Healthy Thanksgiving

A Healthy Thanksgiving for Mind, Body and Spirit

By Charlotte Bradley – Check out all of Charlotte Bradley’s Healthy Lifestyles columns.


Healthy ThanksgivingAt Thanksgiving time (in fact throughout the entire holiday season) it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and frenzy of it all, sometimes to the detriment of our health.  Holidays are meant to be a time of joy, fun and celebration.  We need to figure out how to balance the craziness of the holidays with our lives so that we can truly enjoy them.

In the practice of yoga, we work with the intention of creating wellness of our entire being including mind, body and spirit.  This holistic approach emphasizes the need to create health in each of these areas in order to thrive.


Below are a few suggestions for working towards this goal and enjoying a healthy Thanksgiving:


Nourishing a Calm Mind


Eliminate things that are not absolutely necessary.  Perhaps you can shrink the menu.  Most of us usually end up with quite a sizable feast.  Maybe all of those appetizers and dips aren’t really necessary.

Plan ahead as much as possible.  Linda has outlined some great Thanksgiving Tips to help you in your Thanksgiving planning.  By doing some advance preparation, you will avoid some of the stress that can creep in.  If you are a list person – make lists.  Buy early to avoid long lines at the grocery store.

Is there anything that you can get help with or delegate?  Perhaps you can have everyone bring a dish to dinner instead of doing it all yourself.  Get your entire family involved and foster an attitude that things don’t have to be perfect.  This will help you create the space to embrace doing what you enjoy.


Set Boundaries:

Is there something or someone that each holiday, makes you think or say “Not that again!”  Before the holidays start, decide what you will and will not tolerate.  Maybe you even want to write it down.  If you need to have a conversation, go ahead.

If someone still continues to ask even after you have said no, they are trying to control you.  By setting boundaries you are educating people as to how they can treat you.  Is there anyone in your life that needs a little educating?


Set a Budget:

These days many people are tight on cash.  Develop a budget that feels right for you.  There are many ways to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and show people that they are appreciated without straining your budget.

What activities that you can do as a family?  Take the dogs and kids to the park to watch them romp around. Have the yard ready for a game of flag football or horseshoes.  Or if the weather just isn’t walk raging, break out the board games – I know my kids always love beating mom and dad at Monopoly.

Remember the potluck idea?  This can both reduce your workload and spread the financial responsibility amongst family members.  Get creative and have fun!


Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

If one of your side dishes doesn’t turn out, simply toss it and enjoy what you have.  Don’t let it ruin the day.  If you really want to save your sanity and be a gracious host go with the flow and be prepared to laugh!



Nourishing the Body

Serve Whole and Natural Foods – Thanksgiving is about celebrating the good Earth.  As much as possible avoid fatty, sugary, processed foods.  Enjoy tasting the natural goodness of food.


Drink Lots of Water – Coffee and alcohol dehydrate your body.  Drinking lots of water will reduce calorie intake and keep you hydrated and refreshed.


Look for Opportunities to Boost Nutrition –

Many of the foods we eat at Thanksgiving are naturally nutrient rich.  Turkey is a great source of lean protein.  It is also a good source of arginine, an amino acid that the body uses to make new proteins and the base material for making nitric oxide which helps to relax and open arteries.

Cranberries are packed full of all kinds of antioxidants.  If you are so inclined, make your own cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries to enjoy a less sugary sauce than the canned variety.

Add lots of colorful vegetables to your meal.  Both sweet potatoes and pumpkins are excellent sources of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and the vitamin C.  Green beans are also a very healthy holiday food.  They are a great source of vitamin C,  vitamin K and manganese.

Consider experimenting with some new recipes.  There are many delicious yet healthy contemporary Thanksgiving recipes to be found online.


A Breath of Fresh Air –

As mentioned earlier, getting outdoors is great for everyone and is something the family can do together. Perhaps go for a walk to enjoy the beautiful colors of fall.  This can help clear your mind as well as metabolize the meal and burn off calories.


Don’t Stress About Weight Gain –

We often hear about how people put on 5 to 10 pounds during the holidays.  However, according to a recent study, the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is less than 1 pound.  Be conscious about making healthy food choices and don’t eat too much in general but don’t let it become an obsession


Nourishing the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Foster Feelings of Gratitude:

A spirit of selfless gratitude is at the heart of Thanksgiving.  This is a holiday centered around expressing gratitude for the things that we have and the people that come into our lives.

Be sure to take a few moments to be truly thankful.  Tell the people who are special to you that you are happy they are part of your life.  Gratitude is the state or feeling of appreciation.  This could be appreciation for anything; a relationship, your health, abundance or a personal blessing.

Many people feel that gratitude itself wields a certain power.  Studies have shown that people who are grateful have a much greater sense of well-being.  They are less stressed and in general more satisfied with life.  As we cultivate a sense of appreciation for everything that we have received we also develop a sense of wanting to give back to the world.

It can be a particularly powerful practice to consciously feel grateful for everyone who is in your life now as well as those who have come before you.  This can include friends, family, teachers, and people that you don’t even know.  They may have served you by providing food, knowledge, medicine or built the house that you call home.  Take a few moments to mentally note all of these people who have contributed to making your life comfortable, healthy and full.


Beyond Thanksgiving – Practice Selfless Gratitude Always

It is easy to feel appreciation for things when life is going well.  But when things aren’t going your way, this becomes a little more challenging.  Practicing gratitude is not a cure-all or an antidote to bad things that happen. However, it can free you from identifying with either the positive or negative in life and allow you to meet things as they occur.

I think the following quote really expresses the idea that we ought to be thankful not just at certain times of the year but always.

“You say grace before meals.  All right.  But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” ~ G.K. Chesterton



Charlotte BradleyCharlotte Bradley is the publisher of and an avid yoga practitioner.  She was a student of karate for many years and took up yoga only tentatively after the birth of her sons and a knee injury left her looking for a less high-impact form of exercise.  It was love at first pose as Charlotte saw how quickly yoga sped her rehabilitation along.  She also found that yogic relaxation techniques lent her healproper focus, bringing balance into her life as well as a greater appreciation for how blessed she truly is. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband and twin boys, Charlie and Patty, who keep her on her feet and on the go.  Her golden retriever supervises Charlotte’s yoga workouts from a spare mat, with his eyes closed.


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