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9 Tips to a Healthier Thanksgiving + Recipe Guide


Reviewed by Health Coach Beth Kaczmar of Forum Health Akron

Enjoy your holidays without the bellyache and stay on-track with your health goals.

The holidays are a wonderful time to connect with family and make lasting memories. It also tends to be a time of stress and excess, two things known to knock your healthy habits off course.


The key to enjoying your holiday festivities and staying on track with your health and wellness goals is to have a plan! We’ve gathered our best tips and recipes to empower you during the holidays.


Ultimately, your decisions will be based on your individual nutrition plan. And remember to do the best you can, focus on enjoying your holidays, and don’t worry about being perfect! 

9 Tips for a Healthier Holiday Meal

  1. Shop Smart for Healthy Holidays: Plan your menu to include plenty of fruits, veggies, lean meats, seafood, low-fat organic dairy, and whole grains or gluten free options.

  2. Start the Party Light: Most appetizers tend to be loaded with calories and it is very easy to over eat them before the main meal. Make it easier on your guests by offering light and satisfying appetizers, like shrimp cocktails, gluten free crackers with low fat cheese, hummus, veggies with a greek yogurt dip, or fresh fruit skewers.

  3. Harness the Power of Produce: Add more simple veggies and fruit dishes to your menu instead of heavy dishes with sauces. For example, green bean almondine with a squeeze of lemon instead of traditional green bean casserole, and simple peas or corn rather than creamed peas or corn.

  4. Respect Special Requests: As you plan your holiday menu, ask if guests have any food preferences or intolerances. For example, a dear friend may be lactose intolerant. A favorite cousin may have cut red meat from their diet. You can’t please everyone, but you can include a wider variety of healthy foods for your guests to pick and choose, filling their plate with a satisfying meal no matter their food preferences.

  5. Simple Swaps: Create healthier versions of your holiday favorites by using organic low sodium chicken broth, fat free greek yogurt, light cream cheese, and organic milk (or nut milk). Substitute non-fat greek yogurt or applesauce for oil in baked goods.

  6. Roast or Grill for Rich Flavor: Roasting or grilling meat, seafood, vegetables and potatoes, is a simple, low-calorie cooking style that brings out the natural sweetness and flavor in foods. Roasted sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a dab of organic butter or even olive oil are a delicious substitute for the traditional casserole.

  7. Serve Healthier Desserts: For dessert, try dark chocolate dipped strawberries for a colorful and delicious finale or choose the healthier pumpkin pie made with gluten-free crust, non-fat evaporated milk or light coconut milk, and top it with fat-free whipped topping.

  8. Spritz your Drinks: Eggnog and other holiday beverages can add a huge number of calories. Offer your guests plenty of low-cal beverages such as a sparkling water or low calorie punch.

  9. Plan and Scan: Scan the buffet to see all your choices, then fill your plate with veggies, and foods that are simply prepared without sauces or fried. Add the more decadent options in smaller portions after adding adequate fiber and protein to your plate. Sit down and take your time to taste and savor every bite.

The holidays are marked with many traditions, but the real meaning is about spending time with friends and family, not just about food. Part of your health journey is to develop new lifestyle habits and trying new recipes can become part of your new tradition!