Hosting a Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner

Make the most out of Thanksgiving without going overboard.

Make the most out of Thanksgiving without going overboard.  (Getty)

For Latinos, Thanksgiving may seem like just another family dinner. Lots of food, music, laughter and traditions set the tone of the day as family members come from far and wide. With the variety of food, drinks and dessert, some may feel the need to overindulge more than usual. But there are ways to enjoy every bit of that delicious comida without leaving your health conscious eating patterns behind. Sure you can cheat by having an extra piece of flan, but be aware of the amount you are consuming so you don’t encounter post-Turkey day blues.

Croix Sather, author of Better Body Better Life, says, “You can still enjoy Thanksgiving and stick to your diet, too.”

Sather is a certified holistic fitness trainer who is best known for running across America in 100 days and for breaking the world record with his 146 mile run through Death Valley this past summer while pushing a 270 pound cart. So if you think getting through Thanksgiving without pigging out is difficult, you ain’t got nothing on the challenges Sather has faced - - and overcome. 

Here are a few of his easy tips to follow in order to get the most out of Thanksgiving while staying healthy:

Portion size is key. You can enjoy turkey (white meat is healthier), stuffing and all the foods that come with Thanksgiving, but know how to ration them on your plate. Ideally, you should have three fist size servings on your plate, one for protein (turkey), one for carbohydrates (stuffing) and one of veggies (sweet potato or green beans).

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So while abuela may want to pile on the food until you can’t see the bottom of your plate, ease back a bit and let her know that your healthy choices will keep you around for a lot longer to enjoy many more Thanksgivings with your family.

Serve breakfast. Skipping a meal to build your appetite so you can eat more at dinner is a bad idea. Not only will you be starving your body of calories needed for energy, you’ll actually eat more erratically at the big meal to soothe your hunger.

Don’t go overboard by filling your belly with a huge plate of huevos rancheros the morning of, but definitely eat a bowl of cereal or enjoy some fruit so your eyes don’t fill your belly before your mouth can.

Save leftovers for the next day. Remember that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know that you’ve had enough, so if you’re thinking about eating more, wait a bit and then re-evaluate the situation.

Whether it’s to eat all the meat off the bones in order to make caldo the next day, we often feel that eating seconds comes with the holiday territory. So instead of eating those seconds on Thanksgiving, make yourself a plate, wrap it tightly and have a re-run holiday the next day.

Make time for exercise. Although you might find yourself extra busy this time of year, you’re also probably more stressed. Exercise shouldn’t be neglected this time of year.  Even 20 minutes a day of walking or some physical activity is good for you both physically and mentally.

It’s never a dull moment at a Latino holiday celebration. Burn off some of those calories by dancing the night away con tu familia. According to, in one hour of salsa dancing, a 100lb dancer will burn 264 calories, a 150lb dancer will burn 396 calories, a 175lb dancer will burn 462 calories and a 200lb dancer will burn 528 calories.

Switch out the products.  If you’re involved in preparing the food, use products lower in calories, fat and sugar.  Use healthier substitutes for ingredients like oil and butter; use evaporated skim milk instead of heavy cream and plain fat-free yogurt instead of sour cream. Simply swoop out your mantequilla for extra virgin olive oil and you’re on your way!

Drink plenty of water.  It will keep you feeling full and boost your metabolism. Add a decorative pitcher of water to your beverage table alongside the coquito. The beauty of it will attract the eye first, which will then get your guests to serve themselves a glass.   

Stay out of the kitchen and dining room.  Make the center of your Thanksgiving holiday the living room or outside in the fresh air, and only enter the kitchen to cook and the dining room when it’s time to eat.

If you have an entrance to your home that doesn’t allow guests to walk through the kitchen use it. Decorate the entryway with warm holiday designs and present guests with a beverage upon arrival. The smell of the food cooking can serve as an appetizer, which will build the excitement for when the food is finally ready to eat!

Zayda Rivera is a communications professional and freelance writer working in NYC who specializes in Hispanics living in the United States. 

You can reach her on Twitter: @RiveraZayda


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