4 Ways to Avoid Dieting Disasters on Thanksgiving

4 Ways to Avoid Dieting Disasters on Thanksgiving

Raise your hand if you’ve ever eaten so much on Thanksgiving that you have no other choice but to fall asleep on the couch? (Both hands are raised here.)

Who hasn’t?

After all, we work so hard to make and serve 15 different dishes.

1. Work Out in the Morning

I can already hear you screaming at your screen. How am I going to get a workout in with pies in the oven and a half frozen turkey staring at me? 

Step away from the baster! Back away and just hear me out.

Make working out part of your Thanksgiving tradition.  Run a charity 5K as a family. Take a walk together.  Get 30 minutes of exercise in before the craziness of the day begins.

I promise you that it will be time well spent.  Too many times the holidays create so much stress that we aren’t able to enjoy each other’s company.  If you can, get a workout in early and do it with your family or friends!

It won’t make up for eating 7,000 calories, but I always tend to eat a bit less if I’ve worked out in the morning.  Maybe it will keep you from that extra piece of pie or heaping scoop of mashed potatoes that takes you from full to stuffed.

2. Small Plates

Speaking of not being stuffed, play tricks on your mind.  I know there will be so many delicious foods that you or someone you love have probably spent a lot of time preparing, but instead of pulling out the largest plates you own for the occasion, try eating with smaller plates.

Psychological studies have shown that if we eat on smaller plates we consume 20% fewer calories! So, trick your mind and fill up a smaller plate instead of the giant ones reserved for “special occasions.” Everyone else can eat off the giant plates if you feel like you’d be letting down great aunt Edna if you didn’t get out the fancy china for Thanksgiving.  You’ll stick to your healthy eating and not get super stuffed!

3. Plan for Leftovers

Pick one or two of your favorite dishes from Thanksgiving (come to me, sweet potato pie!) and wrap up a portion before you even begin eating.

What?  Why would I do that?

Because then when you are full and you are debating about whether you can find room for that piece of pie or not, you have an easy option and something to look forward to for tomorrow.

(This may not work as well if you are not the host of Thanksgiving, but you could always just head into the dinner thinking that you are going to ask for this portion to go afterward.)

4. Volunteer

If your Thanksgiving day is already packed with activities, find a day close to Thanksgiving and take the family to volunteer at a food kitchen, homeless shelter, or a food pantry. Not only will it be incredibly rewarding, but it will help to keep things in perspective.

It is harder to eat to the point of bursting when you think about the people who don’t have enough to eat.  This strategy isn’t meant to make you feel bad about anything, it is more about remembering to be grateful for what we have.

BONUS – Cut Yourself Some Slack

This is a a bonus tip but it is still really important.  Thanksgiving is a holiday.  It is a time to spend time with family.  To enjoy each other’s company.  To make and share a great meal.  And to be thankful for everything that we have.

So, cut yourself some slack if you don’t eat 100% healthily on Thanksgiving.  Don’t let it be your excuse to fall off the healthy eating bandwagon.  Just take it for what it is and enjoy the holiday!

Oh, and pass me some turkey, will ya??


  1. Maria says

    Hi Carolyn, these are great tips! I’ve been eating super healthy all week to prepare for tomorrow . I thought it would make me feel less guilty about stuffing myself tomorrow, but I actually like eating super healthy has encouraged me to stay on track tomorrow. We’ll see if it works out!

    • Carolyn says

      Hi Maria! I’m glad you like the tips. I also find that when I start eating more healthy foods, I feel so good and cheating doesn’t feel as tempting. Have a wonderful holiday tomorrow!

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