Having a healthy Thanksgiving can be tricky!

Whether you’re chasing specific goals or just want to find a balance that works for you, we know how tough it can be. You likely go into your dinner with the best of intentions to make healthy Thanksgiving food choices but then… 

Your eyes say, “Pass the mashed potatoes... pass the gravy... pass the stuffing… oh, and can I get some of that pie too?” 

Later on, your brain probably asks something like, “Ugh… why did I eat that much?!?

Does your Thanksgiving usually end with you laying on the couch asking yourself a version of that question?

Does the food comma kick in hard after that delicious (but uncomfortably big) Thanksgiving meal?

We know that you want to go into and come out of your Thanksgiving dinner feeling successful and proud of your decisions while still enjoying the foods and people you love.

So, we’re sharing three common Thanksgiving nutrition mistakes we see so you can see them coming and head into your celebration with a plan.

Thanksgiving Nutrition Mistake #1

The “All or Nothing”, “Go Big or Go Home” Mentality

You have been dialed in with your nutrition for the past few weeks and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. 

You think to yourself: “I have really been killing it for the past few weeks - I deserve to go BIG on Thanksgiving”. 

Thanksgiving comes along and you do, in fact, go big. Too big, actually. 

Now, you feel defeated, unsuccessful, uncomfortable, and like you threw away all your progress in a single day or meal. 

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Healthy Thanksgiving Portions

What would happen if you shifted your mindset a bit? There is a way to enjoy Mom’s famous pumpkin pie or Grandma’s “can’t pass up” green bean casserole in a way that aligns with your goals and leaves you feeling proud of your effort. It doesn’t have to be “All or Nothing”


Focusing on food quantity and portions is a great start! Set yourself up for success ahead of time by committing to small servings of every single thing you want to try. You can do this most successfully if you do a lap and make sure you know every dish available to you before putting anything on your plate.

If there are two different yummy pies, try a half piece of each instead of two huge pieces with an extra scoop of ice cream and sprinkles because “why not?”. 

The main takeaway here is if you go in with a realistic goal of having controlled portions and servings of the things you enjoy vs. eating an endless amount of everything in sight - you will end up feeling way more successful and like you can stick with your healthy Thanksgiving nutrition plan!

It’s about making those tradeoffs with yourself and choosing what you want to enjoy most. Tradeoffs allow for flexibility and incorporating that flexibility into your healthy Thanksgiving nutrition will be a recipe for success. It will also be a win-win where you get to enjoy the food you want to eat while staying true to your goals!

Questions to Help You Make Healthy Thanksgiving Choices

Another powerful way to stay out of the all-or-nothing mindset is to stop and reflect on how you want to feel. 

At the end of the day, you want to feel good and proud of your choices - right? 

Ask yourself questions like:

  • How do I want to feel when I take a step away from the table?
  • How do I want to feel when I get in bed tonight?
  • How do I want to feel when I wake up in the morning?
  • What choices help me build momentum towards how I want to feel?
  • What choices help that momentum last?

A few ways to build and keep your momentum could be sticking with your typical morning routine, getting a balanced breakfast in, or some exercise first thing! You could also have a water goal to hit before the festivities begin. This way, your day starts off on a successful note and gets you headed in the right direction. 

Having a plan and setting some realistic expectations for yourself can make all the difference! 

Remember there is a sweet and tasty middle ground when it comes to nutrition. What are you going to do to find that balance for yourself?

If you want additional support in this area, check out this WAG article for some great tips on scheduling holiday nutrition success.

Thanksgiving Nutrition Mistake #2

The Month-Long Meal

Is your Thanksgiving one meal, one day, one week, or a whole month? 

Are you extending Thanksgiving to more than the one meal it actually is? Be honest with yourself here.

The truth is Thanksgiving is not a full week or even a full day long. It is a special occasion - a single afternoon or evening with friends and family. So treat it as such!

A Normal Healthy Day

Go into Thanksgiving treating the day as a “normal” day. What do you normally have for breakfast? What does your normal morning routine look like? Stick to your routines and habits as much as possible. Starting the day off as you normally would will help the day not seem too different and out of your control.

Sure, you can save a few macros for later on, but if you head into Thanksgiving festivities feeling super hungry it is going to be tougher to pick and choose what you want to enjoy. We’ve all been there - elbow-deep in the snack table without remembering how we got there.

Even if your Thanksgiving meal turns out to be bigger than you may have wanted it to be, it is not going to be a huge setback if the rest of your day and week looks relatively routine.

The real problem arises when Thanksgiving goes from “a meal with friends and family” and turns into a day, a week, or an entire month of over-eating and over-indulging. This undoubtedly ends up throwing your routine, your habits, and your progress out of whack.

Set Some Healthy Thanksgiving Goals and Guidelines

Setting some boundaries around the occasion, being honest with yourself, and being deliberate with our actions will help you enjoy Thanksgiving; in a manner that doesn’t come at the expense of your progress and goals.

Here are a few examples:

  • Build your plate by starting with protein, veggies, and fruit
  • Put your fork down between bites 
  • Chew your food completely before swallowing
  • Drink a non-alcoholic drink (like water or seltzer) between alcoholic drinks
  • Don’t go into your Thanksgiving meal starving by eating extra protein at breakfast

Think you need a little more help here? The support of a one-on-one nutrition coach could be key in helping you see the bigger picture and find what feels right for you!

Our Holiday Guide is also filled with a ton of helpful information! Download it here!

Thanksgiving Nutrition Mistakes # 3

Making Thanksgiving ALL ABOUT the food

Of course, Thanksgiving involves enjoying that amazing meal with family and friends. But it does not have to be the only exciting thing about Thanksgiving. Focusing on the things going on outside the food can make for some new traditions! Here are a few ideas:

Get Active
Try starting your day off with exercise or physical activity. Who doesn’t love a Turkey Trot, a Thanksgiving run/walk or a hero workout?! 

Get your family and friends together before all the cooking and eating starts! You never know; this could turn into a whole new tradition - one that aligns with your goals and gets your family and friends moving too! 

Plus, when you move your body and start your day with a healthy win, you’re more likely to continue voting in favor of your health for the rest of the day.

Play a Game
Board games, card games, hide and seek with your little cousins… playing games is such a fun way to pass the time, hang with the people you love, and keep your mind off the food!

Join the Convo
We love holidays because they give us a chance to connect with friends and family. Focus on the atmosphere and get into conversation with the people you don’t get to see every day. 

Make this easier for yourself by doing this farther away from the snack table. Grazing and chatting over a tray of cheese and crackers increases the chances that you’ll mindlessly eat while you talk. Instead, chat outside, in a different room, or - at the very least - with your back to the tempting snacks.

Whether you’re moving, playing, or chatting, when you have other events and exciting things planned for the day, you can help relieve some of the pressure associated with food and eating during the day. 

Connect Back To Your Why

What is Thanksgiving about? Is it about the turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie? Or is it about spending time sharing and appreciating family and friendships? Take a moment to reframe what this day is really about!

Lastly, remember that when it comes to Thanksgiving nutrition (and nutrition in general) - one meal, one day, and even one week is but a snapshot in time. There are always going to be times when we are, and should be, more flexible. Just like there are times when we are not and should not be. Learning to navigate through different life events and occasions and experimenting with how you can be successful and feel your best is a really important part of a healthy, balanced, and sustainable nutrition program. Always learning!