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bigstock-Father-Carrying-Turkey-Served--324872740It seems like Labor Day was only yesterday and now the sun sets way too early, sweats are our outfits of choice, and the stress of the holidays is already creeping in. With Thanksgiving several days away, there’s no better time to plan for a fun, festive, and feel-good day.

With the average American consuming close to 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving alone, it seems impossible to make the most gluttonous day of the year slightly healthy. Read ahead for some strategies and recipes to help you leave dinner feeling less stuffed than the turkey on the table.

Center Thanksgiving dinner around family and friends, not food

Take a moment to remember what Thanksgiving is all about: being grateful for the important things in life, such as friends and family. Center the day around fun festivities that don’t involve food. Get a ball game going in the backyard, make friendly bets on the football games on TV, or take a break before dessert and play a few rounds of Trivial Pursuit, cards, or another board game. Use the day to spend quality time with your loved ones and make food secondary.

Eat slower

Eating slower has been proven to help you eat less and be aware of your fullness level. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to register that it’s full. After your first helping, wait at least 10-15 minutes and drink a glass of water before you help yourself to seconds. If after some time you truly are still hungry (or let’s face it, can’t get enough of grandma’s stuffing, casserole, etc.), take a small portion of your favorite dishes.

Load up on veggies

Fill half your plate with veggie-based dishes and then finish out your meal with small servings of the more decadent main dish and sides. Offer to bring an appetizer of pumpkin hummus served with veggies and pita chips to dip, and a side dish to accompany the turkey of maple roasted veggies (see recipes below). Certainly, enjoy the dishes that you only get to eat during the holidays, but load up on healthier, fiber-filled, veggie-based dishes, as well.

Prioritize exercise

With local Turkey Trots and Boot Camp Burner Class abound, it’s not too hard to sneak in a sweat session before the food fest begins. Get the whole family moving by signing up for a local 5k Turkey Trot to not only raise money for a great cause, but to negate a few of those bites of pie. Or, bring the kids with you to Merritt Clubs in the morning; they can burn off some steam in the Kids Club while you get your workout on.

Consider your mindset

Moderation is key! Scan the food display and plan what you will indulge in. Pick a few things that you truly love and savor each bite. If you end up overeating and beyond full, don’t beat yourself up about it. Prepare a healthy breakfast ahead of time for the next morning and make sure to not take leftovers home. If you’re hosting the meal, give away all the indulgent leftovers you don’t want to tempt you in your fridge.

Healthy and Delicious Thanksgiving Recipes

Pumpkin Hummus Makes 4 servings



  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 1-13.5 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


Combine all the ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree until smooth, then taste and add additional salt if desired. Pair with cut veggies and pita chips.

Maple Roasted Vegetables Topped with Toasted Walnuts Makes 4-6 servings



  • 2 medium shallots, chopped
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 1-pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise (quartered if really large)
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup raw walnuts


  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. Add the shallots, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts and parsnip to a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and the maple syrup, then sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Toss to combine then spread in an even layer.
  3. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until tender and starting to brown. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
  4. Meanwhile, set a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the walnuts and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned/toasted, about 3 minutes. Chop then set aside.
  5. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl. Top with the toasted walnuts.

Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars Makes 16 bars

From Bakerita


For the crust

  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil softened
  • 2 tablespoons creamy almond butter
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • ½ cup pecans chopped

For the filling

  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup canned coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons creamy almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper or foil and grease lightly.
  2. In large bowl, combine all crust ingredients; mix at low speed until crumbly but combined.
  3. Reserve 1 cup of crumb mixture for the topping. Press remaining crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of greased pan. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.
  4. While it bakes, make the filling: in a blender, combine all of the ingredients for the filling and blend until fully combined.
  5. Remove partially baked crust from the oven. Pour on the pumpkin filling. Top with remaining crumb mixture.
  6. Return to oven and bake for another 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Let cool completely before cutting into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.