Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday that is celebrated with a feast in which you give thanks for all that you have in your life. You feel thankful for your loved ones, having a roof over your head and for the food on your table. Thanksgiving, though it is an important holiday with special meaning, has taken on a negative connotation over the years as being a “diet saboteur” for those trying to eat healthy and lose weight.

There is no reason for you to have to miss out on this great holiday by eating a salad while you watch your family and friends enjoy the delicious food that comes around once a year. As long as you keep the following tips in mind, you will enjoy a healthy and meaningful Thanksgiving.

1. Don’t skip breakfast

You’ve probably think it’s best to skip breakfast, or eat lightly until the Thanksgiving feast. You figure that you are going to be eating so much later that you should “save the calories”. Not so. Breakfast is even more important on Thanksgiving because eating a small meal when you wake up will help you stay in charge over your food choices later.

Eat a light meal in the morning with protein and fiber such as an egg with whole wheat toast, or a small bowl of oatmeal with low fat milk. Not only will eating a nutritious breakfast help with your food choices later, but it will also kickstart your metabolism for the day.

2. Be choosy with your turkey

The obvious choice for protein at your Thanksgiving feast is turkey. Turkey is a healthy lean option, but beware of “self-basting” turkeys which are injected with extra fat to keep the meat juicy. So read the label carefully and choose a turkey that does not say “self-basted”. Always remove turkey skin before eating as one ounce of turkey skin has about 100 calories, mostly from fat (yes, in just one ounce!)

3. Be thankful for fruits and veggies too

Many people don’t take advantage of the seasonal produce that pair so deliciously with traditional Thanksgiving foods. Choose from veggies such as green beans, different varieties of squash, Brussels sprouts, carrots, turnips, parsnips, spinach, beets, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini and Swiss chard.

Apples are commonly eaten at Thanksgiving, but try others like persimmons, cranberries, figs, grapes, pears and pomegranates. Experiment with new recipes that include fall fresh produce and your guests are sure to be impressed!

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4. Lighten up your stuffing

Traditional stuffing recipes could pack as many as 200 calories and 10 grams of fat in ½ cup. And let’s get real. Who only eats ½ cup of stuffing? This year, lighten up your stuffing by substituting chicken broth for some of the oil/butter in the recipe, and replace half the bread with cooked veggies such as celery, onions and carrots. You will enjoy a higher fiber, lower fat stuffing that tastes delicious!

5. Mind your portions

Most people serve enough food at Thanksgiving to feed an army, so it is no wonder people overeat at this holiday. If there are foods on the table that you can have all year long, try to limit those foods and instead fill your plate with holiday favorites that you only get this time of year. Another way to mind your portions is to serve buffet style instead of family style.

It’s harder to pass up on seconds when the serving dishes are sitting in front of you on the table. If you have to get up to go to the buffet table, you have extra time to think “am I still hungry”? If the answer is no, sit tight and enjoy the conversation.

6. Stray off from traditional

Consider serving non-traditional foods this year, such as fish. It is a low calorie option that you can season with a fall flare. Serve a large salad before the meal, using ingredients like kale or spinach, dried cranberries, shaved parmesan and toasted pumpkin seeds. Incorporating a new variety of foods in your Thanksgiving menu might actually surprise your guests in a new way. Don’t be afraid to start new traditions!

7. Be choosy with beverages

Holidays are always a time to drink and be merry, but beverages carry a lot more calories than you might think. Considering that your meal is more calorically dense than a traditional Thursday dinner, try to avoid drinking heavy beers and hard liquors combined with sugary juices.

Thanksgiving is a very relaxing holiday to spend quality time with your loved ones. Choose lighter beverages like white or red wine and limit yourself to a glass or two

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8. Slow and steady

Eating slow is difficult for a lot of people, but it is one of the best ways to stay mindful while you eat. Take the time to chew your food slowly and enjoy every bite. As you are eating, pause mid-way and check in with yourself to see if you are still hungry.

If you are, continue eating, and check in with yourself again at another point. Maintaining an awareness during the meal is a surefire way to enjoy the holiday without having to fall on the couch and loosen the belt buckle.

9. Eat dessert

Yes, you read that correctly. It’s totally okay to enjoy dessert on Thanksgiving. But first, scope out what the choices are and decide what you desire the most. Keep your portion small (remember, you are no longer hungry at this point) and keep to the “3 bite practice”, that is enjoy 3 bites of dessert slowly and mindfully and push the rest away.

10. Worry less, enjoy more

One of the best tips for enjoying a healthy Thanksgiving is to worry less about your food for the day and focus on enjoying time with your family and friends. When you fret about your “diet”, you will likely fall into one of two categories – the “I won’t eat anything I am not supposed to” category or “I’ll start my diet after the holidays” category.

Neither one of these work. Ditch the diet mentality and commit to a diet-free life by learning to become an intuitive eater. This way, you can enjoy guilt-free eating and a body you love throughout Thanksgiving and the whole year through.

Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

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