Information Articles

Enjoy Thanksgiving Without Huge Setbacks

Go ahead: Enjoy your helping of turkey this Thanksgiving Day. Dig in to grandma’s best recipe. And don’t forget the stuffing!

Kathy DiBella“One day will not hurt,” says Highland Hospital Dietitian Kathy DiBella, MS, RD, CDN. “But six weeks is going to hurt if we are not mindful of what we’re eating through the holiday season.”

So after you enjoy a holiday from healthy eating on Thanksgiving, how do you get back on track the next day?

DiBella says to start by eating a healthy breakfast, and incorporate some sort of physical activity into your day.

“Take it one step at a time,” DiBella says. “And take a positive approach: Focus on setting realistic goals, and don’t feel guilty about what happened yesterday.”

If you have leftovers in your refrigerator, package them in small containers. This will help you eat appropriate portion sizes, and you and your family members can ration them over the next week. Keep in mind the Thanksgiving meal often overemphasizes starches – stuffing, bread and potatoes – so do not forget to add fruits and vegetables to complete any leftover meal.

DiBella says it is also important to note that a person needs to consume in excess of 3,500 calories to gain one pound. That number may seem daunting if you are trying to lose weight – you need to burn off or eliminate that many calories from your diet to lose one pound – but it means you can also manage a Thanksgiving meal.

“You’re not going to gain weight in one day,” DiBella says. “It’s the accumulation of eating unhealthy foods for a longer period of time that will cause weight gain.”

“I made it through Thanksgiving – now what?”

Stress, lack of time to eat right and work out, and endless parties can be a recipe for weight gain. DiBella says most people put on between one to two pounds over the six-week holiday season.

Having a strategy is key to enjoying the holiday season and staying healthy, DiBella says.

Your strategy should include:

  • Planning ahead. If you know you are going to be busy, prepare your meals ahead of time. For example, if you are going to spend the day holiday shopping, pack a lunch instead of stopping at a fast food restaurant and/or start a meal in your slow cooker, so you can eat it with your family when you get home.
  • Staying active. Exercise is more important for keeping weight off, DiBella says. Make exercise part of a holiday event. For example, take a group walk after a large meal. To compensate for holiday treats, add an additional day to your current exercise routine or spend 10 more minutes a day engaged in aerobic activity.
  • Eating all your meals. Do not starve yourself before a party, so you can resist overeating when you get there.
  • Bringing healthy recipes to share if you’re going to a social gathering. And try to focus more on the social aspect of the event, rather than the food.
  • Savoring the foods you eat. This will help you eat slower and smaller portion sizes.
  • Maintaining your current weight. Trying to lose weight during the holiday season may only add stress. Realize that weight maintenance is a positive outcome.


“Staying healthy is the ultimate gift you can give yourself this holiday season,” DiBella says.