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Your Healthy Thanksgiving Game Plan

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Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for family and friends to gather, enjoy traditional foods and appreciate all we are grateful for. At the same time, parents often feel the holiday stress because in addition to the usual busy schedules there is more planning, food preparation and celebrations, making it more difficult to keep up with good nutrition and staying active.

Bottom border of colorful autumn leaves on a rustic wooden background

Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner or bringing a dish to share, a little planning ahead can make for a healthy and fun holiday. Below are several tips and strategies to help you create a Thanksgiving Game Plan that is healthy and happy.

Simplify Thanksgiving.

If Thanksgiving is at your house, simplify the menu. Having fewer side dishes and desserts to prepare means fewer hours spent in the kitchen before and during the holiday. If you want the full spread, then simplify by delegating. Ask friends and family to bring their favorite, healthy appetizer, vegetable dish or dessert, while you focus on the meat and potatoes. Be sure to ask for help in the kitchen, both during preparation and clean up. Kids can be great helpers too!

Lighten Up the Menu.

vegetable and dip

Most families have traditional holiday foods that they don’t want to go without. Unfortunately, many of these recipes are loaded with fat, sugar, salt or a combination of all three. With just a few minor ingredient swaps, these traditional recipes can be made much healthier while still tasting great. Here are some suggestions to improve the nutritional quality in traditional recipes:

  • Use fat-free chicken broth to baste the turkey and make gravy
  • Decrease the oil or butter in a recipe by 1/4 to 1/ 3
  • Use plain yogurt, Greek yogurt or low fat sour cream for creamy dips and casseroles
  • Use evaporated skim milk instead of cream for mashed potatoes
  • Make sure there are at least 2 vegetable dishes being served
  • Serve raw vegetables with hummus or low fat dip as an appetizer

Some of the healthier options to offer for the Thanksgiving feast include a vegetable tray appetizer, turkey breast meat, green salad, fruit salad, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Simple substitutions can lower the total calories, saturated fat and sodium in your Thanksgiving feast.

Step it Up.

Along with lowering the calories in some of the dishes served, step up the activity on Thanksgiving day by participating in a local run. These events typically include a Fun Run, 5K and 10K, allowing the whole family to  be active together. Other fun activities to consider are a walk with family and friends after the meal or a pre-meal game of football, basketball or frisbee at a nearby park.

Walking with all family in autumn season

By simplifying your menu, offering some lighter food options, and stepping up the activity, you’ll have healthy strategies to use throughout the holiday season.

Cheers to a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving!


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