If you’re anything like me, the key to having a happy Thanksgiving is really about having a healthy Thanksgiving – or at least healthy enough that this one day of the year doesn’t seemingly derail you from your health and wellness goals.
Which it used to do for me. The stress of hosting combined with all the delicious food and merriment used to cause me to completely get off track, which didn’t just last one day. Somehow this one-day slip-up turned into a justification for an all-out holiday season binge fest. I believe this happens to many of us, which is why so many people pack on the pounds during the holidays and start the new year vowing to themselves to lose weight.
It all starts with Thanksgiving.
And for a holiday that is meant to remind us of all the blessings we have to be thankful for, Thanksgiving sadly turns up being a holiday of regret.
- Regret for what we ate.
- Regret for how much we ate.
- Regret for the stress we felt.
- Regret for the amount of self-loathing we endured.
- And regret the poor food and drink choices we are about to make until January 1st!
If you can relate, don’t fret. You’re in the right place.
How to Have a Happy & Healthy Thanksgiving
From a lot of observation and trial & error, I’ve been able to overhaul my Thanksgivings. Rather than stressful occasions where I end up feeling bad about my choices and habits, I now have happy and healthy Thanksgiving holidays year after year.
And that’s what this guide is all about. In fact, this guide meant to help put the “Happy” back into your “Thanksgiving”! I’m going to share some of my best tricks and hacks to help you make sure that you not only enjoy and partake the upcoming holiday, but you also do so feeling good about yourself and sticking (mostly) to your health and wellness goals.
Happy & Healthy Thanksgiving Feast Hosting Checklist
And if you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, I have a special checklist I’ve created for you. I have a big Italian family, and when it comes to hosting events like our Thanksgiving feast, I have learned over the years that my personal holiday experience is much better I am organized from the beginning.
Staying organized with a Thanksgiving Feast checklist takes all the guesswork and stress out of being a host. A checklist helps me get prepared and stay on time. And I don’t know about you, but when I can reduce my stress level, I’m much more likely to make good decisions for my health and wellbeing!
(If you’re not hosting, you’ll want to provide your host with a great gift! My suggestion is a Gratitude Journal which I talk about below. I’m also sharing a brand new printable recipe at the end of the article that you don’t want to miss!)
What else do you need around Thanksgiving then a checklist, a recipe everyone will love, friends, and gratitude?
Not much! It’s time to enjoy the FEAST!
What is a “Feast”?
Feast is defined as a large meal, typically one in celebration of something. To eat and drink sumptuously. Something extremely pleasing. And a periodical religious celebration. In fact, there are seven feasts in the Bible.
- The Feast of Passover
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread
- The Feast of First Fruits
- The Feast of Pentecost
- The Feast of Trumpets
- The Feast of Atonement
- The Feast of Tabernacles
To learn more about these 7 Feasts, click here.
Let’s look at some scripture:
John 6:35 says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
And in John 6:27, Jesus says “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
In other words, he was saying this because people were so enthralled with the food, they were missing out on the fact that their Messiah had come! Amazing how even then, over 2000 years ago people were focusing on food so much and missing what was in front of them.
See how “feast” has more than one meaning? Food is part of a feast, and so is gathering with friends and family.
And this is not only what Thanksgiving is all about, but in so many ways, this is what life is all about as well!
When I realized all this, my mindset about Thanksgiving completely changed. I had already progressed so far in my ability to lean on my faith in God in order to incorporate healthy food and wellness into my day-to-day life, and Thanksgiving is a celebration of life. As soon as I made that connection (and got myself organized as a host using a Happy & Healthy Thanksgiving checklist), my stress around this holiday vanished and I have been able to enjoy both the food and the company ever since! Thanksgiving is no longer about indulging, it’s about breaking bread with family and friends and enjoying the company and good food God has provided for us.
In fact, the true concept of a “feast” has become so important to me and Grenga Health that I actually named my signature program “FEAST”. Did you know that it’s an acronym?
- Faith – Food
How to THRIVE this Thanksgiving and Enjoy the Feast!
In order to help you make the most of this wonderful holiday and time of year (and if you’re hosting to help you enjoy the fun as well), I’ve compiled a list of my best Thanksgiving “hacks”. These will help you stay organized, stay on track, and enjoy the Feast!
HAVE A PLAN
Remember, failing to plan means planning to fail. It does NOT have to be difficult or give you MORE to do. A simple checklist can help you if you’re hosting a holiday (get checklist here). Simple, but awesome recipes can help too if you’d like to enjoy your meal but keep it healthy. You know YOU better than anyone. Think of your normal pitfalls and have a plan.
Don’t starve yourself until dinner. Feed yourself healthy protein and fat and complex carbs. A smoothie with greens, protein and some almond butter or avocado will do the trick. Try this Apple Pie Protein Smoothie that I make with my Vitamix.
BEWARE OF DANGER FOODS
REMEMBER, the same traditional foods that your ancestors ate are still eaten today…except there are a lot of “quick fix” boxed foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce in our food today. Keep it clean! Don’t change the food, just don’t add the fake stuff!
COOK WITH REAL INGREDIENTS, INCLUDING BUTTER!
You heard me correctly, but use butter from grass fed cows and make sure it’s organic so there aren’t any added antibiotics and hormones included in that butter.
What’s that? It will cost too much for organic, grass fed? Really? Is that extra dollar worth more than poor health? Okay, I didn’t think so. Illness will cost you more than spending on quality food. Not sure about ingredients, check out my 31 food swaps here. Cauliflower mash anyone? Example: For green bean casserole, swap out fried onions with toasted almonds for a less-oily alternative, and instead of having cranberry sauce, opt instead to make a cranberry salad. For dips, use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream — the consistency is similar, but yogurt has less fat and more protein.
Time to bust out the Jenga! Have a few fun activities planned so you’re not just eating. Other ideas – watch the parade, play touch football, have a mini-pumpkin hunt, start the day with a family Turkey Trot, create a gratitude list, play Thanksgiving bingo. For more ideas, check out these Thanksgiving party games.
PRAY & GIVE THANKS
Write out a prayer and give Thanks! Ask everyone to say one thing they have been thankful for this year. We don’t always feel like being grateful but it sincerely helps!
Gratitude is powerful! And sometimes we have a difficult time being grateful around holidays because it can stir up emotions that aren’t always present. Check out this post on how to be grateful even when it’s hard to feel grateful.
Gratitude is our emotion that relates to our ability to feel and express thankfulness and appreciation. Expressing gratitude improves our mental, physical and relational well-being. Being grateful also impacts the overall experience of happiness!
One way to begin cultivating more gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal and recording experiences that you are grateful for each day. An example could be noting something in nature, a conversation with a friend, a good meal, or helping someone else with a problem, etc. Research shows that recording experiences like these for at least two weeks has a lasting positive effect that can be sustained for up to six months! Now that is something to be thankful for!
Enough water that is! One thing that makes us tired, appear hungry when we’re not and not digest our food well…not enough water!! This fun water bottle is what I use all day long!
Squeeze a lemon in water for even better hydration, digestion, and energy! You could even chop up lemon or mint and add it to an ice tray to freeze and use anytime! Spice your water up! Use pieces of fruit or berries to give it even more holiday flare!
Better yet – try this “Holiday Hydration Water” – Turmeric-Ginger-Lemon-Honey-Water tea
- In a Cup of hot water
- 1tsp turmeric powder (or 1 inch diced raw turmeric root
- 1 inch of diced raw ginger root
- 1 Slice of Lemon
- Honey to taste
CHEW YOUR FOOD
Okay, I’m guilty here of wolfing down my food, talking while I’m eating and not chewing enough. I bet this description of me really makes you want to share a meal with me! LOL Well, I’m just being honest. But if I think for a second – okay Christina, concentrate here…enjoy your food; smell it; chew it; swallow it before speaking again; ask God to bless it; enjoy it! Easy Peasy!
BE PREPARED FOR LEFTOVERS
Thanksgiving is batch cooking at its best. Use containers for turkey, a starch like sweet potato and green veggies, as your meals for the next few day.
Since you’re already cooking, be sure to have the right containers on hand. Freeze or refrigerate meals in usable portions that you could grab and eat. This will save you time from cooking throughout the week and keep you on track with your health goals. It takes the burden off your mind about what to eat and keeps you consistent – WINNING!
Provide a meal to someone in need. Nothing makes us feel better than by giving to someone less fortunate! You end up more blessed than the receiver. Sometimes we forget how many people actually go hungry in this country. That isn’t cool.
You can join Giving Tuesday, the global day of giving and take part as an individual or an organization. https://www.givingtuesday.org Last year this organization raised $177 Million dollars for various causes.
Give a toy, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, give clothing, visit a nursing home, help a local animal shelter. You can find your local food bank here: http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/
DON’T DENY YOURSELF
Enjoy that Pumpkin pie! Pumpkin is good for you! Just be sure your pie is made from real pumpkin and not FAKE flavoring and dye! Make it at home, they aren’t difficult. Or buy one from Costco. They make them from real pumpkin but I’m not 100% on the ingredients in the crust. Either way, there is a time to just enjoy and not deny yourself. This is the 10% I talk about when it comes to living a balanced life 90/10 principle.
TURKEY TROT ANYONE?
One way to have a healthy Thanksgiving is to sign up for a Turkey Trot the morning of! The Turkey trot in my town is actually the Saturday before Thanksgiving which I really like. I grab some friends and do it every year for a fun way to start off the holiday and burn some extra calories!
I also get up the morning of Thanksgiving and run in my neighborhood as a great activity to begin the holiday. Not a runner? Go for a 45-minute walk to begin the day! It will help clear your mind, de-stress and help you focus better. The benefits of exercise are huge!
Get that heart and blood pumping and move that body. (don’t want to do it that morning – get out after dinner for a walk). Plan a workout for the next morning too.
DITCH THE GUILT
No good comes from beating yourself up. In the coming weeks (when the four main food groups for many people are cookies, candy, fudge, and booze), do your best not to descend into a “binge-guilt-binge-guilt-oh-what-the-heck” cycle. Focus instead on the present, and praise yourself for laying the groundwork with a post-Thanksgiving Detox!
Begin the Monday after Thanksgiving! Why? Because it will give you a boost of energy, control your cravings, help you lose weight, sleep better and de-stress!
Break the cycle and get back on track to feeling great and working towards your goals.
Goals should not be thrown out the window! And it’s okay to celebrate the Holidays in style!
It takes a village! Grab a friend and start a detox.
ENJOY THIS HEALTHY THANKSGIVING CRANBERRY CHUTNEY RECIPE
I hope you’ve enjoyed this holiday guide. With a little planning, your faith in God, and with these hacks for a fulfilling and healthy holiday, my goal is that you not only have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving but that you enjoy your FEAST and have a happy and healthy holiday season!
Here is a little cranberry chutney recipe for you to enjoy!
Healthy Thanksgiving Cranberry Chutney
Try this flavorful accompaniment to all kinds of meat.
- 2 cups chopped, fresh cranberries
- 1 cup peeled, chopped Granny Smith apples
- 3 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. chopped prunes
- 2 tbsp. chopped onions
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp. Five spice powder 1/3 cup apple-cranberry juice 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Uncover and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until mixture is thickened.
Makes 8 servings
- 2 cups chopped, fresh cranberries
- 1 cup peeled, chopped Granny smith apples
- 3 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. chopped prunes
- 2 tbsp. chopped onions
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon ¼ tsp. Five spice powder ⅓ cup apple-cranberry juice 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Uncover and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until mixture is thickened.