Healthy ways to enjoy Thanksgiving

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 22 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

As fun as Thanksgiving festivities can be, sometimes it can be a stressful time that strays from healthy eating and sleeping routines. (Josh Ferrin) As fun as Thanksgiving festivities can be, sometimes it can be a stressful time that strays from healthy eating and sleeping routines. (Josh Ferrin)

The Thanksgiving holiday can be a difficult time to maintain healthy habits established earlier in the year. Generally, people are eating more while moving less — accompanied by the stress of planning gatherings and long-distance traveling. However, the Thanksgiving holiday doesn’t have to be characterized by gluttony, slothfulness or anxiety. With the right perspective and a little planning, a healthy Thanksgiving is possible.

Plan ahead

A wise proverb says, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” Create a strategy for making wise food choices and ways to fit in exercise before the day arrives.

“Enjoy the things that are out of routine, that are out of the ordinary, but anticipate what you do need to keep yourself sane during the holidays,” says Judith Belmont, psychotherapist and author of the book, “The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life.”

This could include bringing running shoes to keep up with your workout regimen or bringing a dish or two to the meal to ensure there will be healthy options available.

Watch out for excesses

Don’t fall victim to the Thanksgiving food coma by eating too much. “The turkey should be stuffed, not people," said Belmont. "I have always marveled at how people feel miserable after they eat too much, but they do it anyway because it’s Thanksgiving."

Eating healthy doesn't have to mean missing out.

“I think it’s completely fine to indulge in some of your favorite holiday treats, but instead of three slices of pie try and have a tiny sliver of pie,” said Lindsey Toth, a register dietician from Chicago.

To avoid overeating Toth recommends the following:

  • Use smaller plates: This will help avoid piling tons of food on a plate that isn't actually needed.
  • Stay hydrated: Many people mistake thirst for hunger. Instead of grabbing another helping, grab a glass of water.
  • Don’t go to dinner hungry: It’s hard to stay discipline about what you’re eating if you’re starving. Eating a light meal or snack earlier in the day can help keep your hunger and waistline in check.

Be creative

Lightening up a Thanksgiving meal doesn’t have to be a total makeover. According to Toth, it can be as simple as using skim instead of whole, using less butter and adding herbs for flavor and adding vegetable purees to certain dishes to get in more servings of vegetables. More healthy swaps and tips can be found all over the Internet.

The same creativity can be used when it comes to fitting in a workout.

“People make it out to be so difficult, but they don’t realize that it doesn’t have to be. It really can be as simple as going for a walk or doing a couple of stretches,” says Brian Zehetner, a registered dietician, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and director of Anytime Health for Anytime Fitness, based in Hastings, Minn.

Zehetner recommends making exercise into a family activity, such as a game of football, sledding or just playing around with the kids.

Stuck at the airport or in the car a few hours? “I like to walk around instead of just sit and wait for the airplane to come,” said Holly Patiño, acertified personal trainer and owner of SkinnyTwinkie.com, who is based in Draper. “It’s not that I’m exercising to cause a sweat but I’m moving.”

For those traveling by car, Patiño suggests doing a few jumping jacks while pumping gas or going for a quick walk or jog for a few minutes.

Focus on relationships

Don't allow food to take center stage. The focus of Thanksgiving should be on family, friends and remembering blessings. Keeping the right perspective can help avoid overindulging and instead enjoy the holiday.

Tequitia Andrews has written about parenting and family issues for several newspapers, magazines and websites.

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