Thanksgiving has been an annual tradition in the United States since the 1800’s and began as a celebration of the harvest of the year. It also has roots and variations in other parts of the world.

On this day, we often enjoy spending time and feasting with loved ones. It’s not uncommon for us to do a little overindulging with respect to the feasting! Have you ever considered at what cost, specifically to your health, the second and third helping of mash potatoes (or pumpkin pie) has? Perhaps weight gain, fluctuations in blood pressure, sluggishness.

There are plenty of ways to make Thanksgiving a healthier day. Consider taking a “maintain, don’t gain” approach with respect to the food; this will enable you to participate in your favorite traditions and focus on quality time with your family.

With a few simple changes, you can make Thanksgiving a healthier holiday:

  • Plan a family activity. Enjoy the great outdoors and go for a bike ride or play a game of tag football before the big meal. Take a walk around the neighborhood to burn off some extra calories.
  • Practice portion control. Select reasonable amounts of each food you put on your plate.
  • Survey the table. Before you start filling up your plate, look to see what is on the table. Only choose the foods you cannot live without.
  • Pace Yourself. Try to eat slowly and take short breaks between bites. This helps savor the meal and leaves you satisfied when you are done with one plate.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water helps control your appetite by making you feel full faster.
  • Add more vegetables. Make vegetable dishes the centerpiece of the meal. Vegetable dishes often get overshadowed by less healthy, starchy dishes like mashed potatoes and stuffing. Vegetable dishes can be flavorful, without containing the extra calories.
  • Use healthier ingredient substitutions. Use healthier alternatives to common cooking ingredients to lessen the fat content in your favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Some commonly used substitutions are:

Ingredient Substitution
Sour cream Low-fat plain or Greek yogurt
Whole egg 2 egg whites
Salt Herbs, spices, or citrus juice
Oil Apple sauce/fruit purees
White flour Whole wheat flour

Finally, you may not know that Thanksgiving is also National Family History Day. This is an ideal time to discuss different chronic diseases and health conditions. Family health history can be useful in understanding your own health risks and preventing diseases. Encourage each other to adopt a healthy lifestyle; make a family pact and agree to check in with each other throughout the year.

Sources: The Mayo Clinic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes for Health, My Health News Daily, LifeWork Strategies and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.