How To Have a Healthy Thanksgiving

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These days it seems like Thanksgiving might as well be a “who can eat the most and have to unbutton their pants first” competition. Last time I checked it was a day we were supposed to be thankful for what we have? Yes, it is a holiday, but people seem to use the word “holiday” as a free pass to eat as if they’ve never eaten before, and as if they’ll never get to eat again. Sure, you can splurge a little on the day of Thanksgiving, but going overboard might come back to bite you. It’s easy to let one cheat day turn into a cheat week, especially with all the leftovers around! It is Thanksgiving, but it is also just another day. Thursday, the 26th of November to be exact. If you have been working hard to improve your eating and exercise habits, why would you treat this one day any differently? Try to shift your focus to thankfulness this year, rather than indulgence.

Here are some easy steps you can take this Thanksgiving to stay on track and keep yourself from being in a food coma all the way into Black Friday.


1) Get moving. Last time I checked, people eat their Thanksgiving meal at lunch or dinnertime, so you really have no excuse not to workout in the morning. The majority of the food prep can be done the night before and then half the stuff sits in crockpot or oven for hours on the day of, so there is NO REASON why you can’t get at least a 30 minute power-walk in on the morning of Thanksgiving. Even better if you get an hour of exercise including some resistance training!

2) Don’t skip breakfast. You might think you’re pretty smart for “saving your calories” for the big feast, but you’re actually making a big mistake. As you know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so not only will you be cheating yourself of this metabolism boosting meal, but you’ll be more likely to overeat all day long. If you go into the big Thanksgiving meal with an empty tummy, you’re bound to stuff your face with way too much food, and you’ll probably do it so quickly that you don’t even enjoy it! Prevent this from happening to you and start the day with a healthy, balanced breakfast, preferably with a hefty dose of protein (~30 g).

3) Balance your plate. Just like you should at every meal, fill up approximately half of your plate with fruits and veggies, and about 1/4 protein (most likely the turkey) and 1/4 carbs. I know that breakdown seems humorous when talking about this holiday, since carbs are likely to make up >75% of everyone’s plate on Turkey Day (ironic), but try to take it easy in this category. I’m a big advocate for good carbs, but the ones that show up on Thanksgiving are usually packed with butter, sugar, and other things that aren’t exactly healthy or low-cal. Pick your favorites and control the portions of the ones you don’t love quite as much. For example, I plan to make some whipped cauliflower to substitute for mashed potatoes so I can fill that carb spot with my weakness – sweet potato casserole – instead! It’s all about balance and moderation. Speaking of moderation, do you really need 3 rolls smothered in butter? Probably not. Enjoy the first one and call it good! Try using a reduced-sugar fruit spread or applesauce sprinkled with cinnamon as a sub for “apple jelly”! Sounds crazy, but it’s delicious. Try it. If/when you go back for seconds (like most of us feel inclined to do on this holiday), fill your plate back up with lighter options, like fruits and veggies, and salad. Chances are you’re not even hungry anymore at this point; you just want to eat more because you can and because there’s still a huge buffet of food calling your name. Do your best to wait at least 20 minutes after your first bite to go back for more – your body needs 20 minutes or more to pump out those hormones that tell your brain you’re full.

4) Treat yourself to something sweet. Yep, I’m giving you permission to indulge, BUT don’t get carried away. Pick your favorite dessert, grab a slice, and lick the plate clean for all I care. It is a holiday after all. Just try to refrain from having an entire plateful of treats after an already larger-than-normal meal. Better yet, wait an hour or two after the meal to let it settle before you run to the dessert table. The suspense will make it even more thrilling. ; ) Regardless of when you head for the sweets, choose your ONE absolute favorite, eat it slowly and savor every bite. That way your sweet tooth will be satisfied, but you’re not too uncomfortably stuffed to….

5) Take a walk! (Yes, again!) Walking after your meal will help you digest, keep your blood sugars in check, and simply make you feel less bloated and “blah” after eating all that food. It’s common to just crash on the couch, put on your stretchy pants, watch football and barely move for the rest of the day, but this year try to squeeze some more activity in instead. Go on a walk with your family or play football in the backyard. One year on Thanksgiving, my personal trainer Uncle and I got real creative and played an intense match of cardio ping-pong. We literally jogged in place while playing a game of ping-pong. It really takes the game to a whole new level. And it’s sorta hilarious so you’re totally distracted about the fact that you’re kinda working out. If it’s too cold to get outside, give it a shot.

Most of all, enjoy yourself. Be thankful for what you have and spend quality time with the ones you love. If you have a little bit too much pumpkin pie or sweet potato casserole, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just do your best to get back to your fit, healthy self the next day. Fight some crazy crowds on Black Friday even if you don’t need anything. It’s good people watching and you’ll get some steps in. 😉

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to experiment with any fun healthy Thanksgiving recipes, but I am planning on making a few of the recipes that are already in my cookbook so my family will have some healthier choices around. Head to my recipe pages to find the recipe for whipped cauliflower as a sub for mashed potatoes and pumpkin oat cran chocolate chip cookies as a lightened up dessert option!


Since I don’t have a new Thanksgiving recipe to share, I will share this one with you instead. So, I made these muffins last weekend and I’m already dying to make them again because they literally disappeared before my eyes. They are SUCH a good, healthy option as a breakfast item or just a snack on-the-go! My favorite part is the fact that you can top them with so many different things so it’s like you’re having something new each time!

Banana Oat Blender Muffins – inspired by well plated


  • 2 cups old-fashioned or quick oats
  • 2 large, very ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup Egg Beaters)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used vanilla Light & Fit Greek yogurt)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Optional mix-ins: mini or regular chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, fresh or frozen blueberries


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 12-cup standard muffin tin or line with paper liners, lightly greased as well. (I needed a 12-cup muffin tin and an extra 6-cup muffin tin!)

2. Place all ingredients (besides mix-ins) in a blender or food processor: oats, bananas, eggs, Greek yogurt, honey, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and salt. Blend on high, and stop to scrape down the ingredients from the sides as needed, until the batter is smooth and the oats are almost completely broken down. Blending time = approximately 3 minutes. If you choose to add mix ins, do so by hand after blending is complete.

3. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full. (I filled mine 1/2-3/4 full to make 17 smaller muffins instead of 12 medium.)

4. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until tops of the muffins set and are golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool for about 10 minutes before removing from pan. Then dig in!

When I made mine, I couldn’t choose just ONE mix-in, so I did them ALL! Pour batter into muffin tins and then sprinkle your mix-in of choice right on top to add some extra sweetness or crunch!

Toppings used: frozen blueberries, chopped walnuts, mini chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips & dried cranberries!


Here’s an example of a breakfast I enjoyed with some of my banana oat muffins! An egg-white omelet with spinach, red onion, and red pepper + banana oat muffins with dried cranberries and walnuts!

I hope you all have an amazing, delicious Thanksgiving holiday!

[eat well. live well. be happy.]

Shanna, RD


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