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5 Tips to a Thinner Thanksgiving

African American woman prepares thanksgiving dinnerNo need to feel like a stuffed turkey every year, try to make it guilt-free with these tips

We’ve all been guilty of overdoing it at the Thanksgiving feast. Turkey swimming in gravy, mashed potatoes drowning in butter, pumpkin pie covered in whipped cream, it’s hard to imagine that anything else could satisfy us. You may be thinking that it’s just one meal, why not splurge? Thanksgiving is just the start of the holiday season, and the truth is that many of us gain weight this time of year. If you are committed to a healthier lifestyle, use these tips to stay on track.

Thanksgiving morning exercise

Before you head to your Thanksgiving feast, get outside for a walk or run. When you are with your family and friends, see if you can get a friendly sports game going to burn calories before you eat. If you’re playing with people you don’t see often, you probably won’t even realize you’re getting exercise!

Make substitutions

If you are hosting or cooking any dishes for your Thanksgiving, swapping out ingredients or a whole dish can make a big difference.

  • In any dips or mashed potatoes, try using plain, Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. While it has a similar taste and texture, Greek yogurt has only 133 calories per cup, 1 gram of fat, and 7 grams of carbohydrates, while reduced fat sour cream has 416 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 16 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Cut back on sugar in any recipe or use sugar alternatives. You can also cut back on butter and oil in many recipes without noticing it.
  • Stuffing may be one of the staples at the meal, but it also has a lot of fat, calories, and salt. Try a new side dish in its place. Quinoa or wild rice can be good alternatives.
  • Candied yams can be over 400 calories! Grilled squash or grilled sweet potatoes can be tasty, and if you grill them, you can bring out their sweetness and cut out the butter or oil.

Keep portions small

If you attend a large gathering with family and friends, chances are most people bring a dish. You don’t have to eat everything. Look at all the food and fill up only one plate. If you avoid going back for seconds, you are less likely to overeat. Take bigger portions of the healthy foods and smaller sizes of the more fattening foods if you really want them. If you fill up on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, salads, and broth-based soups, you will feel too full to keep indulging.

Don’t drink your calories

We often think about how many calories are in our food but don’t consider what we drink. Whether its apple cider, eggnog, punch, or alcoholic beverages, the calories can add up. Try to limit these drinks and enjoy water or seltzer with a lemon in it instead.

Focus on the thanks

If we take the focus off the feast and remember we are gathering to be thankful and to spend time with family and friends, we can spend less time eating and more time socializing. Bring a board game to play, suggest everyone go for an after-dinner walk, or bring out old photos to reminisce.

While the average person gains one pound over the holiday season, you don’t have to. Knowing what food is bad for you and either avoiding it, seeking out substitutions, or eating small portions while you focus on eating slowly and enjoying your company can help keep you from sabotaging the hard work you put into your diet the rest of the year.


This post is part of the weekly blog of the Harris School of Business. We are committed to our students’ health and wellness as they pursue their career goals. If you are interested in a career training program, contact us to find out more about our programs or schedule a tour at one of our campuses.

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