Above view of passing food during thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: Keep Your Health in Focus This Year

With Thanksgiving on the fall horizon, it’s easy to start dreaming of all the foods that often fill our tables during this time of year. Creamy mashed potatoes, pies topped with whipped cream, candied yams and more. But if you are committed to maintaining your health and wellness goals throughout this holiday season, you might want to consider making some changes this year. Keep the tastes and keep the fun but av oid the typical holiday weight gain. Check out the tips and recipes below.

10 Tips to Keep Your Thanksgiving a Healthy One

  1. Drink water. Water helps to control your appetite, aids in your overall digestion and flushes out the salt and other toxins you consume during the meal. Drink a glass before you eat your big meal and sip on it throughout the meal as well.
  2. Eat a healthy breakfast. Starting the day off with a healthy, protein-packed breakfast can help you make better decisions all day long. Consider eggs, avocado, oats or other healthy, filling options to start your day.
  3. Don’t go into your Thanksgiving meal hungry. Skipping meals to save the calories for later is not a good idea. Eat healthy small meals and snacks throughout the day so that you don’t lose control when the Thanksgiving meal gets underway.

    Family fall football in the leaves

  4. Find a different focus. We often center holidays around food and while this can be comforting, try to find other things to focus on. You and your family or friends could start a new tradition, like a family hike, a volunteer-based opportunity, a game of football in the backyard or something else that’s not solely food-focused.
  5. Slow down. When you eat, take time to pause, chew your food and drink water in between bites. This helps your body figure out when it’s actually full. If you go too fast, your body eats way more than it needs before you figure out you’re done.
  6. Make good choices ahead of time. Think about your absolute “must haves” for your Thanksgiving meal and plan ahead. If you know pumpkin pie is a must, try to make good choices before that. If you love the appetizers, maybe choose one or two and think about a smaller dessert.
  7. Schedule some time to be active. Thanksgiving celebrations can end up consuming much of the day, but can you figure out a time to squeeze in a walk or a quick workout? You could try early in the morning or after the big meal.
  8. Make sure there are healthy options. If you are the host, think about some healthy options you can provide for your guests, along with the goodies you have planned. If you aren’t hosting, volunteer to bring something healthy to share. Check out the recipes below for some good ideas.
  9. Think about portion control. Do you really need seconds and thirds? Would you be satisfied with a slightly smaller piece of apple pie? Could you do without an entire plate of mashed potatoes? Think about ways to keep your portions under control—sometimes even using a smaller plate can help.
  10. Enjoy yourself. It’s important to keep everything in perspective. If you overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Try to find ways in the weeks to come to make better choices.

Delicious New Recipes to Try

Families often have their own traditional Thanksgiving recipes—maybe something passed down from grandma or just something you’re known for that you make every year. But some of those recipes may need a little tweaking to make them healthier. The recipes below offer some new ways to cook some traditional Thanksgiving recipes.

Woman cutting a vegetable in a kitchen

Grandma’s stuffing: If stuffing is a must, try this recipe. It uses whole wheat bread and has apples, raisins and celery for some good fruits and veggies.

Hearty mashed potatoes: This takes traditional mashed potatoes and adds garbanzo beans for added protein and fiber. These will fill any belly!

Roast turkey breast with herbs: Turkey may be the healthiest thing on the menu. Try this recipe to simplify things—it uses a breast instead of a whole turkey, saving you lots of time.

Devilish eggs: If deviled eggs are a favorite appetizer for you, try this healthier version from Food Network. The recipe uses tofu!

Simple pumpkin pudding: This recipe takes just a few minutes, gives you that taste of pumpkin and cinnamon but uses low-fat milk to keep things healthier.

We often put a big emphasis on food, but Thanksgiving is really about spending time with loved ones and friends and appreciating what we have.

There are more delicious recipes here that include healthier ways to make some Thanksgiving staples such as green bean casserole, apple crisp and more. In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers some great suggestions. VA’s Healthy Kitchen Program has a lot of healthy recipes for the holidays, including sweet potato hummus, pumpkin mousse, homemade cranberry sauce and much more.

Above all, remember what this time of year is about. We often put a big emphasis on food, but Thanksgiving is really about spending time with loved ones and friends and appreciating what we have. This blog post, from 2021, shares a Veteran’s perspective on Thanksgiving and all that he is thankful for—a good reminder of the things that matter most. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for your service to our nation!

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