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10 Ways To Have A Healthy Holiday Season (And Still Enjoy A Cookie Or Two)

by Allison Stowell

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a season of diet challenges.

We face a busier than usual schedule, holiday parties with coworkers by day, family and friends at night, and of course, the influx of seasonal foods into the supermarket that just seem to want to celebrate with you.

Enjoy the best part of Thanksgiving and the holiday season without compromising your diet with these ten tips and strategies.

holiday season

How To Stay Healthy During The Holidays

1. Embrace the idea of better recipes

Few holidays are as noted for their “don’t-mess-with-it” traditional recipes as Thanksgiving.

Families look forward to their turkey and sides prepared just the way they remember them from years past.

Related: 5 Ways To Make Your Thanksgiving Meal Healthy

Of course, while the recipes may never seem to become outdated, the way they should be prepared likely has. The trick to a special holiday like Thanksgiving is to bring the recipes to present day while keeping the taste and experience just the way our grandmother made it.

Aim for fresher ingredients and try new recipes like these, which are lower in sodium, saturated fat, and other nasty stuff.

2. Connect with your family more than your plate

The real reason we are coming together isn’t food. It’s to connect with family and take a moment to reflect on our blessings.

With this in mind, enjoy the day by slowing down and being more mindful about your eating. Savor each bite, and you are less likely to overeat and more likely to have the perfect plate of leftovers the next day.

3. Aim for a balanced plate

While the Thanksgiving table may offer four different kinds of stuffing along with other starchy options, your plate doesn’t necessarily have to reflect this abundance.

Related: 5 Ways To Avoid Overeating

If you recall the MyPlate image of the perfectly balanced plate, there is room for some grain as well as protein and vegetables. Make sure your plate looks balanced as well.

4. Don’t fast

Starving during the day to only stuff yourself at night will no doubt leave you uncomfortable. Whether it is Thanksgiving, a party or some other evening event, it is never a good idea to fast during the day to only overeat at night. Not only is this not good for your metabolism, it doesn’t mean you are consuming fewer calories for the day.

5. Turkey trot, anyone?

Turkey trots and other run/walk events abound on Thanksgiving. Encourage your family to create a team and join.

If an event like that is not for you, begin a tradition of a family hike, flag football game, or another fun activity that gets you moving before or after you sit down to eat.

6. If you don’t keep a food record…start now

The holiday season is all about extra get-togethers, office parties and coworkers bringing in additional treats from their weekend parties.

Manage all of these “extras” (and avoid potential holiday weight gain) by keeping a detailed food record using a tracking tool or app.

Related: Always Hungry? The Top 10 Foods That Fill You Up

7. Have a plan for leftovers

Have an “exit strategy” for your Thanksgiving feast that includes either freezing leftovers or putting them to use with any number of great recipes.

Without a plan to use or store your leftovers, you may find that you turn a decadent (higher calorie) dish you intended to indulge in just for the holiday to one you enjoy several days in a row.

8. Get the pie off the counter

It all comes down to the good old “out of sight, out of mind.” Having the pie staring you down as it rests in view makes you far more likely to nearly finish it yourself.

Just like your leftovers, you need a plan for your pies.

9. Consider the before and after

We all know that on Thanksgiving and other holidays we are going to indulge. What this means is that we need to do an especially good job at monitoring the choices we make before and after a holiday or special event.

Related: 7 Tips For Eating Healthy During The Holidays

This isn’t the time to get off your gym routine or put holiday shopping ahead of your regular grocery shopping for wholesome foods.

10. Go green (or red, or yellow…)

Whether you are hosting or asked to bring a dish, make sure vegetables are part of the menu as either a wholesome appetizer or colorful side.

Nutrient rich, filling, and low in calories, vegetables are an essential part of every meal that are sadly left off of many holiday menus.

The Takeaway

No doubt these tips will help you to not only enjoy Thanksgiving but also give you the energy you need to manage the Black Friday crowds and prepare for the many celebrations to come as we close out the year.

Use these suggestions to get you through the busy holiday season, and you won’t have to add managing the stress of holiday weight gain to your to-do list.


allison stowellAllison Stowell MS, RD, CDN is the Registered Dietitian for the Guiding Stars Licensing Company and a working mom of two. Allison enables individuals to make positive, sustainable changes in their eating habits by stressing conscious eating, improving relationships with food and offering a non-diet approach for reaching and maintaining ideal body weight.

Photo by jeremytoday

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