Eat Your Favorite Thanksgiving Foods Without Gaining Weight

Did you know that the average American will consume 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day alone? Whoa!


Don’t worry. I’m NOT gonna suggest you munch on a kale leaf while the rest of your family gorges on:

  • Dad’s mouth-watering turkey
  • Aunt Rita’s to-die-for dinner rolls
  • Mom’s outta-this-world pecan pie

Because THAT, my friend, is just silly.

After all, Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday (celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada) as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.

Celebrating with good food (and laughter!) is simply part of the tradition. So enjoy it!

Don’t force yourself to maintain a restrictive diet. You’ll only end up developing negative food associations that are tough to break. Stick with the following strategies instead.

Start the Day with Exercise.

Surprise, surprise…the fitness expert is telling you to exercise. But here’s the deal.


  • increases energy
  • improves mood and mental clarity
  • decreases stress (perhaps much needed if the holidays bring out family tensions)
  • decreases appetite (ding ding!)

Don’t worry. Something as simple as a brisk 30 minute walk can do the trick. I always take my T25 tapes with me because the workouts never go over 25 minutes and I don’t need any equipment.

Graze on Healthy Appetizers

I don’t know about you, but my family’s appetizers are equivalent to meals.

  • cream cheese buffalo wing dip with crackers
  • 7-layer bean dip with tortilla chips
  • giant cheese ball spreads with sourdough bread
  • Christmas cookies my mom already started baking!

Instead, pack vegetable crudités and healthy hummus to snack on prior to the main meal.

Minimize Alcohol

Alcohol can easily rack up fat and calories throughout the day.

Desert type cocktails such as white russians and hot buttered rum are particularly high in fat and commonly served over the holidays. Four ounces of Bailey’s Irish Cream has 363 calories and 14.4 grams of fat.

So I say minimize because having a cocktail at Thanksgiving is something many people look forward to. You don’t have to force yourself to stick with sparkling water all day.

Pick one drink you’d like to enjoy and leave it at that!

I like to pour Kombucha in a wine glass. It’s sparkling and flavorful and satiates that need to drink something other than water.
(If you’d like to make your own, my friend Ashley has you covered. Check out her homemade Kombucha recipe here.)

Enjoy Your Main Meal…Once

Sit down and enjoy the foods you’ve chosen for the main meal. Don’t have another loaded meal, and then another, by the end of the day.

If your family is like mine, the same heavy foods are served once again since our main meal is usually around 1:00 pm. That means a second Thanksgiving feast is had by everyone.

This is where you stick with your vegetable crudités and enjoy the company instead!

Don’t Take Leftovers Home

Pass them off to other guests.
Give them to the neighbors.
Do whatever you need to… just don’t take them home with you!

Otherwise Thanksgiving day turns into a 4-day Thanksgiving weekend where your waistline pays for it on Monday.

Now you.

Do you have any strategies for enjoying Thanksgiving without packing on the pounds?

I’d love to know,


  1. Jessie

    I get the WHOLE family involved in some type of movement or physical activity. This year we are hiking at a local park on Thanksgiving morning. We make it fun and involve the kids in a scavenger hunt. We stick with warm beverages like apple cider throughout the day. If I am hosting as I am this year, I assign food/dishes. We take the main dishes (roasted veggies and ancient grains and fresh homemade bread) and have everyone else bring things like fruit, raw veggies, or a soup for the next day.

    • Mariah Dolan


      I love your ideas—especially organizing some sort of movement at a special location. That alone can become a family tradition.

      Plus the scavenger hunt for kids is genius. We have 10 kids between my siblings and I. Let’s face it. That’s a LOT of energy to burn throughout the day so I love the idea of having something special for them.

      We’ll most certainly incorporate your suggestions. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Joy

    I love the holidays, I love being with family and seeing all the kids play together. The food is great and while plentiful, fairly healthy. What’s not to like about roasted turkey and vegetables, fresh salads and good wine. The food is real, not processed. I find Superbowl/tailgate parties to be much less healthy than the holidays. The unhealthy temptations at our family’s celebration can usually be found on the desserts and appetizers table. Overall, though, our family has a good balance of healthy and indulgent options. My strategy is to bring an app I would prefer to eat and save dessert for later. I’m getting excited–can’t wait for next week!

    • Mariah Dolan


      I’m glad to hear your Thanksgiving festival is fairly healthy. Bravo to you and your family!

      I agree that the most unhealthy food is at the appetizer and dessert table. Unfortunately at our Thanksgiving we have sweet potatoes from a can topped with marshmallows or green bean casserole drowned in cream-of-mushroom soup. I’d much rather have real sweet potatoes and green beans without anything added.

      So, I’ll continue bringing my own healthy versions and indulge in a little dessert.

      Thanks for sharing. I’m excited for next week too!

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