How to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season

The holidays are upon us yet again, and it can surely be a wonderful time. Between friends, family, vacations and (often) overindulgence, you might be dreading coming out of this beloved holiday season with 10 extra pounds and a new years resolution you’re unsure how to even begin.

This year, how about kicking off the holidays with a healthier version of Thanksgiving? This won’t mean deprivation, but it will mean choosing foods and recipes that won’t pack on the pounds, staying as active as possible, and knowing what to do if you do go overboard (because let’s face it, it happens to everyone).

Tip #1: Stay Active

Working out will naturally motivate you to make much better food choicesEven though nutrition and diet have a far greater impact on weight management (both gaining and losing), keeping up some sort of exercise plan over the holidays is important for many reasons. Working out will naturally motivate you to make much better food choices, and it can seriously work to boost your mood, mental health, not to mention decrease stress. The American Psychological Association states that our mood is boosted as little as 5 minutes post exercise, so try your best to get in some activity every day, even if just for 10 minutes.

Tip #2: Choose Healthy Recipes

If you host, you will obviously have more control over the types of dishes being served, but you can also simply offer to bring 2-3 plates to share. That way, you know there will be at least several options you can feel good about eating. Check out these “recipe round-ups” for different ideas depending on the type of diet you are following. Hint: paleo recipes are typically most in-line with ps1000 food plans.

Recipe Round-Up for Paleo and Gluten Free Eaters

Recipe Round-Up for Vegetarians

Recipe Round-Up for Vegans

Recipe Round-Up for General Health

Tip #3: Choose your Booze Wisely

The good news is that you don’t have to give up alcohol around the holidays to be healthy, although moderation is important. Remember that alcohol definitely can (and will) lead to weight gain, among other potentially harmful side effects, so make sure to drink alongside food, have water or club soda in between drinks and choose the right kind of booze.

Which Drinks to Avoid

Certain types of alcohol will pack on the pounds more than others, so here is the list of booze and drinks to definitely avoid or minimize:

  • Beer
  • Sugary cocktails
  • Wine coolers
  • Liqueurs
  • Ciders with added sugar
Which Drinks to Choose (and drink in moderation)
  • Wine
  • Champagne
  • Potato vodka
  • Regular vodka, rum, gin or whiskey
  • Mezcal or tequila
  • Low sugar hard ciders
Which Mixers Are Safe and Low Calorie
  • Club soda
  • Fresh lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange juice
  • Muddled herbs such as basil, ginger and mint
  • Fresh fruit and veggies
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut water
  • Coffee
  • Honey (in moderation)

Tip #4: Substitutions

Learning some basic rules of how to make your cooking healthier isn’t only important during the holidays. Consider a few swaps/substitutions and considerations for making your Thanksgiving meal less caloric and more nutrient dense this year:

Replace white flour with a flour alternative

Replace white flour with a flour alternativeUnfortunately, a lot of traditional Thanksgiving dishes are prepared with white flour (pies, cakes, gravy, biscuits, etc). Instead, opt for recipes that call for whole wheat flour, almond flour, coconut flour or tapioca flour. If you absolutely must use white flour in a recipe, try doing half and half (half white, half whole wheat, for example).

Replace refined/white sugar with a healthier sweetener

Most all recipes that call for white sugar (aka, refined or table sugar) can easily be replaced with a healthier option. The best alternatives are raw honey and grade b or c maple syrup, but other options include coconut sugar and stevia (although stevia can be tricky in baking), or use natural fruit juice or fruit.

Use flax meal or almond meal instead of bread crumbs

If an item needs to be breaded, use flax or almond meal instead of bread crumbs.

Use unsweetened coconut or almond milk instead of cow’s milk

Unless you’re using whole, organic cow’s milk (or even raw straight from the farm), try substituting an unsweetened coconut or almond milk.

Replace rancid oils with healthy oils and fats

In general (not just on Thanksgiving) avoid processed vegetable oils like canola, corn, soy and grapeseed, as they have been linked to increased rates of heart disease, along with other serious conditions. Instead, choose healthy oils like coconut oil, organic butter and ghee (all of these options great for cooking). For salads, try olive or flax oils.

Tip #5: What to do if You Over-Indulged

Healthy recipes or not, it’s challenging not to over-indulge on Thanksgiving. if you know you went overboard and are feeling the effects, consider doing a 3-5 day, food-based sugar cleanse. Here are lists of foods to avoid and which to include.

  • Aspartame (equal)
  • Saccharin (sweet n low)
  • Stevia that is white (truvia)
  • Sucralose (splenda)
  • HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Agave syrup
  • Date, palm, and coconut sugar
  • Fruit juice
  • Stevia
  • All Fruit
  • All packaged/processed foods (if it has an ingredient list, avoid it)
  • Refined carbohydrates including bread, bagels, brownies, cakes, candy, cereal, chips, cookies, crackers, cupcakes, muffins, oats, pasta, spaghetti, pastries, pizza, popcorn, tortillas, and couscous.
  • No diet or sugar-free foods (highly processed)
  • Coffee
  • Dairy
  • Soda
  • Alcohol
  • Potatoes and corn


  • All meat (opt for grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised whenever possible)
  • Wild caught fish
  • All vegetables except potatoes
  • Raw nuts and seeds and their butters including almonds, walnuts, pecans, sesame, hemp, and flax seeds.
  • Whole grains in moderation
  • Good fats including avocado, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, olive, sesame and flax oils.
  • Herbal teas
  • Unsweetened almond and coconut milk
  • Coconut water
Kale chips as a healthy snackSnacks can be the toughest part of a cleanse, so check out these 10, detox-friendly snacks:
  • 1 small handful of almonds with a green apple
  • Plain full-fat yogurt (or 1 low fat greek yogurt), sprinkled with cinnamon
  • Organic deli turkey with a few slices of avocado and shredded carrot
  • 1 small handful of walnuts with a hard boiled egg, sprinkled with sea salt
  • Kale chips (make at home or buy at the store, no sugar added)
  • Guacamole with chopped vegetables
  • A small portion of leftover lunch or dinner
  • Wild smoked salmon (lox)
  • Grass fed organic salmon or beef jerky
  • Seaweed snacks (no sugar added)

There you have it! Remember to be kind to yourself and allow for less-than-dietary-perfection while simply striving to make the best choices you can. Stress management is key, as a high-stress holiday can undermine even the healthiest decisions you might make. Happy Thanksgiving!

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