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7 Tips for a Healthy (and Happy) Thanksgiving!

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

For many of us, Thanksgiving can be one of the hardest holidays to stick to your normal fitness routine and nutritional habits.

And while sometimes the splurge is well worth it, we’ve compiled a list of 7 ways to enjoy your Thanksgiving without feeling regret on Black Friday!

1. Take your Acetyl L-carnitine first thing in the morning!

Acetyl L-Carnitine is an amino acid and one of the primary components required for your body to burn fat. Without it, your body will cease fat burning, and resort to storing fat around your body. Unsurprisingly, this will lead to weight gain. But, with optimal levels of ALCAR, your fat-burning mechanisms will be working like a well-oiled machine, burning off all of that annoying excess fat.

Acetyl L-carnitine will also boost your exercise performance, further aiding in weight loss. Benefits to exercise performance associated with optimal ALCAR levels include:

Click here to learn more about the benefits of Acetyl L-Carnitine!

2. Start your day with some cardio on an empty stomach!

One of Dr. Johnson’s favorite ways to start her morning is with a quick cardio session. Not only will it leave her energized for the day ahead of her, but working out in the morning is a painless way to get in a fasted workout. Working out while fasting has been linked to numerous health effects, including weight loss, higher fat-burning, and increased endurance.

When you’re in a state of fasting, your body has stopped breaking down food, and insulin levels have dropped. There is also no available glycogen (sugar) in your blood for your body to use as fuel. This forces your body to find another source of energy- usually fat. Lowered insulin levels will also allow body fat to be easily broken down and oxidized (burned) as free fatty acids.

In theory, this is why a fasted workout is more beneficial than a regular workout. As you push your body to find new sources of energy, your body eats away at stored fat.

Click here to read more about working out while fasting!

3. “Healthify” your recipes

We know that around the holidays, it can be hard to avoid breaking your usual nutritional habits. Especially when it comes to delicious (but unhealthy) family recipes! Luckily, there are easy and simple ways to make substitutions to your favorite recipes without sacrificing flavor.

  • Reduce the amounts of fats, sugar, and salt in your recipes. Without sacrificing flavor, fats can be reduced by up to one-half, sugar can be cut by one-third or one-half, and salt can be removed by up to one-half.

  • Make healthy substitutions.

    • Flour can be swapped for a healthier, gluten-free alternative like millet flour, black beans, or almond flour.

    • Milk can be substituted by a dairy-free alternative like nut, oak, or rice milk

    • White sugar can be swapped for brown sugar, agave, coconut sugar, or honey.

    • Bone broth can be used instead of chicken or vegetable broth.

Click here to read more about “healthifying” your recipes!

4. Choose your alcohol wisely

Multiple studies have proved that red wine is the only alcoholic drink that comes with health benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease, relieving stress, supporting memory, and benefiting your teeth! Just be sure you’re sipping a natural, organic wine. Natural wine is higher in antioxidants, and nutrients, and has no exposure to harmful pesticides or herbicides.

We recommend you purchase your wines from Dry Farm Wines. Dry Farm Wines is not your typical Natural and organic wine producer; Dry Farm Wines Farms works with small farmers who grow their grapes organically. Dry-farmed grapes are higher in resveratrol, a polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes that gives red wine its antioxidant properties in protecting against cancer and heart disease. Dry Farm Wines are all sugar-free, have no additives, and natural yeast, and have lower levels of alcohol (meaning less sugar) and lower levels of sulfites (meaning less risk of a hangover).

5. Go on a post-dinner walk

In Italy, after-dinner walks have been a tradition for centuries. They call it a passeggiata. As a growing trend in the health and fitness community, more and more research is being published about the health benefits of a passeggiata. Some of the findings are below:

  • Improved digestion- A walk after a meal has been linked to improved digestion. Moving your body after eating can stimulate the stomach and intestines, causing food to move more rapidly through the digestive tract. Several studies have even found that an after-dinner walk can prevent diseases like heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, peptic ulcers, and colorectal cancer. Physical exercise after eating can also have a protective effect on the GI tract.

  • Better blood sugar levels- Taking a passeggiata has also been found to improve blood sugar levels. This is especially beneficial for people with diabetes because a passeggiata can help prevent spikes in blood sugar after a meal. One study found that a light 10-minute walk after a meal was superior to a 30-minute walk at any time in terms of blood sugar management for people with diabetes.

  • Lowered blood pressure- Several studies have found that an after-dinner walk can play a role in regulating blood pressure. Specifically, 3 daily 10-minute walks have been associated with lowered blood pressure levels. Moreover, several short walks per day are more effective for lowering blood pressure than one long walk.

6. Practice mindful portion control and eating

Thanksgiving dinners often come with an abundance of delicious dishes, and it's easy to overindulge. Practicing mindful portion control can help to enjoy the holiday feast without compromising their health goals.

Here are some tips for effectively implementing portion control:

  • Use smaller plates- Using smaller plates has been proven to trick the brain into feeling fuller, faster. This visual trick can help you consume smaller portions without any extra stress.

  • Listen to your body- As you eat Thanksgiving dinner, pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues. Before going back for seconds, try taking a beat to assess if you're genuinely hungry or just eating to eat.

  • Prioritize protein and veggies- Try filling up your plate with a big side of veggies and lean protein (like Turkey) before reaching for desserts.

  • Mindful eating techniques- Mindful eating encourages people to be fully present as they consume their meals. Try chewing each bite thoroughly, putting down utensils between bites, and engaging in conversation to slow down the eating process.

7. Most importantly, don't forget to cherish your time with friends and family!

Your health is important, but so is enjoying your time spent with family and friends. So, don't stress out if you have an extra slice of pie; one calorie-rich dinner will not ruin your entire health plan.

While following a healthy diet and lifestyle is key to staying on your journey to optimal health, keep in mind that it's okay to stray every once and a while! Just make sure you enjoy the foods you eat and use the healthiest, organic ingredients possible!

To learn more about optimizing your health at the Johnson Center, click here. If you have any more questions about your path to optimal health, email our office at or call 276-235-3205.

The Johnson Center for Health services patients in person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!