Thanksgiving seems like a ridiculous time to think about making healthy choices. In between the parties and special holiday meals, it’s nearly impossible to avoid our favorite comfort foods that threaten to derail our best intentions. With that said, the children's health/weight experts at Kurbo Health offer their top 7 tips to enjoy a healthy, joyful Thanksgiving.
1. Plan meals ahead of time:
This is true for the big meal and smaller meals leading up to special events. Get rid of the “save room for the big meal” mentality and try to eat green and yellow light foods throughout the day. If you don’t eat breakfast or lunch you will be so hungry by the time dinner comes along that you will overeat and make bad food choices. A filling breakfast of plain low fat yogurt or scrambled eggs and fruit followed by a bowl of soup for lunch is a great way to avoid overeating at Thanksgiving dinner. Grab a healthy snack of veggies and dip before you go to the dinner party or bring it with you, so you aren’t tempted to fill up on red-light hors d’ oeuvres when you first arrive.
2. Make It Fun
It is so easy to get caught up in the food aspects of a holiday that we often forget the other activities that make the holidays fun, special, and memorable. This year, try some non-food activities. A family bike ride or hike in the morning, before your guests arrive is a great way to start the day. Engage the kids in decorating and setting the table. My job was to create place-cards for all the guests! Get fun stickers and markers; the kids will feel more integrated into the holiday in a non-food related way.
3. Limit Red Lights Choices and offer more Green Lights!
I know this sounds crazy but you can still enjoy favorite red lights without going over the top. Instead of serving 5 different types of pie, offer one or 2 varieties of pie. Also, you don’t need sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. Research shows that if there are more choices, we will eat more. Think about serving a couple different types of salad or veggies sides to encourage more green lights.
4. Bring healthy foods with you
If you are going to someone else’s house to celebrate, bring a green or yellow light dish to share. This way you can ensure there is a healthy option for you and your family at the party. Here are three quick recipe suggestions:
Cut veggies and dip – simple and delicious. To change it up, our free holiday cookbook has several great dips, too!
Fruit platter - Load up on fresh, organic fruits in a gorgeous display, and throw a few exotic or tropical varieties in for the special occasion. Last year we made a fruit turkey that was a huge hit!
Or if food is covered - bring a craft project or your favorite game to share!
5. Don’t linger at the dinner table:
Once you have finished your meal (and the dinner conversation has wound down) clear the plates and put the dessert away! Start a family friendly after dinner activity like charades, Pictionary, or our new family favorite, Apples to Apples. Lingering will only cause you to eat (and drink) more.
6. Drink lots of water:
This will also ensure that you don’t overeat. If you are hosting, get creative and add sliced limes and cranberries to sparkling water, and be sure to fill glasses in between courses and between glasses of wine or cocktails for the adults.
7. Send leftovers home with guests:
Keep some of your favorites, but make sure that you don’t end up with a ton of red-light leftovers in your fridge at the end of the night.
Thea Runyan, MPH is the co-founder of Kurbo Health, the first mobile weight management program designed especially for children, teens, and their parents. For the past 15 years, Thea served as the Lead Behavior Coach for the Pediatric Weight Control Program Stanford Children's where her expertise in this field has helped thousands of kids, teens, and families manage weight and lead healthier lifestyles.