Healthy Holiday Eating: It's Easier Than You Think

Like most Americans, I love Thanksgiving.

Or more accurately, I looove Thanksgiving.

It's a holiday centered around eating, spending time with loved ones, watching football and of course, more eating. What's not to love? While I'm a firm believer in not depriving yourself or cutting out major food groups, I also know that there's a fine line between enjoying your Thanksgiving meal and completely overdoing it. So many of us seem to treat Thanksgiving as the jumping off point for over a month of gluttony, only to feel sluggish and awful come January 1st (and likely be 10 lbs. heavier). It doesn't have to be that way. You can still enjoy your favorite holiday foods and (some) things laden in butter, salt and sugar and still be able to button your pants once the holiday is over. Here's a few tips on how:

Start off the day with an awesome, sweat-filled workout.

Whether your workout is in the gym, out on the trails or even in your own basement- commit to getting in a good exercise session in the morning. Take the family for a hike or go for a nice, long trail run and clear your head. Many gyms offer special classes on Thanksgiving - take advantage of that! For the last six years I've been a Spinning instructor and have taught special "turkey burner" classes on Thanksgiving morning- which are longer and more challenging than a regular class- and they're always packed! If you don't belong to a gym or aren't able to exercise outside, create your own circuit that you can do at home using your own body weight (I've listed some examples here). You can get a killer workout just by doing things like push-ups, plyometric jumps, walking lunges, burpees and squats. A good exercise session will give you energy and just make you feel better throughout the whole day.

Thanksgiving Workout
More ideas for staying in shap: at-home workouts.

Drink water: All. Day. Long.

When you're busy running around cooking, cleaning and getting the house ready for guests it's easy to forget to do one very simple thing: drink water. We often mistake hunger for thirst and staying hydrated is not only good for your organs, immune system, skin (just to name a few)- it also keeps you feeling fuller. And here's a tip- warm water will make you feel fuller, while cold water is better for immediate replenishment and hydration (i.e. during a workout). Drinking water can also help keep you from mindlessly snacking: instead of reaching for food (when you're not really hungry), grab a glass of water instead. Not a fan of plain water? Add in a few cucumber slices. Trust me- it makes a huge difference.

Watch the booze.

For a lot of us, alcohol and Thanksgiving go together like peanut butter and chocolate- they're a perfect, delicious combo. I actually advocate having one or two glasses of wine with your Thanksgiving meal (notice I said glasses, not bottles). Drinking in moderation is probably not going to inhibit your judgment too much- but getting beyond the point of a light buzz probably will. We tend to make poor choices when we drink- and that includes food. Plus, the combination of too much alcohol and pumpkin pie will not leave you feeling very awesome the next morning.

Choose indulgences wisely.

One of the most difficult things about trying to not completely blow it on Thanksgiving is that there is just so much food. And, we tend to want to eat all of it. Just remember- this is not your last meal. This is not the last time that you'll ever get to eat mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole or the ten different varieties of pie that everyone baked. Choose a few carb-heavy dishes and load up on the lean protein (turkey) and vegetables.

What's that? You don't have vegetables at your Thanksgiving meal?! See my next tip for help.

Create healthier recipes (that still taste amazing).

Over the years I've begun establishing my own Thanksgiving traditions and look forward to enjoying a few of my favorite recipes. Think about it: many of the traditional foods served for Thanksgiving are healthy! The holiday is centered around one of the leanest forms of protein (turkey) and many of the sides at least include some type of vegetable. And- these foods don't have to be coated in butter and oil to taste good. Some of my favorite Thanksgiving sides to cook include:

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Roasted Root Vegetables & Squash:


For the Brussels sprouts: Cut sprouts into halves and toss in a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and a few drops of liquid smoke. For the roasted root vegetables and squash: Cut up sweet potatoes, winter squash (Butternut, Delicata, Acorn, etc.) and carrots into cubes. Toss in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and sea salt. Bake both dishes in the oven at 400°- about 20 minutes for the Brussels Sprouts and 30 for the root veggies and squash.

Cranberry Sauce


Combine fresh (lightly pureed) cranberries, orange zest, juice from the same orange, agave nectar and a small amount of chia seeds to "gel" it up.

The Best Stuffing Ever:


This stuffing is made with Ezekial 7 Sprouted Grain bread, cherries, mushrooms, walnuts, onions, celery, sage, rosemary, vegetable broth and Earth Balance spread. It's incredibly delicious and full of veggies and antioxidants!

Sweet Potato Pie:


*Disclaimer: The author of this article is employed by FlapJacked™ Protein Pancake Mixes.

If you're not sure if you like sweet potato pie, I'll give you a little tip: it tastes just like pumpkin pie. I made this recipe for my day job using FlapJacked Protein Pancake Mix and pecans for the crust- which makes it delicious and packed with protein and fiber. You can get the full recipe here.

Here's my final tip:

Relax- it's just one day.

If you end up eating too much or aren't able to work out- don't spend the next day beating yourself up. One day of gluttony isn't going to do much permanent damage. The danger is really only there if you throw in the towel and give into a season of binge-eating (as I mentioned above). Get right back into your healthy habits the next day and reflect on what an awesome (and delicious) Thanksgiving you were able to enjoy.

posted by
Lauren Martin
As a member of #TeamSierra, Lauren Martin receives promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post. Lauren is a full-time Social and Digital Media Manager for a Colorado-based natural foods company and part-time Spinning and Bodypump Instructor. Her passions include hiking, biking, brewing kombucha, cooking healthy food (that doesn't taste healthy) and running around with her two Golden Retrievers. You can follow her on Instagram or on her blog, Me and the Mountains.
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