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Gather Around For Healthier Thanksgiving Traditions

Incorporate these 9 healthy habits this Thanksgiving and beyond

“I can’t believe I ate so much,” you say to your family as you feel your acid reflux acting up.

“I might need to loosen my belt!” your uncle quips back.

“I shouldn’t have skipped my morning spin class!” your niece pipes in.

Does any of this sound familiar? Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time when we celebrate what we’re grateful for — our health, our home, our family and friends. But oftentimes, it turns into a feast that leaves people feeling worse than they did before they sat down at the dinner table.

Although it’s more than OK to indulge every so often, we all are probably aware that it’s equally as important to have balance. For example, pumpkin pie can be a part of your meal, but perhaps you opt for a thinner slice than normal or skip the whipped cream.

Every year we may say to ourselves, “I’m going to have some moderation during my Thanksgiving meal’ but how?” A thin slice of pumpkin pie or small scoop of candied sweet potatoes is OK, but think of ways you can balance it out with a morning jog or extra-healthy eating in the morning and more than the normal amount of veggies on your plate at dinner.

One strategy can be to involve the whole family. This Thanksgiving, strive to make it a family affair to achieve good health by incorporating these nine tips.

1. Go on a family run in the morning. Most people eat more for dinner on Thanksgiving than they do on a normal Thursday night. Why not prime yourself for this inevitability by burning some calories earlier in the day? Go on a neighborhood jog with the family or try to find a local Turkey Trot 5K.

2. Keep lunch light. Although you might think you should skip lunch to prepare for dinner, this is actually a bad idea. Skipping lunch could lead to overindulging later in the day because you feel extremely hungry come dinnertime. Instead of skipping lunch, opt for a healthy, low-carb meal that’s high in protein and veggies, like a salad with grilled chicken and hardboiled eggs.

3. Swap mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes. Not only do potatoes have more calories and carbs than cauliflower, but they also lack fiber and other nutrients that cauliflower provides. Because of the similar texture the two foods provide, your family might not even notice the difference.  

4. Buy smaller plates. This is a simple solution to curb overeating every holiday. Instead of 10-inch plates, opt for 8-inch ones. You’re essentially tricking yourself into eating less because your plate still looks full.

5. Substitute green bean casserole and candied sweet potatoes with healthier options. Although some veggie side dishes (like candied sweet potatoes and loaded green bean casserole) might appear healthy, they’re often heavy with calories and fat. This year, try something new. Instead of these two calorie-laden dishes, opt for roasted Brussels sprouts and two-bite sweet potato cupcakes instead.

6. Make a crustless pie. Save on calories by making a crustless pumpkin pie. (If anyone in your group is gluten-free, this is a must.) The pumpkin filling in the pie actually doesn’t contain that many calories. Most of the calories and fat are found in the buttery crust. Take it a step further by serving your pie without whipped cream.

7. Stay hydrated all night. Being dehydrated can actually lead you to eat more. It can also hinder digestion. Make sure you drink ample water throughout the day and night — especially if you’re imbibing in alcohol.

8. Eat dessert after a group walk. Bundle up and take a long stroll around the neighborhood before indulging in dessert. Not only will you burn a few calories, but you’ll be able to share meaningful conversations with your loved ones.

9. Practice gratitude. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Before dinner, try giving each member of your family a pen and a small piece of paper. Ask each person to write down three things they’re grateful for. Then, go around the table after everyone’s done eating and share what you wrote down. It lengthens the meal process and slows eating, as well.


Inova Center for Wellness and Metabolic Health offers individualized coaching on weight management. You will meet with a Registered Dietitian to focus on healthy behavior changes. This service is offered to individuals with insurance or self-pay (in the future, Medicare coverage will be provided). You do not need to have diabetes to participate in our Weight Management Program. Register now.

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