to adopt eating and exercise habits that make you feel good about yourself. Here’s how to get back on track if you’re feeling sluggish and unmotivated.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season, and remember to enjoy yourself! What are you most thankful for this year? Leave me a comment to let me know!

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