Enjoy Healthy Thanksgiving Meals With These Tips

No matter where you are on your health and wellness journey, holidays like Thanksgiving can be tricky. After all, this food-filled holiday has virtually become synonymous with unhealthy foods and overindulgence. 

Believe it or not, you don’t have to skip the holiday festivities completely in order to keep your health on track. In fact, you can still enjoy a delicious and satisfying Thanksgiving meal with your family and friends that is healthy, and we are here to help you learn how. 

1. Plan Ahead and Shop Smart

Making a loose plan ahead of the holidays can help avoid unnecessary stress. Plus, when it comes to holiday meals, planning ahead gives you plenty of time to make sure you have everything you will need to cook on the day of. This will eliminate the last-minute need for a run to the grocery store or swapping a healthy side dish for something that is quick, convenient, and processed. Plus, planning allows you to shop early, which means you can grab items when they are on sale instead of paying full price a day or two before. By planning now, your meal will not only be complete and delicious, but it also won’t break the bank. 

When you sit down to start planning, the best place to start is by knowing how many guests you will be expecting, as this will determine how large of a meal you need to prepare. Once you know how many mouths you will be feeding, it’s time to start planning the meal. Will you be serving only turkey or will you prepare ham as well? How many side dishes are you going to make and what will they be? Will any of your guests bring a side or dessert, and what are they bringing? Does anyone have dietary restrictions you’ll need to prepare for? Write this all down so you can reference it throughout the rest of the planning process. 

Once you know what is going to be included in the meal, you can start working on your shopping list. Go through each part of the meal and write down the ingredients you will need. Then, take a look at your pantry to see if you already have any of the items you need before you add them to your grocery list and head off to the store. 

When you head out to do your shopping, make sure you know where to go to find the fresh, whole-food ingredients you need. You may head to your local farmers market or health food store, or if you’d prefer to stick to your favorite grocery store, stick to shopping the perimeter of the store where you will find fresh whole foods without being tempted by the convenient boxed foods that are stored within the aisles. 

2. Prepare Dishes From Scratch

There is no doubt that cooking a full Thanksgiving meal can feel tedious and time-consuming, which is why it’s so tempting to rely on frozen, canned, or boxed items that will cut down your preparation time. However, these more convenient items are definitely not the healthiest of options as they often contain unnecessary additives and preservatives as well as excess amounts of sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats. If you are looking to have a healthier Thanksgiving this year, your best option is to take the time to cook everything from scratch, so that you will have full control of all of the ingredients that are used. 

If you’re worried that cooking a healthy meal means you’ll have to skip out on your favorite staples, let us assure you that that’s not true. In fact, many Thanksgiving dinner favorites are naturally rich in health-promoting nutrients. For example, turkey meat is known to be rich in a variety of vitamins and lean proteins that promote a healthy heart. Sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber and vitamins A and C, and green beans contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs. The key to using these to create a healthy Thanksgiving dinner is in the way you prepare them, and cooking from scratch lets you have complete control over that. 

3. Skip The Salt

Salt is present in plenty of our favorite meals, no matter what packaging they come in, but you’ll find that processed foods tend to be exceptionally rich in it. While salt is one of the many minerals the human body needs to function properly, it is considered a trace mineral, which means you only need to get a small amount of it from your diet, and consuming a diet that contains too much salt can lead to health challenges over time. 

It is interesting to note that the average American consumes about 3,400 mg of salt each day, which is well above the recommended amount. When it comes to large holiday meals, the best way to manage your salt intake is to watch how much you use throughout the cooking process. If possible, it’s even better to avoid adding sodium to your dishes at all. Then, if anyone wants to add a little once they are dished up, they are more than welcome to. 

4. Manage Portions and Eat Mindfully

Once it is time to enjoy the delicious, healthy Thanksgiving dinner you prepared, don’t let your health goals fall off to the side. After all, how much you eat and how you eat are also important. Pay attention to how much food you put on your plate and practice mindful eating as much as possible. That way, you can set yourself up to successfully avoid the pitfall of overeating that so often causes us to battle digestive discomfort as we leave our Thanksgiving celebrations.  

Have a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving

Staying healthy during holidays like Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. With a little thought and preparation, you can plan and execute a healthy Thanksgiving dinner that the whole family will enjoy so that you can keep your healthy lifestyle on track.

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