How to Make Your Thanksgiving a Little Healthier

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? It’s the time of year that we get to celebrate food, as well as spend time with friends and family being thankful for all the many gifts that we have been given. To many people, Thanksgiving can also be a downward spiral into unhealthy eating that will carry on throughout the holiday season. I thought I would share some of my healthy Thanksgiving tips to hopefully make your Thanksgiving a time to celebrate and respect the food that you put in your body.

Remember, food doesn’t define the holiday

After becoming vegetarian, and committing myself to eating a healthy/clean diet, it was difficult for me to let go of the typical “food traditions” and the general thought that certain foods define a holiday or special occasion/event. Even though Thanksgiving has a lot to do with food, it also has a lot to do with being with family and being thankful. Don’t go into Thanksgiving with the mindset that food is the only thing that matters, and that if you don’t eat this, or that it won’t be Thanksgiving.

If you don’t like it, don’t eat it

There is usually so much food at a Thanksgiving lunch, or dinner that people tend to eat things only because it’s there, and not because they actually enjoy it. Be conscious of what you’re putting on your plate, choose foods that you actually enjoy eating rather than foods that are “traditional Thanksgiving foods” that you may only eat because you feel you should.

Eat your vegetables!

Load up your plate with vegetables (try to fill at least half your plate with vegetables), and eat those first! This way you leave only a little space on your plate, and in your stomach for the less nutritious food. Vegetables will provide you with fiber, and help to fill your stomach with good things, and cause you to not be as hungry for the less nutritious food.

Stick with unprocessed foods

Foods that come out of a can, or box are foods that are highly processed, filled with preservatives and have lost a lot of their nutrients. Instead of canned green beans, stick with fresh. Or instead of mashed potatoes from a box (which shouldn’t even exist), make potatoes fresh.

Don’t overcook your vegetables!

This is fairly common mistake that can happen very easily. The vegetables often get steamed too long, roasted until almost burnt, or reheated so many times they turn into rubber. Not only does overcook vegetables not taste as good, but they lose a lot of their nutrients the longer they are cooked. To avoid overcooking your veggies, save cooking them for last, and try to stop the cooking process as soon as possible!

Revamp your mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes are super healthy, but can often get unhealthy by adding butter, salt, milk, or cream. Stick to just pure potatoes, or throw in some extra nutrients add in cauliflower! Just steam or boil half potatoes half cauliflower, and mash! Also, if you feel it’s missing out on flavor, roast or mash up some garlic to give it a burst of flavor!

Know where to spend your money

Although, I don’t eat meat I know that this is the time of year when meat (turkey in particular) is essential to some people. If you just can’t do without the turkey, at least splurge on this part of the meal. Get a turkey that is free of hormones (organic), and raised locally if you choose to eat meat.

Respect the sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods, so when people make a sweet potato casserole and pile on the marshmallows, and sugar it makes me really sad. Sweet potatoes are sweet enough on their own, so avoid all the extras and don’t downgrade their nutrient potential. Instead of a sugar-filled topping on a casserole, use just a combination of raw chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds), a little applesauce, and a little flour to create a yummy crumble. Or even top it with a homemade granola!

Put down that salt shaker

Excess salt can lead to water retention, increased pressure in your body, inflammation, and many more health problems so put down the salt shaker, and use other spices and herbs to flavor your dishes. Using pepper, fresh herbs, garlic, or onion you can still flavor your dishes, but avoid excess salt.

Don’t drink water

You’re probably really confused as to why not drinking water would be a good thing, but in fact drinking water WITH a meal isn’t good for our digestion. Help out your digestive system by not drinking anything during your meal, this will allow your body’s natural enzymes and acids to break food down more easily. Water or other beverages can often dilute the necessary chemistry needed to digest food properly, so drink water thirty minutes before, and wait thirty minutes after enjoying your meal to hydrate yourself.

Rethink your dessert

Desserts can often be the demise of all positive efforts to eat a healthy Thanksgiving meal. Desserts typically provide no nutritional benefits, so there is no need to eat them. Hopefully after eating a filling lunch or dinner there will be no need for dessert. If you are craving something sweet, go for fruit (raw or dry), and try to bake with whole grains. So if you’re preparing desserts for Thanksgiving find recipes that use beneficial ingredients (nuts,coconut, dates, pumpkin, and applesauce) rather than not-so-beneficial ingredients (butter, milk, refined sugar, refined grains). And again, using moderation when it comes to dessert is key.

Don’t even think about using canned cranberry sauce!

There is nothing more sketchy than cranberry sauce from a can. It looks, feels, and tastes weird as well as it being filled with preservatives, refined sugars, food dyes, and highly processed ingredients. Make your own cranberry sauce with just a few simple ingredients: fresh (or frozen) cranberries, orange juice, and ginger! That’s it, just three simple ingredients simmered in a pot for only ten to fifteen minutes. Not only does it taste delicious, but it’s filled with anti-oxidants, vitamins, and nutrients from the fresh, natural ingredients.

Don’t disrespect the food, treat it properly so it can help you (not hurt you)

Food should be appreciated, and respected especially during a holiday that celebrates food. Let food help and benefit you, rather than harm you. Cook your food with love and respect, by doing this it will provide you with the health benefits that nature meant for it to provide you with.

3 thoughts on “How to Make Your Thanksgiving a Little Healthier

  1. I found your blog and its incredibly helpful and beautiful! Thank you for making this. I'm a vegetarian but I'm struggling withnutrition while being in school and also losing good alternatives for meals that are full of protein but gave in to convenient processed things more than I should. : / What's your advice for someone making the shift to cutting down on junk food but who's kinda addicted to it from practically living on it in college? Also, I ate a ton of holiday foods mindlessly and now I feel like I've gained additional weight :/ should I do a cleansing fast or something plus some light exercises?What's your opinion on temporary fasts?


  2. Thank you so much, I'm glad that you found it! Congratulations on being vegetarian, it's a great decision that you've made! I would definitely suggest sticking with it, and also doing exactly what you're doing: reading blogs, and educating yourself. When I became vegetarian I did a lot of educating myself and research online to help me come up with ideas/tips. Don't lose motivation either, if you're motivated to sticking with the vegetarian lifestyle, then it will be a lot easier. For the meat alternatives that aren't processed stick to beans, edamame, tofu, tempeh, plant-based protein powders, Greek yogurt, and LOTS of vegetables (they have lots more protein than you may think!). Eating healthy while living in college is honestly a lifestyle, so make it fun! Subscribe to health related newsletters, follow bloggers, “like” pages on Facebook, and always be looking for healthy tips/recipes to keep yourself motivated to sticking with healthy options. Also, just keep in mind that in the end, all of your healthy eating will pay off by keeping you healthy and feeling great! And for the fasting/cleansing, I wouldn't recommend something so drastic, just do some extra working out (strength training specifically) and stick with a plant based diet, and you should bounce right back! Also a warm glass of lemon water, and raw apple cider vinegar shots should help with you digestion; so maybe give those a try if you're feeling extra bloated! Hope that helps!


  3. Thank you for your genuine,and very helpful, advice! I'm inspired and motivated even more by your suggestions and the new changes that I'll make. I'll start reading more into health stuff since the documentaries and info. helped prompt me towards vegetarianism. Do you suggest having set meal times? What's a simply veggie meal that you make which is affordable, and filling? I've been getting canned veggies, though I try to also get fresh produce, and I'll snack on those during the days but I'm noticing now that I'm not really eating meals…or does a can of beans or mixed veggies count as a meal? It's kinda boring though it's healthy. Maybe that's why I'll sometimes grab the poptart or crackers which I know aren't good. : / What are some of your favorite recipes or sites? I have some exploring to do and really no excuses to avoid this since the internet pretty much has anything if I chose to look for it! But maybe you have some favorite meals or snacks to suggest. 🙂
    P.S. That apple tree in the background is to die for. I may eat an apple later and maybe bake it with cinnamon. mmh


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