Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and now is the perfect time to reflect on the good things in our lives. I want you all to know that I count my patients and readers among my many blessings, and I’m grateful for your support over the years. My wish for you this holiday season is that you find yourself surrounded with family, friends, happiness, and good health.

Along those lines, I want to share a few healthy Thanksgiving tips with you in addition to two delicious holiday recipes. Enjoy!

 Healthy Thanksgiving Tips

  • A small, protein-rich meal consumed a couple of hours before the big meal will help take the edge off hunger and improve your odds of making healthy Thanksgiving dinner choices.
  • Exercise in the morning before breakfast. This forces your body to burn stored fat for energy, rather than carbohydrates, which are readily available after eating. On a feast day like Thanksgiving, we can all use a little extra fat burning.
  • An easy healthy Thanksgiving trick is to swap out carbohydrate-laden potatoes and traditional stuffing with quinoa (see recipe below). Rich in protein, fiber, magnesium, and potassium, quinoa has a relatively low glycemic index, making it an excellent alternative to starchy foods that drive up blood sugar. It’s also gluten free.
  • Load up your plate with vegetables, leafy greens, and turkey.
  • Instead of denying yourself certain foods, just be mindful of portions. Decreasing portion sizes or having a bite or two of your favorite indulgences will satisfy the cravings without expanding your waistline and result in a healthy Thanksgiving day feast.
  • Take a 10-20 minute walk after eating. Exercise helps move glucose out of the blood and into the cells and reduces the “food coma” often experienced after a big meal. Make it a family affair by enlisting others to walk with you.

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

A list of Thanksgiving health tips wouldn’t be complete without a few healthy Thanksgiving recipes. Here are two dishes that you can feel good about making—and eating—this holiday and throughout the fall and winter.

Quinoa Stuffing
Serves 8


4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash or other low-sodium seasoning
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley or 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
Dash ground cloves (optional)
2 cups quinoa
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
Pinch of salt, to taste, if needed


In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth and spices to a boil. Add quinoa, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Continue cooking until all the liquid is absorbed, approximately 15–20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion, and celery and sauté 5–10 minutes until onions are slightly browned.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is done.

When quinoa has finished cooking, combine all ingredients and stir well. Add a pinch of salt if needed to taste. Serve immediately.

Note: Mushrooms, squash, and zucchini make nice vegetable additions to this quinoa stuffing. If the mixture is too dry, toss in a little olive oil before serving.

Per Serving: 213 Calories; 7g Fat; 11g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 43mg Sodium.

Two-Hour Roasted Turkey

Serves 12

4 pounds turkey breast (whole breast, sometimes called turkey roast)
1   teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼  teaspoon salt or salt substitute
¼  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Rub turkey with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place on a rack in a roasted pan or in a shallow baking pan. Place a meat thermometer in turkey, making sure it doesn’t touch a bone.

Bake until the thermometer registers 170 degrees, about two hours. If turkey begins to get too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Let sit for 10 minutes before carving.

Per Serving: 217 Calories; 10g Fat, 30g Protein; trace Carbohydrates; trace Dietary Fiber; 89mg Cholesterol; 109mg Sodium.

Have a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

I hope you’ve enjoyed these healthy Thanksgiving tips and recipes. I wish you and your loved ones a blessed holiday season.

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