How To Eat Healthy On Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the traditional kickoff to the holiday season and while the season can be filled with love, laughter, and good company, it can also be a time people use as a temporary pass on healthy habits. The line of thought of “it’s the holidays, I will eat what I want and worry about it later” can leave you feeling tired and bloated from overindulging with a bottomless list of New Year’s Resolutions.

The good news is that you can enjoy your favorite foods by keeping a few things in mind:

  • Remember your goals: Think about the way you want to feel before you go to those holiday parties and dinners. If you want to feel great, you are less likely to indulge in foods that make you feel less than great. Set an intention for how you want to feel after each meal and hold yourself accountable by sharing your goals with friends and/or family members. Tune into your body and the way foods make you feel and think of your goals and your future self and how you want to feel.
  • Don’t skip meals to save calories: Skipping meals can backfire and make you overly hungry when you attend gatherings which may lead you to eat more than you intended. Instead, eat a snack with protein, fiber, and healthy fats like celery with peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg and an apple. Protein and fat help to decrease cravings for sugar and processed carbs.
  • Make smart food choices: Beginning your meal with a broth-based vegetable soup, healthy salad or fresh veggies and avoiding appetizers filled with refined flour and other unhealthy choices can help to fill you up and prevent cravings. You will also help your body out by giving it essential fiber and water to prevent feelings of bloat and sluggishness.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol: Alcohol and other drinks are loaded with empty calories and alcohol reduces your inhibitions which can lead you to make poor choices. If you are going to drink practice moderation (2 drinks for men, 1 for women) and have your drink(s) with meals and not too late at night which can disrupt your sleep. Another tip is to have a glass of water with each drink to help prevent dehydration. You might also make “mocktails” with a mix of sparkling water and a splash of juice garnished with fruit slices.
  • Indulge – just a little – and enjoy. The holidays come once a year so go ahead and enjoy your favorites in moderation. Go for mini-sweets and portion-controlled items. There will be loads of foods to choose from but if it doesn’t scream “Thanksgiving” (food like cheese and crackers) then leave it and use those calories for your favorite holiday treats.
  • Modify or bring your own: If you are hosting, modify your favorite recipes to be lower in fat and calories. If you are going to someone’s house, then take a healthy dish to share (see recipes below).
  • Use mindfulness: Take five deep breaths before your meal and chew every bite slowly. Really focus on the flavors, colors, and smells of your foods. Try to put your fork down between bites and don’t stuff yourself. Eat slowly and aim for a feeling of 80% full.
  • Plan an activity for before and after the meal: Try to stay on track with your physical activity and do a walk, run, or bike ride before the meal. This will help stabilize your blood sugar and make you feel good leading you to want to stay on track. Likewise, suggest that everyone take a walk after the meal or have a game of touch football. This is a great way to get moving after a big meal.
  • Lastly, don’t beat yourself up. If you do happen to overeat or eat something that makes you feel terrible, leave your guilt behind. Guilt is toxic and not useful in any way. Simply clean the slate and get back to the food and activities that make you feel great.

Recipe Ideas

Easy Pumpkin Hummus

Prep time

10 min

Cook time

0 min

Yield

2 ½ cups

Per ¼ cup serving

Calories: 55; Total fat: 2g; Sat fat: <1g; Sodium: 168mg; Total carbs: 8g; Total sugar: 2g; Fiber: 2g; Protein: 2g

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 15-ounce can chickpeas (or 1 ½ cups cooked), rinsed and drained
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

1. Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped.

2. Add the chickpeas, pumpkin puree, salt, cumin, lemon juice, maple syrup and olive oil to the food processor. Blend until thoroughly combined and smooth.

3. Serve with vegetable sticks, pita chips, etc.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Creamy White Bean Dressing

Prep time

15 min

Cook time

20 minutes

Serves

4

Per serving

Calories: 218; Total fat: 8g; Sat fat: 1g; Sodium: 666mg; Total carbs: 27g; Total sugar: 5g; Fiber: 9g; Protein: 12g

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • ½ cup unsweetened plain Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the brussels sprouts with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and spread on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes or until golden and crispy.

2. Meanwhile, add the garlic, beans, and yogurt to a blender and process until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients (parsley, lemon juice, remaining olive oil, salt, and pepper) and blend again. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

3. Drizzle the sauce over the Brussels and serve. Leftover sauce can be used over other vegetables dishes.

Easy Pumpkin Bars

Prep time

15 minutes

Cook time

35 minutes

Serves

12

Per serving

Calories: 198; Total fat: 13g; Sat fat: 5g; Sodium: 157mg; Total carbs: 18g; Total sugar: 13g; Fiber: 2g; Protein: 4g

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups blanched almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8 x 8 square baking pan with coconut oil. Line the pan with a parchment paper sling so the paper drapes over the two sides.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, pumpkin, coconut sugar, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract until combined.

3. Add the almond flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice to the bowl and beat until smooth. The batter will be thick.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake on the center rack in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. The bars are done when the top shows a golden color.

5. Remove the bars and place on a wire rack to cool before slicing and serving.

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