What a Healthy Thanksgiving Day Actually Looks Like

Here’s what to do from sunrise to sunset for a lighter day.

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Avoiding an astronomical 4,500-calorie splurge on Thanksgiving involves more than just what’s on your plate (you know, the old, blue-and-white china plate you only pull from the cupboards a couple times a year). What you eat, drink, and do all day long (starting with breakfast!) can have an impact on how many calories you wolf down at dinner.

Here’s how to support your physical and emotional health all day long for a healthier Thanksgiving day.

  1. Yep: You should have breakfast. You may be tempted to fast before the big meal, but studies consistently show you eat fewer calories throughout the day if you have breakfast. Your best option is high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and grains. (Here’s a high-fiber, low-calorie green smoothie bowl that’s just right.)

  2. Meditate, stretch, or do yoga. Holidays are well-known triggers of stress and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness before your Thanksgiving meal can nurture your wellbeing and prevent emotional eating later. (Here’s a yoga routine that’s perfect for slashing stress levels.)

  3. Drink plenty of water. This can both reduce your calorie consumption (less mindless noshing!) and prevent post-meal bloating. Even better, stick to water even when someone pops open the first wine bottle. Save your imbibing for dinner.

  4. Focus on company, not food. It’s easy to want to dive into the cheese and crackers, but “fill up” on family time instead. On average, Americans consume an extra 1,500 calories through appetizers and drinks before and after the actual meal.

  5. Enjoy the veggie platter. If that turkey is taking way too long and delaying the start of Thanksgiving dinner, choose vegetables if you need to nosh. One word of caution, though: Veggie platters often come with indulgent dips made from ranch, mayo, or sour cream. Alternatively, you could ease your hunger with a small salad.

  6. Use a smaller plate and avoid second helpings. A healthy Thanksgiving dinner is all about portion control. Learn more about how to make your Thanksgiving plate a little healthier here.

  7. Split dessert with a buddy. Or, you know, ask for a smaller serving.

  8. Pack up leftovers ASAP. Temptation is strong when that perfect bite of gravy is still lingering on your taste buds. See if your family would be willing to get leftovers packed up and in the fridge instead of leaving them out for post-meal grazing.

  9. Get active. Playing a game outside with nieces and nephews is a fun way to celebrate family time and prevent unwanted bloating. You could also walk the dog, turn on the Nintendo Wii, or—if the weather is right—build a snowman. (Find out more low-effort ways to stay active here.)