With the Thanksgiving holiday being later this week, I know what you’re thinking:

“All of your clean eating habits will need to be placed on hold...time for cheat week number one…there’s no possible way to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the U.S.’s most gluttonous part of the year…”

Well, before you set yourself back, let me step in and offer some words of encouragement:

All of your clean habits do not need to be put on hold; you do not need to cheat like you think you do; and there are ways for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the holidays!

I’d like to offer you ten tips on how to do just that, avoiding a future of self-sabotage!

  1. Don’t stress about your Thanksgiving dinner plate. How you eat on Thanksgiving Day does not determine your over-all health; how you eat the other 364 days of the years does. Knowing how to maintain BALANCE will be your biggest tool in helping you to bounce back from any damage done on that one day. So don’t feel guilty over what you chose to load on your dinner plate…just get right back on track immediately afterwards.
  2. Be sure to start your Thanksgiving Day off with a hearty and healthy breakfast. Especially one fully loaded with healthy protein choices (i.e. whole grains, nut butters, eggs, oats, etc.), and veggies! Many people feel that fasting all day creates more space for the calories of the dinner to do less damage, and that notion is actually false. In fact, it actually does more harm to you in the long run because you end up draining a lot more of your calorie reserve by overindulging on “belly busters” like a FULL ladle of gravy (about 800-1000 calories) vs. a tablespoon-size taste (about 50-70 calories).
  3. Contribute to the dinner prep. By asking ahead of time what will be served, and by even OFFERING to bring a dish yourself, you can off-set any surprise temptations, curve-balls and even the awkward situation of showing up to a dinner that has nothing you feel comfortable consuming. If you discover that one of the dishes is particularly unhealthy, offer to bring your own version of that same dish. Traditional sweet potatoes are often a good example of this because people tend to typically make it loaded with butter, syrup, sugar, marshmallows, etc.
  4. Know your vices! There’s always that one part of the meal, or that one food item that could send you over the edge temptation-wise. For instance, for some it could be alcohol and for others it could be a dessert item. Go into the situation prepared ahead of time with realistic boundaries and limits. If alcohol is your vice, instead of saying “no alcohol at all” you can enjoy a half glass of red wine with appetizers, and a half glass with dinner.  You can even decide to do water alone at first, saving your alcohol for the main meal.
  5. Don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Piggy-backing on #4 a little bit, if your vice is sweets, then you might not want to chose the spot to stand or sit that’s right next to or in front of the candy dish! Distractions also come in handy here.
  6. Make healthy plate portions. I always educate on taking your standard dinner plate and devoting ½ of it to vegetables of any kind (including salad). Then, ¼ of your plate should be your lean meat/protein (i.e. the white turkey meat); and the other ¼ your healthy starch (i.e. sweet potatoes).
  7. Watch your eating speed. The slower you eat, the better. Put your fork down between bites, and really savor each mouthful. This will help prevent over-eating and going overboard on calories.
  8. Be comfortable and secure with your actions. Don’t fall victim to thinking that everything you do is on display. Many believe that if they pass up on certain dishes, everyone notices, or the host is insulted, when in fact there’s a very good chance that no one even noticed at all. You can even play it down by simply saying that you’re full.
  9. Start the day with some calorie burning, and then continue to exercise throughout the course of the day. For instance, after a nice morning workout, later on you can go for a walk once you’ve finished eating your dinner. Or even participate in an outdoor group physical activity/game.
  10.  Stay focused on your wellness goals. Before dinnertime, remind yourself of what they are and why you are even doing them in the first place. Remember, these holidays that our society has wrapped around food are actually more about the time spent and memories created with your loved ones.


Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA

Returning to Nature, LLC.


IG: @returning2nature