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7 Tips For Eating Clean This Thanksgiving

November 20, 2017

7 Tips for Eating Clean This Thanksgiving

Sasha de Beausset, B.A., M.Sc. 

        The most anticipated meal of the year is right around the corner! Thanksgiving is coming up and we are beginning to dream about the turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, candied yams, and pumpkin pie. You're probably not the only one who thinks that your clean eating habits might have to take a back seat. But it doesn’t have to be this way! We shouldn’t have to choose between eating clean and bonding with family and friends to give thanks over a delicious traditional meal. There are several small things you can put in practice to make your meal lighter and cleaner, while still being as scrumptious as ever.

Below are seven tips for eating clean this Thanksgiving.

  1. Skip the Sauce

        Yes, we said it! Hold the gravy, the canned cranberry sauce and Aunt Clara’s famous creamy raspberry dressing. Though they aren’t the main part of the meal, sauces are usually some of the biggest contributors to carb and sugar loads on the entire plate. Gravy is usually made of turkey grease coagulated with flour and added sugar (doesn’t sound too yummy when you put it that way, does it?), and canned cranberry sauce is also loaded with added sugar.

Go light on the sauce and gravy to make your meal a little healthier! 

One-half cup of gravy has a whopping 685 calories and 11g of fat, and ¼ cup of cranberry sauce has about 110 calories and 24g of sugar (about 6 teaspoons!).

        Sorry to put a damper on your thanksgiving dressings, but it isn’t all lost! Choose drizzling a bit of the turkey juice directly on your portion, or squeeze lemon on your veggies instead. If you know you need to have some dressing on your side salad, offer making one yourself! You can blend together olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, shallots and salt and pepper for a deliciously festive healthy dressing.

  1. Fast Intermittently

        Intermittent fasting has gained popularity over the years. There are some studies that show how intermittent fasting, which has been carried out by humans for centuries, could actually be beneficial for your health. Additionally, if you time your fasting so that your next meal is Thanksgiving dinner, you can allow yourself to eat a bit more than you would on a non-fasting day.

Some well timed intermittent fasting during Thanksgiving is key

        Note that, while this may allow you to eat a bit more than usual, it shouldn’t give you an excuse to make downright unhealthy choices. Only do this if you have tried intermittent fasting before, if you aren’t at risk of being underweight or have a history of eating disorders, or if you have a medical condition where you should eat more frequent meals.

  1. Fill Up on Veggies and Salad First

        As you stand up to serve yourself, rather than going straight for the creamy mashed potatoes, fill up your plate with those steamed veggies and green salad first. Not only will it give your plate a festive-looking feel (perfect for IG, right?!), it will also help you fill up with the lighter options of the season. As a plus, veggies, whether steamed or raw, are packed with fiber, which will make you feel fuller, faster, as well as with tons of micronutrients.

Obviously we're gonna recommended having more veggies! Photo via @HappilyUnprocessed

        One cup of mashed acorn squash, for example, contains only 83 calories, and it contains 25% of your DV of fiber, 27% of your Daily Value of vitamin C, 14% of your Daily value of Vitamin B6, and many more. If you add a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon, you will really be getting into the holiday mood.

  1. Skip the High-Calorie Beverages

        Egg-nog anyone? How about hot-buttered rum? No thanks, I’ll stick to my sugar-free cinnamon tea. Some of the most popular holiday beverages are also the most dangerous to your clean eating regimen. Just like the sauces mentioned earlier, the beverages are full of added sugar and saturated fat, equaling tons of empty calories. If it contains alcohol, even more minus points.

        You can make several holiday-themed beverages without breaking clean eating rules. Add a stick of cinnamon to the kettle of water before you add it to black tea. You can also boil low-sugar apple juice with orange zest, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. You can serve either cold or hot.

You can still make festive drinks that are low in calories and sugar

        If you know you just won’t enjoy yourself until you get you sip of egg nog, no problem. Just make sure to control your portions (use the small glass, please!) and account for the calories in your overall meal count.

  1. Drink Water

        We know that for most of us, this is a pretty boring choice for the Thanksgiving meal. However, the function of water here is a bit different. Drinking 2 8-oz glasses of water about 20 minutes before the meal will help you feel fuller faster. Sip water throughout your meal and it will help you take stock in your current state of fullness, so you don’t overeat. After you finish your first serving of food, drink another glass of water and wait a few minutes to see if you are really still hungry. 

  1. Pick one Dessert!

        Rhubarb pie, apple pie, ginger snaps… the dessert table seems to fill up when the whole family gets together. Of course, there is no reason to feel deprived of the Thanksgiving culinary experience.

Choose one dessert! You can still treat yourself.

        Commit to choosing just one desert, and serve yourself a reasonable portion (think 1/12th of a pie or cake); don’t cut a quarter of the cherry pie and top it with a mountain of whipped cream – you know this is definitely not reasonable. 

  1. Go Light on Leftovers

        For some people, leftovers are the best part of the Thanksgiving meal. Leftovers are great but remember, there is no need to re-do the damage from the day before. Take a step back and remind yourself of your regular portioning.

        Rather than 10oz of turkey, think of serving yourself half of that. Fill up your plate with the leftover tossed salad, and maybe a tablespoon or two of the mashed potatoes. You’ll still experience the goodness of leftovers without the guilt of breaking your healthy eating regimen.


        While the food is wonderful, don’t forget what the main purpose of Thanksgiving is; it is time to enjoy downtime with family and friends, and take time to feel express your gratefulness for relationships that make life worth living. Go into your Thanksgiving meal with this in mind, and it will be a lot easier to make healthy choices, and enjoy the day for what it is.

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