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Right now, the web is flooded with articles about how to eat a nutritious Thanksgiving meal – cutting back on gravy, eating microscopic slices of pie, and, of course, carb-alert! Carb-alert! Carb-alert, oh my! Or, even more common, we’re inundated with articles that explain you how can, and must, burn off those Thanksgiving calories with exercise, juice cleanses and more.

I’ve read the articles as well. Trust me, I’m all for nutrition and exercise. But really, I’m for health. And Thanksgiving, taking the time to share a meal with family or friends, to be grateful for the abundance on our tables, to celebrate coming together, to share, to watch football or a movie together, is an incredibly healthy activity. One day of indulging in tradition, in special food, feeling stuffed even, is not unhealthy. Connection, love, and sharing is good for the mind, spirit and body.

I believe Thanksgiving gives us all a unique moment to reflect about our lives and our loved ones, the food on our table, and the time we spend together.

I’m asked a lot about what’s the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving from a personal trainer and dietitian point of view. So here are my favorite personal trainer and dietitian tips to a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.

  1. healthy.thanksgiving.dinnerEnjoy! Celebrate the tastes of your family’s traditions. Welcome new traditions and flavors as your family grows. Flavors are our history! Share recipes. Share stories. Write a Thanksgiving recipe book for your children, so they can celebrate with their friends and families.
  2. STOP. Stop. Take three breaths. Observe. Proceed. A way to be thankful on Thanksgiving and every day of the year is to practice mindful eating. Use all five senses to really celebrate every bite we take. Every bite that goes into our mouths nourishes us and is something to be grateful for.
  3. Slow down! Don’t rush to serve the table, serve the food, clean up the table and throw the pies out there. Take your time. If just for one day you decide to let the dishes pile in the sink, do it. Put your fork down between bites. Look around you. This is health. This is living.
  4. Say, “Thank you.Independent of religious beliefs, practicing gratitude at every meal is a way to reflect about not only the food, but also the people who grew the food, cultivated the food, transported the food, stocked grocery shelves with the food, prepared the food and more. Understanding the process of putting together a meal, being aware of its origins and ingredients, and recognizing the monumental effort that goes into creating this meal, and every meal, is something to celebrate every day.
  5. Healthy Thanksgiving TurkeyCelebrate, and share, abundance. Be mindful that having a table with a Thanksgiving meal is a gift, and it can be something we can share with others in need. So, donate to a local food pantry – time, money, or food. Make a casserole for a family you know doesn’t have enough food. Make family giving a habit (donating clothes, books, extra food etc. to charitable organizations) all year ‘round.

If Thanksgiving is the one day each year you get a chance to sit down with your family, focus on your family, love, the stories you can share … not calories and washboard abs.

I love this quote from Thoreau: I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.

Happy Thanksgiving!