Pass The Plate: Choosing A Healthy Holiday Menu

Garmin Ambassador Robin Runner shares her tips for enjoying Thanksgiving without overindulging.

If someone is worried about major calorie consumption on Turkey day, how should they pick their foods wisely?

My first tip is to make sure you don’t skip meals to save up calories heading into the big Thanksgiving meal itself.  Too many people think that they should skip breakfast and/or lunch to reserve calories.  You will set yourself up to overeat right from the start if you use this strategy.  As you place the food on your plate, take small portions of your favorites.  Remember you can always go back for more if you’re still hungry.  Start with eating the protein first as it fills you up.  Then move through veggies with carbs (think of the bread basket) last.  Hopefully by the time you’re done eating the nutrient-dense food, you won’t have room for the bread.  Remember to chat with friends and family, eat at a leisurely pace, enjoy and be thankful – it is the reason for the holiday after all.

Choose this over that. Sweet potatoes over mashed potatoes?  

The rule of thumb is colorful foods are more nutritionally packed but it all boils down to how the dish was prepared.  Traditional mashed may have butter/salt but many sweet potato casseroles are overflowing with butter and sugary crusts- some with added marshmallows.  It’s all preference but I stick with food that are closest to their original state and have less sugar/fats added to them.


Turkey or ham?

Both ham and turkey are great protein sources however turkey is much lower in sodium and fat (if you remove the skin).

Green bean casserole or stuffing?

I want to go with the veggies but honestly I think both are more on the indulgent side if prepared in a traditional fashion.  My vote is have one or the other (or both) just in a smaller quantity.

What is a delicious holiday dish that is nutritious and loved by everyone in the family?

My family is a mix of carnivores, gluten & dairy free to husband and I who are vegans.  I would have to say the favorite in my house is my sweet potato casserole.  Although it’s had a vegan facelift over the years, my family still enjoys it tremendously.  In fact, I don’t think they even noticed the healthier swaps I’ve made.

Tips on getting active before or after a big meal- Football with the fam? Going on a walk/run?

Once football is turned on it seems like everyone clicks over into sedentary mode so we get moving earlier in the day before we eat.  If you normally work out in the morning, stick to that routine.  I run most days and will be out running with my husband before everyone gets up.  After breakfast, we get the dogs leashed up and we all head out to the park to log some miles.

If you have multiple dinners/parties to go too and don’t want to offend the host by not eating, how should you pace yourself through the day or days?

I remember doing this for years before I was married.  My best tip is to eat much smaller portions so that you get to sample and enjoy the food that was lovingly prepared without overdoing it.  Hopefully each meal or party is spread out a few hours allowing for some digestion.  A nice walk in-between is a great way to help burn some extra calories too.

What Garmin activity tracker do you use to balance enjoying holiday traditions and having normal daily activity?

I wear my Garmin Fenix 3 all day, everyday.  With one button I can see my estimated calorie burn, mileage and steps.

I know the holidays are a time to enjoy, kick back and relax but the typical American from Thanksgiving through New Years gains 8-10 lbs.  Keeping an eye on your steps and setting a goal each day will help keep you motivated to #BeatYesterday.

Should you treat yourself to that extra slice of pie?

If there are multiple desserts you would like to eat… use the same mentality.  Smaller samplings of each so you aren’t deprived or over-stuffed.  Also use a smaller plate so you can’t overload on the sweets.


One last thought… make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day to help your body stay hydrated.  Many times we aren’t in fact hungry (think snacking before or after the big meal) but thirsty.  Thanksgiving is a time to make memories, be thankful, enjoy family and great food.  Balance is key.