20 Ways to Stay Fit and Healthy This Thanksgiving



Photo: www.rfbneny.com


Here is some serious food for thought: People probably consume 3,000 to 5,000 calories around the Thanksgiving dinner table — yikes. While eating often takes center stage during the holidays, that doesn’t mean we have to give up on good health. Check out these tips for a fit and healthy Thanksgiving without sacrificing any flavor or fun.

Thankful for Good Health — Your Action Plan


The Thanksgiving Day Parade doesn’t air all day. Skip crowding around the TV and try to fit in some fitness in (the more the merrier!).

  • Get outside. Up early? Go for a walk to enjoy some pre-festivities alone time, or grab your favorite second cousin to catch up. For something a bit more intense, round up a group of family or friends and hit the backyard or local park for some flag football.
  • Do it fast. Don’t have an hour to hit the gym? Try an at-home circuit workout, Tabata training, or a Greatist Workout of the Day. All it takes is 20 minutes (or less!) to get in a good workout.
  • Split up the chores. Everyday activities (like tidying up the family room) can burn more calories than you’d think. So offer to do the dishes or swiffer the floor — not only does it lend a hand, it gets you moving, too!
  • Bust a move. Nothing says family bonding more than a dance party. Gather a group, turn up the tunes, and get the blood flowing [1]. It may help digest all that stuffing, too.
  • Find a turkey trot. If up for the challenge, run a race Thanksgiving morning! There are a ton of Turkey trots around the country, so sign up and add crossing the finish line to your holiday to-do list.

Before heading to the kitchen, keep these healthy tips in mind to enjoy the festive food without going overboard.

  • Eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast in order to “save your appetite” for dinner probably isn’t the best idea. Not breaking the fast ‘til the afternoon may lead to binging later on (read: four servings of mashed potatoes) [2].
  • Hydrate. Make sure to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Not drinking enough could spark hunger pangs, which may actually be thirst.
  • Go easy on the appetizers. Cheese and crackers can happen any day of the year. Save your appetite (and calorie consumption!) as it gets closer to dinnertime.
  • Use a smaller plate. Stick all those Thanksgiving sides on a smaller plate. Research shows a bigger plate of food may be licked clean, even if we’re not hungry.
  • Dim the lights. Dimming the lights may lead to consuming less food. So create a nice intimate ambiance that everyone will love.
  • Chew slowly. How quickly we eat really does matter. Chewing slowly could mean less calories consumed, so take a chill pill when digging into the dinner plate [3].
  • Watch out for dangerfoods. Be careful of foods that aren’t as healthy as they seem. (Green bean casserole, anyone?) Gratins, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce may hide some sneaky ingredients high in fat and sugar.
  • Drink responsibly. Unfortunately, liquid calories can sneak up on us during the holidays. Go easy on the booze and stick to a healthier cocktail like a vodka soda or bloody mary to avoid excess sugar.
  • Skip the seconds. Wait 20 minutes (the amount of time it probably takes to feel full) before filling up the dinner plate again. Unless you’re really hungry, save some food for leftovers — the best part about Thanksgiving, right?
  • Don’t deny dessert. The holidays shouldn’t be about restricting certain foods — just try to enjoy them in moderation! [4] Stick to one slice of pie (or try this healthier custard) instead of going cold turkey at the dessert table.

An overdose of family and food can be stressful. Here are some ways to feel rested, calm, and in control.

  • Inhale, exhale. Stressed because you’re trying to clean the bathroom and prep the turkey while entertaining seven cousins and Skyping with your Uncle? Take six to 10 deep breaths or try other quick, breathing exercises to relax.
  • Write it down. If choosing to count calories over the holidays, track your food in a journal so you know how much you’re consuming. (Wait, I did have a hearty breakfast!) This will keep us in control of what and how much we’re eating.
  • Meditate. Whether enduring too much family time or unable to resist eating a whole pumpkin pie (we understand), some meditation will could help lower stress levels. All you need is a few minutes and a quiet corner.
  • Get enough sleep. Make sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep the night before Thanksgiving. Not getting enough sleep could amp up appetite levels the following day [5].
  • Give yourself some wiggle-room. At the end of the day, Thanksgiving should be enjoyed with loved ones, and people should not worry about enjoying some good food with even better company!

Have any other tips to stay healthy on Thanksgiving? Join the conversation in the comments below or tweet the author at @lschwech.

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About the Author
Laura Schwecherl
I'm the marketing director at Greatist, and when I'm not hanging at HQ with my best buds (aka co-workers...) you can find me training for...

Works Cited

  1. Dance for health: improving fitness in African American and Hispanic adolescents. Flores, R. School of Medicine, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA. Public Health Reports, 1995 Mar-Apr;110(2):189-93.
  2. Breakfast consumption affects appetite, energy intake, and the metabolic and endocrine responses to foods consumed later in the day in male habitual breakfast eaters. Astbury, N.M., Taylor, M.A., Macdonarld, I.A. School of Biomedical Sciences, Queen's Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK. Journal of Nutrition, 2011 Jul;141(7):1381-9. Epub 2011 May 11.
  3. Weight loss during the intensive intervention phase of the weight-loss maintenance trial. Hollis, J.F., Gullion, C.M., Stevens, V.J., et al. Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Portland, Oregon. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2008 Aug;35(2):118-26.
  4. Sustained self-regulation of energy intake. Loss of weight in overweight subjects. Maintenance of weight in normal-weight subjects. Ciampolini, M., Lovell-Smith, D., Sifone, M, Unit of Preventive Gastroenterology, Department of Paediatrics, Università di Firenze, Florence, Italy. Nutrition & Metabolism, 2010 Jan 19;7:4.
  5. Impact of sleep and sleep loss on glucose homeostasis and appetite regulation. Knutson, K.L. Department of Health Studies, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 2007 Jun;2(2):187-197.

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