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3 Easy Changes for a Healthier Thanksgiving

Tiffany Frohmader, B.S. Tiffany Frohmader, B.S. November 25, 2015 0 Comments General Health

It’s here! It’s here! It’s here! It’s Thanksgiving week!

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and I usually start a countdown in October to prep for the big day. It is the same tradition every year for my family: we meet up at my parent’s house, family attends. We eat too much, watch football, nap, eat again, nap and eat more. My sister and I have a long-standing tradition that we drink “real Coke in the red can” (the ONE time all year!) and watch Home Alone while eating leftovers. Once we’re able to move again, we’ll head out and brave the crowds in search of $4 hand mixers and other Christmas list items.

Aside from the “fun-filled” family memories that undoubtedly happen on Turkey day every year (2003: kitchen starting on fire; 2009: our dog died; 2014: family meets my boyfriend, now fiancé, for the first time on Thanksgiving day as he walked in late to dinner; every year: wine shortage), it is such a blessed day with family, food, and the NFL.

Tradition is important to me for this holiday because it is something to look forward to and because it builds a sense of belonging, family and nostalgia. We have done the same thing as far back as I can remember, and it can be hard to incorporate new traditions or change traditions. However, sometimes change is a really good thing, especially when it comes to your health and overall wellness.

One change could be to include a few healthier options at the table—fruit salad, a vegetable platter, sides made with healthier mix-ins (think lower sodium soups, low-fat cream cheese and sour cream, etc.), and a lower-fat dessert option. Now, I am the first to admit that I typically eat an exorbitant amount on Thanksgiving and calorie counting goes right out the window. But since we have started to include healthier items on the table, I’m a little more conscious of my food choices and try to load up on the healthier options. I’m certainly not saying to skimp on the turkey and potatoes, but offering healthier options may encourage your family to include some of the healthy stuff on their plate, too.

Pumpkin-BoyAnother helpful tip is to take a smaller portion of the foods that you want. This way you don’t feel deprived – you are trying everything – but you won’t (hopefully) be left with that feeling of “Oh gosh, I need to put on stretchy pants so I can breathe!” It typically takes around 20 minutes for your brain to realize that your stomach is full, and if you’ve already scarfed down two plates, you may be in for some discomfort for a better part of your day. When you take your time while eating and enjoy/taste the food, it can help you consume fewer calories and spare your stomach from pain later.

Another idea is to include a little bit of exercise on Thanksgiving Day. It has been cool to see how many area communities and groups now offer exercise opportunities on Thanksgiving morning including 5k races, group walks, and fitness classes. Fort HealthCare has our spin on this tradition – we offer a “Thanksgiving Zumba® Turkey Burn from 8:30 am to 10:00 am at the Fort Atkinson High School on Thanksgiving (led by yours truly and Wendy Schreiner). All we ask for is non-perishable food donations as the entrance “fee.”  It’s a fun way to get moving in the morning (before the turkey basting and wine drinking) and helps to combat the extra calories consumed during the day.

You could also take a family walk around the block, or grab the football and throw it around after the big feast—it may help to perk you up after the turkey and tryptophan have taken their toll.

I am a firm believer in moderation and believe special holidays and occasions deserve a little naughtiness with food and drink. Our family has made positive changes throughout the years without sacrificing the foods and traditions we have come to enjoy, and I encourage you to do the same. Who knows—maybe it will be the start of something new and GREAT!

Have a great Thanksgiving!