Thanksgiving is a holiday most people associate with eating; the concept of a “turkey coma” comes from the tradition of overindulgence. For many, however, the temptation of delicious treats can sidetrack health goals. Thanksgiving can mean more than feasting — plenty of holiday traditions are fun, healthy, and can create lasting family memories. Want to do this Thanksgiving with health in mind? You can still embrace all the fun of autumn, both outside and in without worrying about needing elastic-waist pants at the dinner table!
Thanksgiving Turkey Trot
Many communities have an early-morning race on Thanksgiving called the Turkey Trot. Typically 5K (3.1 miles), some also feature a one-mile “fun run” for kids and those who aren’t runners, and even 10K races for people who want to start their Thanksgiving in Beast Mode. These runs are a great way to get to know others in the community and start your turkey day off on the right foot, getting the blood and endorphins flowing. Make it extra fun by getting a group together and designing t-shirts or silly, turkey-inspired costumes.
Light, Healthy Breakfast
While some people like to “save their appetite” for the Thanksgiving feast, others swear by a light breakfast early in the morning. Begin your day with a gentle meal such as fresh fruit, or crepes, perhaps, to help keep you going until dinnertime. Eating in the morning can also help stave off those “hangry” feelings on a day filled with all the pleasures and stressors of family. If you plan to do a lot of cooking, a light meal early in the day will help you keep your energy up. Families with small children may be making breakfast for the little ones anyway — why not create your own traditional Thanksgiving Breakfast with pumpkin pancakes or fresh harvest apples?
Seasonal fruits, especially fresh apples in the fall, are a sweet, healthy treat. Local apple orchards and small farms often offer apple-picking, where you select your own fruit and pay by weight. Your local tourism website can help you find apple picking in your area. Walking through the orchard is a great family-friendly exercise, and gets you away from the TV. Best of all, you can make delicious Thanksgiving desserts out of the apples you didn’t eat on the car ride home!
Quiet Meditation on Thankfulness
Thanksgiving Day can mean a house full of family and friends, and if you’re the host or cook, you’re in for a busy day! Taking time to yourself to be mindful of all the things you’re thankful for — including a full house — can help you stay centered and sane. If you’re new to meditation, find a recording online to help guide you to mindful gratitude. Mental health is as important as physical health, and many studies have shown meditation can lower blood pressure, decrease stress, and even improve the quality of sleep.
Attend a Local Parade
Attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a tradition in many families. While watching the parade on TV Thanksgiving morning is a great option, don’t neglect your community parades! Most towns feature a Thanksgiving or Christmas parade, so head out to support local school bands, charitable organizations, and just enjoy a free show. Bonus points if you’re actually participating in the parade!
Take a Long Walk Before Dessert
Breaking up your Thanksgiving feast into dinnertime and dessert time is a popular practice for many. Instead of pushing away from the table only to collapse on the sofa, choose to take a walk instead. Bundle up and stroll through the neighborhood or a local park. Encourage small children to collect pretty leaves or simply enjoy conversation with family. Some light exercise will help you digest your dinner and work up an appetite for pumpkin pie.
Visit a Local Pumpkin Patch
Decorating your home with gourds and pumpkins from a local pumpkin patch is a lovely way to get into the holiday spirit. Small children can select a pumpkin or two to carve, and purchasing locally grown pumpkins for pie is a fun, family-centered adventure. Fall squashes, gourds, and baby pumpkins make festive fall decor — the perfect Thanksgiving centerpiece.
Set a Kids Table with Crafts
Many remember the kids’ table at large family gatherings. Allowing young children their own space fosters relationships between the children — and gives the adults a break! Cover the kids’ table with butcher paper and set out cups of crayons or markers. A small, Thanksgiving-themed craft will keep little hands occupied will the grownups prepare dinner.
Family or Neighborhood Touch Football
Instead of watching football on TV, consider a family or neighborhood game of touch football before or after the meal! If you live in a close-knit community, consider planning a neighborhood event and inviting nearby families. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors and work up an appetite for turkey!
Visit a Christmas Tree Farm
Instead of mobbing the stores on Black Friday, visit a Christmas Tree farm instead. Walking through the trees with your family, choosing the best fit for your home, and getting away from the crush of people looking for holiday deals can be a fun, new tradition. Keep the Christmas Creep from encroaching into your home by making this a day-after-Thanksgiving family tradition.