Just like so many other people, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day is that time of year when you look forward to a large gathering of family and close friends to enjoy a variety of good food, family traditions, and the building of strong memories. If you’re on a diet or other weight loss program, then you’re probably worried about gaining weight in unwanted areas just because you made unhealthy eating decisions on one of these sacred days of the year. You’re probably also harboring thoughts in your mind on how to eat healthy on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day while still enjoying the festive occasion.
Well I have some very good news to share with you! It is entirely possible to enjoy your Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner while making healthy eating choices. This post puts forward ten tips that you can follow and make that day just as special as you want it to be.
Some links on this page may be affiliate links and we may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of these. You can read our full affiliate disclosure here.
Ten Tips to Eating Healthy
Tip #1 – Be Hungry Right Before Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner, but not Starving
It is a good idea to have breakfast or a satisfying snack a few hours before dinner, and not save your appetite for the main event. This will ensure that you are not starving at dinner time and are better able to make wiser food choices at the dining table.
Nuts, eggs, yogurt, or avocado are all excellent options that you can consider having before dinner. Having them beforehand will make you less likely to eat any and everything that is put on the dining table before you.
Tip #2 – If you are not the host, offer to bring a healthy dish that you enjoy to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner
If you are not the one hosting dinner, then probably the best approach to avoid consuming unhealthy foods for dinner is to bring your own healthy food to the main event.
This works especially well if you were asked by the host to bring something of your choice. Why not bring what you want to eat? Consider showing up to the venue with a plate of roasted vegetables or a winter fruit salad.
Tip #3 – Have light appetizers
Before eating the main course, start by having light appetizers such as salads, fresh vegetables, chips and salsa, or a vegetable-based soup.
Preferably, choose an array of fresh, grilled, or roasted vegetables like carrots, beets, brussels sprouts, or cauliflower.
If squash is available, and you like and can eat squash, then have some squash. Squash is low in carbs and calories, but is abundant in fibre, potassium and riboflavin. This makes it a good weight loss food.
Squash can however lower your blood pressure and yellow summer squash, in particular, has a higher oxalate content. Therefore, if you’re hypotensive or have kidney stone concerns, you should avoid squash.
Tip #4 – Limit the amount of starchy vegetables you have
Resist the temptation to load your plate with mashed or sweet potatoes.
Although potatoes contain some amount of fibre, potassium, Vitamin C and B6, they are heavy on carbohydrates. And as we all know, carbohydrates should be limited if we are serious about losing weight.
Many traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes also factor in significant amounts of added sugar, milk, butter or cream to potato recipes. This amplifies the caloric and saturated fat intake. You should avoid these add-ons if possible or try out a lighter recipe if you are the one responsible for the cooking.
Having sweet potatoes in moderation, is a good alternative to having regular potatoes with milk or butter added.
Tip #5 – Skip the gravy
Although you may like gravy because it makes food taste better, it has no nutritional benefits.
Gravy is usually comprised of meat juices and fat drippings that are often thickened with flour or corn starch. This works against any weight loss goals that you may have. Therefore, although it may be savory, gravy is certainly very unhealthy for you.
Tip #6 – If you’re having Turkey, omit the stuffing and cranberry sauce
Turkey can be a healthy part of your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, especially if you avoid the skin.
Without its skin, turkey is considered a healthy and lean source of protein which is low in fat. As a protein, turkey can keep you full for longer, and help to stave off hunger.
Turkey also contains iron, zinc, selenium, and B Vitamins, which are all important components of your health and vitality.
The stuffing which usually accompanies turkey, although probably containing healthy herbs, often includes processed, nutrient-drained bread. Sometimes too, processed meats are added to it, making the stuffing more tasty but also unhealthier. Although easy adjustments could be made such as adding more vegetables to your stuffing, it is best to avoid having any stuffing at all with your turkey dinner.
Traditional turkey dinner recipes also include cranberry sauce as a delicious topping. The cranberries in the cranberry sauce may help urinary tract infections and bring about anti-oxidation. They also contain fibre, vitamin C and reasonably little fat.
While retaining some of the health benefits of cranberries in their original form, the commercial cranberry sauce adds a lot more calories, sugar, and fat, effectively negating the healthy ingredients.
Although a homemade cranberry sauce gives more control over the ingredients, especially if you’re not the one who made it, you should definitely avoid it if you want to eat healthy on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.
Tip #7 – Limit How Much Ham You Eat or Avoid It Altogether
Ham is a great source of protein and contains vital nutrients for your body such as Vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamine and niacin.
Ham is however filled with preservatives, namely sodium nitrate. This may cause damage to your blood vessels and make your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Ham is also loaded with sodium and lots of fat and cholesterol.
You should therefore eat only a small amount of ham at Thanksgiving or avoid it altogether if possible.
Tip #8 – Make desserts less crusty
There will most likely be either pumpkin pie or apple pie on the day. If you are the one baking the pie, try cutting down the pie crust so that it’s more about the filling than the crust.
Pumpkins and apples are both good sources of fibre, which helps to make you feel full for longer. However, in pie form, the crust usually calls for flour, sugar, butter or cream to be added, which significantly increases the saturated fat and calorie count of the pie.
You should try to replace the unhealthy ingredients which go into the crust of these pies with healthier ingredients. If this cannot be done, or you are not the one baking the pie, then limit yourself to very small portions of pie, or avoid them altogether.
If having fruitcake, then you’ll be happy to find out that fruitcakes can be a good way to get antioxidants and fiber as traditional fruitcake is loaded with dried fruit, nuts and usually some type of alcohol. The nuts are also a tasty way to get some healthy fats and protein. A word of caution however….fruitcake can be high in calories and fat, outweighing any benefits of the individual ingredients. So eat any fruitcake that you’ll be having over the holidays in moderation.
Tip #9 – Limit how many calories you drink
If possible, drink only water.
Although you may be tempted to sip on cider or wine throughout the meal, you should limit the amount of sugary or alcoholic beverages which you consume. Try limiting yourself to one glass of cider and sipping on water or seltzer for the remainder of the meal.
Tip #10 – Move around after the meal is done.
Once you’ve finished eating dinner and you’ve given your food a little while to properly digest, consider taking a refreshing stroll outside if you can, or playing a game which involves some amount of physical activity. Better yet, why not have a nice workout later on during the evening? Your body will thank you for it.
By doing this, you are allowing your body some time to burn some of the calories that you have just consumed.
Related: H.I.I.T Workout Routine for Women
Thanksgiving and Christmas are two wonderful times of the year when you get to have a good time with your family and close friends. As far as eating goes, you do not have to sweep aside self-restraint and indulge in all the culinary glory that the dinner table has to offer.
Although it’s important to enjoy the holiday, try to be more mindful about what you eat on the day. Knowing how to eat healthy on Thanksgiving or Christmas can mean the difference between staying committed to your weight loss goals or giving in, and erasing all those positive gains you’ve made.
As this blog post has shown, you don’t have to sacrifice your healthy eating habits just because its Thanksgiving or Christmas. You can make a few tweaks here and there to what you usually eat and drink, and you can even avoid certain things altogether.
You have one life to live, so make sure you live a healthy, and enjoyable one!
I hope you have found this to be a remarkably interesting read. Please feel free to leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.