Establishing Your Healthy Thanksgiving Day Game Plan

Thanksgiving dinner laid out on table
While the holiday tends to focus primarily on food, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a healthy Thanksgiving with your family!

by Steven Auger

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to count your blessings and make a mental list of everything you are grateful for. While good friends and loving family members are likely at the top of your list, all the work you've put into maintaining a healthy lifestyle should be, too!

Although the holiday tends to focus mainly on food, there are plenty of ways to establish a healthy Thanksgiving day game plan and enjoy the holiday (and the meal) without sacrificing all your hard work in the gym. Here are seven creative ways to still enjoy everything the day has to offer — dessert included!

1. Hit the Gym

Just because it's a holiday doesn't mean you can't get your sweat on! Try starting the day off right with a morning exercise session. If you set an alarm and immediately motivate yourself to get up and at 'em, you'll be more likely to make it to the gym.

Whether you opt for weights or cardio, there's no wrong choice. Exercising always makes you feel better, but working out on a day recognized mostly for big meals and football is a bonus! When you return home from the gym, you'll feel energized and ready to tuck into a delicious meal (and then tackle clean-up duty). Not to mention, your meal might actually taste sweeter after a tough stint in the gym!

2. Go Turkey Trotting

If you want to sneak in a workout before Thanksgiving dinner — but you're looking for something a bit different from your normal workout routine — consider something you can do with the whole family. How about a Turkey Trot?

Thanksgiving Day road races, aka Turkey Trots, can be found all over the country. You don't have to be a serious runner to enjoy the event; simply head out for a good time with friends and family! Some races even benefit local charities, so not only will you be doing something positive for your health, you'll be helping out a good cause.

3. Pick Your Favorites

Of course, it's not Thanksgiving if you aren't enjoying a large decadent meal surrounded by loved ones. If you want to avoid overdoing it, simply keep an eye on how much you're putting on your plate. Stick to larger portions of only a few of your favorite dishes or smaller portions of a little bit of everything. The truth is, you'll have a hard time ruining months of hard work in the gym with one indulgent meal. If your overall habits are healthy, one day isn't going to make a big difference. So, dig in! And don't be afraid of seconds.

4. Enjoy Some Football Fun

What's Thanksgiving without some football? Many folks enjoy gathering around the TV to cheer on their favorite NFL team — or maybe you take the game off the couch and outside instead!

If you're looking to scratch your Turkey Day football itch in a more active way, why not toss around the ol' pigskin with your family? A friendly game of touch football (before or after dinner) is sure to provide some good times and laughter.

Not enough of your guests are up for a game? You can still venture out to the backyard to play catch with your children, nieces, or nephews.

5. Savor the Moment

Thanksgiving is about spending time with the people you care about and acknowledging the things you're most grateful for. So, don't rush through the day — or the meal. Take it slow and savor the moment! Enjoy every bite of dessert and every conversation with loved ones. Don't waste time feeling guilty about that second slice of pie; enjoy the treat! Moderate indulgences can be key to staying on track over the long haul anyway.

6. Go for a Family Walk

Speaking of a post-dinner activity that's sure to get those legs moving, why not go for a family walk or bike ride? Fall is a beautiful time of year to enjoy the outdoors, view the changing foliage, and take in picturesque views. An active group outing is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy your family's company and catch up with relatives you might not see on a regular basis.

7. Give Back

In addition to acknowledging your blessings, Thanksgiving is also a time to remember those folks who are not as fortunate as you. Consider volunteering your time at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or animal shelter. You'll be serving Thanksgiving dinner to those in need while teaching your children a valuable life lesson.

With some planning, you and your family can have a lot of fun getting active, giving back to your community, and enjoying a healthy Thanksgiving together!