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


Macy's 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!).

1. Get outside.

Women Running Outdoors

Up early? Go for a walk or run to enjoy some pre-festivities alone time, or grab your favorite second cousin to catch up. For something a bit more competitive, round up a group of family or friends and hit the backyard or local park for some flag football.

2. Do it fast.

Don’t have an hour to hit the gym? Don't worry. Try an at-home circuit workout, Tabata training, or a Greatist Workout of the Day. All take 20 minutes (or less!) to get in a good workout.

3. 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!

4. Bust a move.

Nothing says family bonding more than a dance party. Gather a group, turn up the tunes, and get the blood flowing. It may help you digest all that stuffing too.

5. Find a turkey trot.

If up for the challenge, run a race Thanksgiving morning! Find a Turkey trot in your town (they range from a totally doable one-mile to 10K), 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.

6. Eat in the a.m.

Thanksgiving Dinner

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). 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 NM, Taylor MA, Macdonald IA. The Journal of nutrition, 2011, May.;141(7):1541-6100.

7. Hydrate.

Make sure to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Not drinking enough H2O could spark hunger pangs, which may actually be thirst.

8. Go easy on the apps.

Cheese and crackers can happen any day of the year. Save your appetite (and calorie consumption!) for dinnertime.

9. Use a smaller plate.

Stick all those Thanksgiving sides on a smaller plate. Research shows it'll help you eat 22 percent fewer calories, while a bigger plate of food may be licked clean, even if we’re not hungry.

10. Dim the lights.

Studies suggest that eating in softer light may lead to consuming less food. So create a nice intimate ambiance that everyone will love.

11. Chew slowly.

How quickly we eat really does matter, research shows. In one study, fast eaters consumed around three ounces of food per minute, while slowpokes only ate about two ounces. Chewing slowly could mean less calories consumed, so take a chill pill when digging into the dinner plate.

12. Beware of dangerfoods.

Be careful with 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.

13. Watch out for liquid calories.

Unfortunately, calories from alcohol can sneak up on us during the holidays. Go easy on the booze and stick to healthier cocktails like a vodka soda or Bloody Mary to avoid excess sugar.

14. 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?

15. Don’t deny dessert.

The holidays shouldn’t be about restricting certain foods—just try to enjoy them in moderation! 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. Nutrition & Metabolism, 2010, Jan.;7():1743-7075. Stick to one slice of pie (or try one of these healthy dessert recipes) 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.

16. Inhale, exhale.

Thanksgiving Dessert

Stressed because you’re trying to clean up the living room and prep the turkey while entertaining seven cousins and skyping with Uncle Mike? Take six to 10 deep breaths or try these quick, breathing exercises to relax.

17. 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 you in control of what and how much you’re actually eating.

18. Meditate.

Whether enduring too much family time or unable to resist eating a whole pumpkin pie (we get it), meditation can help lower stress levels. All you need is a few minutes and a quiet corner. (Need some guidance? Check out this video on how to meditate while your mind is racing.)

19. 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. Impact of sleep and sleep loss on glucose homeostasis and appetite regulation. Knutson KL. Sleep medicine clinics, 2007, undefined.;2(2):1556-407X. (Can't sleep? Try these tips to catch some ZZZ's.)

20. Give yourself some wiggle-room.

At the end of the day, Thanksgiving should be enjoyed with loved ones. Don't stress about enjoying some good food with even better company!

Originally published November 2012. Updated November 2015.

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