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Five Simple Tips to Enjoy Thanksgiving Yet Keep it Healthy

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What to do about Thanksgiving? It’s always a discussion I have with my clients. I always ask them to make the decision for themselves. Do you want to eat a super healthy meal? Do you want to completely let go? Or, would rather enjoy some of your favorite dishes AND still eat something healthy? Regardless, the bottom line is, savor and enjoy anything you eat. Don’t have guilt or regrets. Friday is a new day.

Here are my 5 tips to enjoy yet keep Thanksgiving healthy.

1. Start the day healthy

Don’t skip breakfast. Have a healthy high protein breakfast to last you at at least 4 hours. I suggest vegetable omelet, steel-cut oats with nuts, or a green protein smoothie. Then have a snack instead of your normal size lunch. Pair up a protein with a piece of fruit and vegetables. Try a handful almonds, a slice of aged cheese, or hummus with cut-up veggies and a small apple. Try to exercise Thursday; go to the gym, go for a walk or a run, do some home exercise videos (You Tube has lots of those), or play some music and dance at home. Be creative!

2. Think of how you eat

Many of us jump into meals with big appetites. We put a lot of food in our plates and race through a meal. Instead of doing that, look at the table and be thankful of the beautiful foods you have. Smell all the different aromas. Look around you and be grateful for your health, your family, and your friends. Sit down. Take a deep breath to help you slow down, then start your meal.

At the table, chew your food thoroughly. Remember that your taste buds are in your mouth, not your stomach. Once you swallow the food, you’re done enjoying it. Eat slowly. Chances are you won’t won’t run out of food. Put the fork down between bites. Breathe. Savor.

3. Choose what you really want to eat

Do you really like stuffing AND mashed potatoes AND mac & cheese AND bread rolls AND corn bread AND sweet potato casserole to the point that you have to eat ALL of them in one night? Most people have favorites, so pick one or two starchy carbohydrate sides that you will truly enjoy. And you can enjoy all these dishes every day of the year (and probably the very next day because most people have leftovers) so don’t feel like you have to eat from EVERYTHING.

4. Make healthy swaps if you want

Thanksgiving dinner can be super healthy. Turkey is a lean protein and fall vegetables are super nutritious. Here are some simple swaps you might consider. You can have a healthy dish or two to balance the ‘other’ stuff.

  • Keep the green beans but remove the mushroom soup. Use fresh mushrooms. Saute them with olive oil. Season with garlic, salt, pepper, a hint of nutmeg, and top with slivered almonds.
  • Make mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. Here’s a mashed cauliflower recipe
  • Try roasting broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Finish off with freshly squeezed lemon and olive oil or grass-fed butter. Here’s a roasted Brussels sprouts recipe
  • Skip the sugar in your sweet potato casserole recipe and enjoy the natural sweetness of sweet potatoes. If you can’t go that low, simply cut the sugar amount in half
  • Keep some butter for flavor but cut by down on the amount by a third or half. Use butter made from grass-fed cows. Read more about grass-fed butter
  • Think of winter squashes: butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash are loaded with nutrients. They are way healthier than mac & cheese or dinner rolls as a carbohydrate. Roast then drizzle with some olive oil or grass-fed butter.
  • Pick either a drink or dessert. What do you prefer to have?

5. Make a U-turn tomorrow

Thursday’s gone. The meal is over. Friday is a new day. Go back to eating healthy. Try to get rid of the dessert and other starchy or fried leftovers. Either send your family and friends home with some food, freeze it, or donate it to your local soup kitchen. We always have a lot of food and donate it to a local homeless shelter (make sure you cool the food safely because you don’t want anyone getting sick!).

Find something active to do on Friday. Go ice-skating, walking, running, throw ball, whatever appeals to you. If you have house guests, get everybody off the couch with a baseball or football game. Play tag with your kids. Can you think of other ideas? If you end up in the mall, wear a pedometer and check how many steps you register. Can you walk 10,000 steps? Just avoid stopping for a pumpkin pie spice latte and pastry!

 

Whatever you do, don’t stress about the weekend! The more you stress, the worse you eat. Enjoy the spirit, have a good time, and focus on those around you who you love and care about. Do enjoy the food, but remember that Thanksgiving is not just about that poor turkey!

Some Thanksgiving Recipes

Here’s a list of some recipes we’ve made in the past.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish? How do you plan to stay active on Thanksgiving weekend?

We do a potluck friends Thanksgiving dinner. My favorites are sweet potato casserole and my friend’s corn pudding. My gym is open on Thanksgiving morning so I’m going to catch a class before the turkey smoking begins!

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  • Mayan December 6, 2014, 7:52 pm

    Hi Nour! These are great tips. I usually try everything that looks good, but I normally only get a small bite – just enough to have a taste. I like your tip of not eating all of the side items during the Thanksgiving meal and saving the other items for next day’s meal since there are always leftovers. Thanksgiving and overeating (and the resulting feelings of guilt) don’t have to go hand in hand. Being mindful and savoring the moment is key!

    • Nour Zibdeh December 9, 2014, 1:29 pm

      Thanks Mayan for the comment and stopping by. I always tell people, eat what’s you love in small portions and only eat what’s worth being inside your body. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!