November 12, 2014
You Can Have Your Thanksgiving and Enjoy it, Too

If we're being honest with ourselves, for most of us Thanksgiving is associated with one thing above all else: food. Think turkey day and immediately see visions of mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and stuffing flash before your eyes. All this can seem like the recipe for a true dietary disaster. But with the right level of preparation and thoughtfulness, you can enjoy your holiday and enjoy good health. Here's our go-to guide for navigating a healthy Thanksgiving:


Step One: Develop an overall food plan for the day before, the day of and the day after. Write down the details, pre-track if you need to for accountability. Solicit the help of a buddy or a family member if it helps you (even telling them you're plan/ saying it out loud can help!) Give yourself a buffer: plan a stage 1, 2 or 3 day for Wednesday and Friday of Thanksgiving week. Set yourself up for success: have the foods you need ready in your fridge, freezer and pantry. Plus have a plan for what to do with leftovers and extras (family members, neighbors or the food compost bin can take those unwanted extra calories, thank you very much!) so the temptations are out of sight (if not yet out of mind!)


Example day-after-Thanksgiving meal plan: 20/20 protein pancake with almond butter and sliced strawberries for breakfast, turkey with cranberry, green beans or Brussel's sprouts and blueberries for lunch, a 2020 vanilla powder protein shake with pumpkin pie spice and peanut butter in the afternoon, low-sodium chicken broth with cooked chicken, mixed vegetables and a dessert of mixed berries for dinner. Optional shake in the evening if cravings or hunger remain high 


Step Two: Pick your two favorite festive treats. Love pumpkin pie, but don't care much for the stuffing? Could skip the wine but would have a tough time saying no to the sweet potato casserole? Embrace your two favorite things, and plan to have a moderate amount of each. Then skip all the rest that you don't much care for (spend your discretionary holiday calories on what you enjoy the most - not just what's there!) Go back for seconds with protein and veggie options, but check in with your hunger. This can be tricky, but the longer you can postpone getting more food, the longer you will have to assess: am I really hungry? Or am I just bored, or celebrating, or craving because it's there?  You can also ask your Dietitian for a few healthier holiday recipes to lighten your favorites even more!


Hints: Finishing the meal with hot tea or coffee/decaf coffee can give you something to enjoy while buying you time to assess your hunger and fullness. A walk outside or moving to a room (other than the dining room) to enjoy your afternoon can also be very helpful!


Step Three: Move, a lot! Have an exercise plan for the day of and the day after Thanksgiving. Go for an extra 1,000-2,000 steps on the holiday to burn some extra 'NEAT' calories as well!


Step Four: Remind yourself that it's just one day. It's okay if the day has a few kinks, if it feels a little off. You have the whole week after to keep plugging along with your meal plan, health and weight goals. Don't beat yourself up, but stay honest with yourself as well. Reflect on what went well and what you'd do differently next year (or for the next holiday). And remember to enjoy the day and your loved ones - after all, giving thanks for those things is what this day's all about!


Each holiday will be a chance to experience an atypical, challenging but unavoidable food situation. Go in with a plan, enjoy your day and remember that we are always learning and evolving. Each holiday season is a chance to do a bit better than the last!

Written by Erika Brown

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