3 Tips (and Recipes) for a Healthier Thanksgiving

by Amylee Amos PhD, RDN, IFMCPNutrition
Fruit and cheese board

The holidays can be a challenging time of year for those following specific or restrictive diets. Tables tend to be laden with tempting comfort foods that often do not promote health. Everyone’s situation is unique and holidays such as Thanksgiving may be a time where you mindfully indulge in more decadent traditional foods. Alternatively, you may be planning on strictly adhering to your nutrition plan or diet because doing so makes you feel better physically and cognitively. Here are our top 3 tips for making your Thanksgiving a healthier holiday. 

1. Practice mindfulness. 

Whether you’re going to be partaking in a slice of pumpkin pie and enjoying the traditional foods of the day or simply sticking to foods you regularly eat as part of your nutrition plan, take the day to practice mindful eating. Know in advance what you are and are not going to eat. That will help you avoid temptation when offered foods or beverages that you don't want to consume. Alternatively, planning it out in advance will allow you to enjoy without feelings of guilt if you have mindfully decided to enjoy a certain food that you normally don't eat.

As you sit down to eat, take three deep breaths. Look down at the colors on your plate. Smell the spices and aromas in the air. Listen to the talk and laughter of family and friends that you have around you. As you eat, notice the full breadth of flavors on your tongue. Chew each bite thoroughly. Engage each of your senses during your meal. Doing so will help you enjoy each and every bite and will also slow you down and keep you in the moment. Eating more slowly and chewing your foods more thoroughly helps aid in the digestive process.  

2. Don’t wait until you’re starving. 

Most people tend to overindulge on Thanksgiving. While it’s a wonderful opportunity to enjoy satisfying foods surrounded by loved ones, stuffing yourself until you can barely move out of your seat and you need to unbutton your pants is obviously not the goal. To avoid overeating, don’t starve yourself before the big meal. Treat Thanksgiving dinner for what it is: dinner. Oftentimes people approach the indulgence of Thanksgiving by skipping meals the day before or the day of Thanksgiving. All this does is leave you so hungry that you're more prone to eat anything in sight. Don’t skip other meals or snacks that you would routinely eat in anticipation of overeating during dinner. 

3. Bring a dish you can enjoy.

Whether you’re hosting or attending dinner elsewhere, bring a dish that you can enjoy and that fully adheres to your nutrition plan. That way you know that there is at least one dish that you can prioritize on your plate, knowing that it fits within the parameters of your nutrition goals. There are countless ways to make modifications to foods to fit any diet or nutrition plan. If you follow the Ketoflex nutrition plan for cognitive health, add olives, nuts, a berries to a traditional cheese platter so that you can partake along with the rest of the family. Serve cauliflower mash in addition to traditional mashed potatoes. And serve or bring side dishes that focus on vegetables. Below we have highlighted three items that not only fit within the Ketoflex nutrition plan, but are full of flavor that the whole family will enjoy. 

3 Thanksgiving Recipes for the Ketoflex Nutrition Plan

Brain Boosting Mocktail

Alcohol can completely sabotage nutrition and health efforts, and around the holidays alcohol is normally flowing. Can a small glass of high quality, organic red wine fit into most healthy nutrition plans? Yes. But having a non-alcoholic festive option is a great way to prevent overindulging in alcohol. While there are tons of tasty “mocktail” recipes out there, they often feature various types of fruit juice, which can cause spikes in blood glucose. Our brain boosting mocktail recipe not only promotes glucose homeostasis, but features ingredients like hibiscus and green tea that promote healthy cognitive function. 

Syrian Spiced Green Beans

Green Bean Casserole is a Thanksgiving staple in most households. Traditionally, this dish is loaded with saturated and trans fats and preservatives from heavy cream, fried onions, and canned mushroom soup. While healthier versions of this dish exist, we swap it out for Syrian Spiced Green Beans, which still has the green beans as the star of the show, but instead pairs them with phytonutrient rich spices like cumin and coriander. Over the years my family has brought this dish over to the homes of friends and family and it is always a fan favorite- absolutely bursting with flavor!

Colorful Roasted Vegetables

This vegetable dish should really be on every Thanksgiving table. It is as simple as it is delicious. Veggies of every color like bell pepper, eggplant, red onion, broccolini, sweet potato and garlic are sprinkled in aromatic herbs and then roasted to perfection. This is the perfect dish to bring with you as the veggies taste amazing warm or served at room temperature. Feel free to modify the vegetables and herbs used to meet your preferences and nutritional needs.

Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!