Here’s Your Healthy Thanksgiving Day Game Plan

A registered dietitian and a personal trainer give us their best tips for staying healthy this Turkey Day.


Photo by Maeve Mitchell

Thanksgiving: A holiday when gluttony is not only encouraged, it’s expected. However, despite the holiday’s reputation, it doesn’t have to be the start of a season of missed workouts and binge eating. That’s why we asked two experts—registered dietitian Marci Anderson and Healthworks personal trainer Shauna Goodwin—for their best Thanksgiving health tips.

Below, their by-the-hour guide to surviving the day.

Morning Of

Don’t fast: Tempting as it may seem, Anderson says skipping breakfast and lunch in preparation for the big meal is not the way to go. “Fasting just may be the most unhelpful thing a person can do to get ready for their Thanksgiving meal,” she says. “Skipping meals and snacks increases the likelihood of overeating and also disrupts the body’s digestive process, leading to indigestion, gas, and bloating.” To avoid those unpleasant side effects, Anderson recommends eating a healthy breakfast, making sure to incorporate nutrients that will likely be absent on your dinner plate, such as fresh fruit.

Do a family activity: “Try to derive some enjoyment from [moving around] so you don’t feel like it’s a chore on your holiday,” Goodwin says, recommending a 5K, family walk, or trip to the playground with the kids.


Have a snack: After having a nutritious snack, Anderson suggests making a plan to eat in moderation and sharing it with a friend or family member. “Support is a crucial element to making healthy choices stick,” Anderson says. “Also, envisioning how you want your day to go is a powerful tool that is backed by neuroscience research and can help set you up for success.”

Put in work: If you’re planning to do a full workout on Thanksgiving Day, afternoon is the time to do it, Goodwin says. “You’re going to go into your meal feeling better if you’ve worked out probably two hours before,” she says. “You don’t want to work out too early and then you have to eat something immediately after you work out and then your Thanksgiving isn’t for another five hours, because then you’re going to be starving.”


Wait 10 minutes before getting seconds: Instead of avoiding certain foods, Anderson says to simply use common sense when filling your plate. “Since there are so many food options on Thanksgiving, steer clear of eating things just because they are there,” she says. “If you aren’t crazy about stuffing, skip it.” She also recommends pausing mid-meal and waiting at least 10 minutes after you finish your feast to get seconds, both of which will help your body realize that it’s full.

Take a walk: The best thing you can do after dinner, Goodwin says, is go for a walk, noting that experts recommend post-eating walks after every meal, not just Thanksgiving dinner. “Your body needs to move in order to be able to digest,” she explains. “You want the blood to start flowing, you want to be able to digest your food instead of just sitting down and having it just sit there in your stomach.”

The Next Day

Eat a good breakfast: To get yourself back on track, Anderson says to eat a nutrient- and fiber-rich breakfast and drink plenty of water the next day. “Starting your day with healthy habits will not only help you feel better physically but also improve your mood,” she says.

Go right back to your routine: Goodwin stresses the importance of treating Thanksgiving as just another day, not an excuse to abandon your fitness schedule all week. “It’s just another Thursday,” Goodwin says. “Go into it with that mindset.”