Thanksgiving is a favourite holiday for many because it’s not about gift-giving, it’s about spending time with your loved ones. Oh, and indulging in a feast of all your holiday favourites!
Though a full table of comfort food is reason to celebrate, sometimes the meal can be heavy, filling, and may knock your health goals off track. There’s no need to leave Thanksgiving feeling defeated; you can plan to end the day feeling like you connected with family, enjoyed the meal, and honoured your commitment to healthy eating.
Here are 7 tips that can ensure you have your healthiest (and most enjoyable) Thanksgiving yet.
Traditional Thanksgiving meals are traditional for a reason: they are classic dishes that are full of nostalgic flavours. But there are healthier twists on this holiday meal that are ready to become instant hits by cutting down on the sugar, sodium, or cholesterol, without sacrificing flavour. As an example, try a fat-free chicken broth for basting your turkey instead of butter, or plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream in the mashed potatoes.
One option is to take traditional dishes and give them a fresh spin. For example, instead of using bread for the stuffing, try a protein-rich quinoa stuffing that incorporates squash, cranberries, and other seasonal produce. A quick Pinterest search will reveal an endless list of wholesome, and health-wise side dish options that can elevate your Thanksgiving table this year.
If you’re keen to give your Thanksgiving a healthy and eco-conscious spin, try serving up a fully vegetarian or plant-based Thanksgiving dinner. A vegetarian shepherd’s pie is always a favourite. Or try out meat substitute like tofurkey and see if your family even notices the difference! Meat substitutes have come a long way, and when cooked properly, can deliver a similar texture and flavour profile to turkey, without the 6-hour cooking time!
Just because the turkey is stuffed doesn’t mean you have to be. If you’re presented with a buffet of tantalizing options, fill your plate with small servings of those special holiday foods that you just can’t live without; don’t fill yourself up on foods that you can have year-round. A second helping is always tempting, but it may be the difference between a heavy turkey hangover and feeling energized and engaged with your loved ones.
Dessert is another important consideration. Opt for a lighter dessert or a smaller portion of your favourite pie or crisp. That way, you can avoid feeling stuffed and enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving. If you are visiting a friend or family member, bake a lighter dessert that you can add to their after-dinner options.
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be all about the food. It’s about spending quality time with friends and family too. Incorporating activity into your holiday traditions is a wonderful way to make memories, enjoy the crisp fall air, and help everyone avoid holiday weight gain.
Get a sweat on and play some flag football or ball hockey in the afternoon before enjoying your meal. If you have guests that prefer a slower pace, take a fall hike and admire the changing leaves. Even just a 15-minute walk following a big meal can aid digestion, regulate blood sugar levels, and release stress-busting endorphins!
Between travel, hosting family members, and preparing dinner, Thanksgiving can be an action-packed, exhausting affair. Prioritize carving out some time to rest throughout the day so that you feel balanced (not frazzled) by the time the festivities begin. A walk around the block or 10 minutes of light stretching is all it takes to refresh your mind and body amid the holiday buzz.
Now it’s time to turn our attention to the one constant after every Thanksgiving meal: the turkey coma. Carbohydrates like potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, as well as the turkey, make for a drowsy combination. Thankfully, there are some tricks to combat the post-turkey hangover.
First, drink lots of water throughout the day. Ample hydration can help reduce bloating and facilitate the digestion process following a big meal. Second, rest, but not right after eating. A post-turkey nap can cause heartburn and acid reflux. Save your sleep for bedtime, and ideally after a post-dinner walk.
Sitting down to a plate full of your favourite foods can make it tempting to devour it all immediately. But this is a meal made for savouring. Take time to mindfully taste every mouthful, putting your fork down between bites, and using all your senses to enjoy your meal and give thanks. Focusing on the conversation will prevent you from eating too quickly, helping your body register when it’s satisfied.
We have spent a lot of time talking about healthy eating, but an essential aspect of wellness at Thanksgiving is spending quality time with family and friends.
As important as it is to prepare a delicious meal for everyone to enjoy, be sure to focus on leaving enough time to make memories with those closest to you. If cooking a traditional meal with all the trimmings keeps you from enjoying your company, consider a potluck or even a catered dinner from a favourite local spot.
The next few weeks may be full of leftovers but remember that the healthiest option is to shift back into a routine as soon as possible. Share leftovers with your guests, get a good night’s sleep, and shift back into your usual eating and exercise plan.
A fantastic way to get back into your usual routine is to prepare or plan a few healthy, balanced pre-Thanksgiving meals. This makes it easier to reset your diet and will provide your body with the right fuel it needs to get active.
Enjoy the Day
Thanksgiving is only once a year; don’t let the guilt of breaking your diet overshadow your enjoyment of the day; instead, strive for balance. Embrace that slice of pumpkin pie and the game of touch football with your nephews and nieces. Stray from tradition and order-in from a local diner, or get the kids involved in helping you make your family’s first tofurkey! Whatever you do, do it with love, and savour every moment and mouthful.