14 Tips for a Healthier Thanksgiving

Photo of a thanks giving table

Perfect roast turkey, cornbread, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie 🤤… It’s absolutely normal to want to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with our loved ones, but it can lead to negative or conflicting feelings for those of us on a weight loss journey.

You definitely shouldn’t miss out on important traditions or feel deprived, but it can be really helpful to consider the potential challenges ahead of time and make a plan for the big day.

Think about it a few days ahead. Is it better for you to make a light, alternative version to the dinner? Would your family enjoy some little adjustments to the traditional recipes? Or are you going to make a deal with yourself that enjoying a big Thanksgiving meal doesn’t mean your diet is broken forever?

Tips for a healthy Thanksgiving

  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast and lunch
  • Reduce oil and butter wherever you can
  • Use plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream for those yummy creamy dips
  • Instead of using a lot of butter and cream for mashed potatoes add some of the starchy water you used to boil the potatoes
  • Replace the canned cranberry sauce with a homemade version
  • If you’re contributing to the dinner menu, choose something healthy & tasty. Maybe go with twice baked sweet potatoes with ricotta and pumpkin pie squares?
  • Cut back just a little: you can still enjoy all the flavors of your holiday favorites, just with slightly smaller portions 
  • It’s not rude to turn down seconds if you’re full. If you’re worried about leaving the host with leftovers, you can always take food home with you and either turn it into a healthier meal, or give it away to friends
  • Eat slowly: give your brain the time to process the food. You’ll enjoy it more and it’ll be easier to know when to stop
  • Listen to your body – it’ll tell you when you’re full
  • Take into account the alcohol choices you make. Maybe skipping the booze altogether will save some calories AND help prevent a family altercation?
  • Don’t forget to drink plenty of water
  • Exchange recipes with other people who are on the same ride as you
  • Remember: if you decide to enjoy a few meals that are different from your usual way of eating, it isn’t “falling off the wagon”- it’s part of your plan. Just make sure you also plan when and how you’ll get back on it

And since at Progress we believe that the most important life values are gratitude, compassion, and pride, especially when it comes to lifestyle changes and a journey that takes a while, we thought it’s best to focus on these three aspects of our lives and their importance, especially in the context of Thanksgiving.

Gratitude

Thanksgiving Week and gratitude

Focusing on gratitude might not be at the top of our list when trying to lose weight, but it goes a long way towards helping us reach our goals. And what better moment to start practicing it than at Thanksgiving?

Instead of just sharing one thing you’re grateful for, why not share 3 things you are grateful for during Thanksgiving dinner. And make at least one of them something about your health.

Think about all the good things in your life, giving thanks to those who are by your side on this journey and even more so to yourself. Don’t forget the little things, like yesterday’s jog in the park that gave you the chance to see that wonderful sunset.

Why?

Study after study shows that gratitude is extremely powerful in improving your mood, even helping to prevent bad decisions made when we are unhappy. For example, in his book “Thanks”, Dr. Robert A. Emmons found that being thankful increased happiness level by 25%, which led to a significant increase in exercise.

Pride

Pride gets a bad rap, but it isn’t anything to feel ashamed about when you’re simply acknowledging and accepting the wins that are taking you closer to your goals.

Here’s some examples of things to feel proud of:

  • How far you’ve come in your journey
  • That you started or increased an exercise regime
  • The fact that you are reading this article and putting conscious effort into improving your life!

Be proud of each and every step forward and acknowledge the effort that came with it. Don’t wait until you reach your goal. You started. Be proud now!

And most important: don’t focus only on the scale and measuring tape. These don’t measure your inner beauty, your talent or force, your strength, kindness or love! Be proud of these things too.

Why?

Looking back on your accomplishments, no matter how large or small, and feeling proud of them is proven to improve persistence. The saying is true: What you focus on multiplies.

Compassion

Yes, that’s part of Thanksgiving as well! Have compassion for yourself.

If all your best efforts to make conscious eating decisions, go for healthier choices and listen to your body don’t quite go to plan on the day, don’t beat yourself up about it. Practice compassion, focus on what went well, and move on.

Why?

Focusing on feelings of failure or regret can lead us into destructive “all or nothing” thinking that takes us further away from our goals. 

Being kind to ourselves makes it much easier to acknowledge what’s happened, move past it, and quickly get back into a normal, healthy routine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lewis, Emma, Andreea and Jen

 

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