by | Nov 24, 2013 | 23 comments

Isn’t it funny that many of us heavily anticipate the holidays, counting down the days until Thanksgiving arrives and anxiously awaiting the time until we see our families … and then the actual occasion turns out to be more stressful and less relaxing than we anticipated?  Whether it’s family members fighting, a burned turkey that you’ve tried so hard to prepare in a way that would impress those gathered, a feeling of guilt from overeating or “letting yourself go,” or just general holiday tension, many of us finish out our holiday vacations feeling like we need another vacation!  holiday_stress(picture source)

The holidays take a toll on our bodies and health … between the parties and cocktails, the unending supply of sweets that seem to appear during the holidays, the lack of sleep, and the large celebratory meals, many of us end up feeling not-so-great about ourselves after the holiday season.  Estimates vary, but WebMD says that the average American consumes 4,500 calories and 229g fat during Thanksgiving Dinner alone!  We all know about the “food coma” that leaves us lying around on the couch for days after the big Thanksgiving meal, unable to do anything but gaze at the TV. thanksgiving food coma(picture source)

Well, I’m never going to end the bickering between Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Tommy, and I’m certainly not going to tell you to just eat a salad instead of enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, but hopefully I can help you get through the holiday feeling a bit less stressed and a bit healthier overall than you otherwise would have.  Here are my top 7 tips for surviving Thanksgiving healthily and happily:

7 Tips to Enjoy Thanksgiving Happily and Healthily

  1. Be thankful. In my family, on Thanksgiving, we used to all go around the table and name a few things we were thankful for.  This seems a bit cheesy, but it actually does give you that “feel-good” warmth if you can take the time to express your gratitude.  In fact, studies show that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by 25%!!  I challenge all of you to write down 10 things for which you are thankful between now and Thursday.  thankful people are happy(picture source)
  2. Choose where to indulge.  I believe wholeheartedly in enjoying the things that you really love on Thanksgiving Day, even if they’re not “healthy foods.”  So if you adore pumpkin pie and spend all year thinking about it, by all means, enjoy a slice guilt-free!  But that doesn’t mean you need to go back for a second (or third, or fourth) slice even after you’re feeling uncomfortably full.  The same thing goes for other items on the table … if there’s a dish that you don’t actually enjoy, there’s no need to pile an extra-large serving on your plate “just because it’s Thanksgiving.”  Choose what you do like, enjoy it, and move on! 
  3. Exercise, even on busy days. I absolutely love the growth in popularity of Turkey Trots, Thanksgiving-themed road races that encourage people to get active on Thanksgiving morning.  In 2012, 835,000 Americans participated in a Turkey Trot – that is amazing!!  Whether you participate in a Turkey Trot, go for a walk or bike ride with your family, or do a quick at-home circuit workout, I challenge you to get in some form of exercise on Thanksgiving morning – you’ll feel more energized, and less uncomfortably full. dallas turkey trot(picture source – the Dallas Turkey Trot is one of my favorite races of all times!)
  4. Fit in some veggies. I shared my round-up of Thanksgiving recipes with you, and every option besides the protein pancakes includes some kind of vegetable.  Whether you use one of those recipes, eat a salad before dinner, or snack on some veggies and hummus during cooking, try to fit in some vegetables during the day to get an extra boost of nutrients.
  5. Step back, breathe, and appreciate what you do have.  After you consciously express your gratitude from Tip #1, this tip can stick with you throughout the entire holiday.  No one’s family, life, or situation is perfect, but we can all take a step back to breathe and appreciate the positive things in our lives, even in a moment that seems stressful.  Here’s an infographic from Institute for Integrative Nutrition: IIN_Stay_Zen_During_Holidays
  6. Don’t throw in the towel on the entire season.  If you don’t exercise on Thanksgiving morning or end up going a little overboard at the dinner table, no problem!  Do not adopt the attitude that “I wasn’t healthy yesterday, I might as well just wait until New Year’s to start over.”  Instead, wake up the next morning and treat it as a brand new start!  In the grand scheme of things, one day is really not that important, but several weeks in a row of less-than-healthy behaviors do add up!
  7. Don’t forget your water!  As you know, water helps to improve your digestion, regulate your appetite, and is critical to keep your body functioning well and keep you feeling your best.  Especially if your holiday involves alcohol, focus on getting in water whenever you can.

So tell me in the comments … What will you do to make your Thanksgiving a bit healthier?  Where will you spend Thanksgiving this year?  If you don’t celebrate American Thanksgiving, what’s your best tip to keep holidays healthy?


  1. Jordan

    I really appreciate your Tip #6. ‘Tis the season to throw caution to the wind and eat all the yummy food and sweets that get thrown in our paths! It’s so important to pay attention to the food going on.
    I’m making my sweet potato and apple bake to help make my families Thanksgiving a little healthier. It’s so nutritious and yummy!

    • Megan Lyons

      Thanks, Jordan! Yes, so many people think it’s all or nothing for the season, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Your sweet potato and apple bake sounds right up my alley – good for you for finding a way to sneak in healthy (and delicious) things!

  2. Mar @ Mar on the Run

    Great tips! I will likely run in the morning and then simply enjoy myself at Thanksgiving. I don’t tend to go overboard anyway but I have a 5K race on Saturday so that helps!

    • Megan Lyons

      Thanks, Mar! I love your approach – sounds well-balanced to me! Good luck on your 5K!

  3. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun

    Love the very first one! Be thankful – I think sometimes we get so busy that we forget the true meaning of the holidays! It goes along with sitting back and realizing what you have. We were going to go home, but due to some unforeseen things that came up we are going to have to have a low key “just the two of us” thanksgiving and honestly I was bummed at first but now I am really looking forward to it! We need a day to sit back and relax.

    • Megan Lyons

      You are SO right, Sara. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all the hubbub that we forget why we’re celebrating in the first place. I’m sorry that you don’t get to go visit your family, but I’m glad you’ll get to enjoy some low-key time at home, especially with all the travel you’ve been doing! Enjoy the relaxation!

  4. Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table

    229g of fat?! Whoa… I’m really glad my family is all on the healthy train. My grandparents even cleaned up their southern kitchen.

    • Megan Lyons

      I know, how scary is that?!? Way to go for your grandparents – that’s amazing! I have been so lucky to have been able to share some of my thoughts and nutrition knowledge with a lot of family members, but my one surviving grandfather is a tough one!! Enjoy your “healthier” Thanksgiving :).

  5. Kerry @ The Adventures of Z & K

    Z and I will be roadtripping up to see my parents in NY on Wednesday. I’ve already sent my Mom a low-sugar homemade cranberry sauce recipe to prep ahead of time. When I made one last year my Dad was hesitant to try it because it was “healthy.” Once he tasted it he was a fan! He generally likes tart things so it ended up being right up his alley. Hooray for small healthy changes!

    • Megan Lyons

      Sounds like a fun road trip! And good for you to be so on the ball to already send your mom a recipe. I agree on the cranberry sauce – I actually prefer the ones with real cranberries and a bit of tartness to the canned, sugar-filled variety! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family 🙂

  6. Amy @ The Little Honey Bee

    Well, no Thanksgiving for this Canadian but these are GREAT tips for holidays and beyond. Could not agree more about choosing where to indulge. It’s funny, I don’t think I actually LIKED half of the things I used to eat but did so because it was social and the norm. Interesting! Happy Thanksgiving love, enjoy it!

    • Megan Lyons

      I did the same thing, Amy! It’s just the mentality that anything goes, and you “should” feel uncomfortably stuffed when you leave the table, so you “should” eat everything! Thanks for the wishes, I’m excited to spend some time with family!

  7. Davida @ The Healthy Maven

    Truth-be-told, T-giving is probably the one holiday of the year when I don’t think twice about what I’m eating. I mean I’m kind of obsessed with pie and therefore it’s a holy day for me haha. But I’ve become far more attune with my hunger senses than I used to be so I probably eat way less than I used to. The uncomfortably full feeling is not worth 3 pieces of pie….maybe 2 😉

    Thank you so so much for your comment on the blog! I would really appreciate your feedback on it if you have any! More changes need to be made but it’s getting there. Any direction is much appreciated 🙂

    • Megan Lyons

      What is your favorite pie?!? I like pumpkin pie (of course) or apple pie! Enjoy your slice (or 2!) guilt-free!! As far as the blog, take it one step at a time … it is so fantastic already, and perfection doesn’t have to happen overnight!

  8. Arman @ thebigmansworld

    Are you serious about those figures from one meal ALONE???? GEEZE!!! That is insane!

    During the Christmas season, I usually go for a pretty long walk with mum in the morning, but seeing as its Summer here, the food isn’t too heavy….until desserts. Oh my mum’s trifle…

    Can’t wait to pretend I’m part of the Lyon’s family next week 😉

    • Megan Lyons

      I know!!! So crazy about 4,500 calories and 229g fat! No wonder all Americans tend to roll onto their couches and not move for the remainder of the day. I love that you go for a long walk with your mom before Christmas dinner … that’s a perfect combination of family and getting in some activity. And yes, come on down to Tampa next week – the whole family is super welcoming, they’d never even notice an Aussie in the mix ;).

    • Megan Lyons

      Wow, Jillienne, looks like Michael had an answer, which is pretty depressing! Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  9. Michael Anderson

    Love those tips – so important to keep perspective and focus during the holidays. Definitely think #1 is important – I mean, WHY do we have this holiday? It is all about giving thanks for what we have, regardless of what that means.

    To answer Jillienne a bit … I saw something on the news last night about a study that looked at kids around the country and found that some were eating more than 6000 calories … and scaled for age that was more than FOUR DAYS of calories … in a single meal.

    But as you say, it shouldn’t be a doom and gloom – so you have a gluttony day, get up the next day and get back at it! Of course, a little moderation is the better choice – food should be enjoyable, not eaten to the point of pain and discomfort!

    And as a guy, I would like to chime in and say that a key thing is that Thanksgiving is a ‘food holiday’, and food is prepared in the kitchen … so get your butts in the kitchen, guys! Sure I love to cook (and my younger son might end up at culinary school), but even our older son has learned the basics of meal preparation. It simply astonishes me that some men STILL look at cooking as ‘womans work’. Ugh! 🙂

    • Megan Lyons

      Wow, thank you (I think?) for sharing that crazy 6000 calorie statistic … quite depressing! Like you, I am 100% certain that some type of moderation is better than completely gorging yourself to the point where you feel miserable, but it’s never too late to start over! THANK YOU for saying that about cooking … my husband has nothing against cooking, and actually enjoys it sometimes, but I still like it more than him so I cook more often. He very frequently cooks his own meal if we want something different, though, and I wouldn’t want him to every have the “expectation” that it was my job just because I was a woman! OK, rant over … but you started it ;).

  10. Cori @ she's going the distance

    #2 is the one i stress to my clients all the time. Don’t eat it if it’s only mediocre and save your indulgences for the REALLY GOOD STUFF! You don’t have to stuff your face with everything in sight, just the one or two items you only get on that special day..

    and yes! workout all season that way you stay ahead of the new year’s resolutions!

    • Megan Lyons

      Thanks Cori, I’m ready to practice it today – enjoy the good stuff and take a pass on anything I don’t truly enjoy anyway! Happy Thanksgiving!

  11. Michael Anderson

    I definitely did start it – pet peeve of mine, no boy of mine is leaving the house unable to do laundry, dress themselves, iron their clothes, or cook a meal. Both got some color vision deficiency from their mom’s side (genetics!) so they will always need a bit of help on some matching issues, but that is different. 🙂


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Hi! I'm Megan Lyons,

the voice behind The Lyons’ Share. I love all things health, wellness, and fitness-related, and I hope to share some of my passion with you. Thanks for stopping by!
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