Guidelines for Enjoying a Healthy Thanksgiving


young girl smiles while waiting to eat thanksgiving meal

With scrumptious side dishes, tantalizing turkey, and a decadent dessert table, the Thanksgiving holiday can put a major dent in you and your children’s healthy diet. But with a few tips from our past blog posts, you can change up your turkey day tactics with food swaps and fun games. It’s the perfect recipe for keeping festive, fit, and out of that food coma!

Thanksgiving Dinner Healthy Swaps

Thanksgiving dinner is designed to be deliciously indulgent, but with a few simple replacements you can create an equally delectable meal that your body will also appreciate – as we found out for our Thanksgiving post in 2011.


Although turkey skin isn’t all bad, it’s worth choosing your cuts carefully. With half the fat of dark meat, white turkey meat contains all the healthful body-nourishing unsaturated fat you need. Foregoing the deep fryer also ensures a healthier way of digging into Thanksgiving’s featured fowl.

Gravy is another high-fat, meat-based gotcha on Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean you have to eliminate a topping altogether. For a healthy kick with some tang, try swapping out your gravy with a healthier homemade cranberry sauce.


Many thanksgiving sides start with healthy vegetables, and you can choose how you’d like to prepare them. As their name might suggest, sweet potatoes are naturally sweet – simply roast them to bring out their natural sugars. Green beans are also low in calories at a meager 35 calories per cup. Try them au-natural with a touch of olive oil and lemon or garlic.

If a casserole is a must-have menu item, experiment with a version that is ‘souped up’ with healthy alternatives to the traditional canned soup ingredient. Not only that, but you can shake up your stuffing by using whole wheat bread, whole grains, and even more veggies.


The dessert table is often where we get into trouble, particularly when it comes to pie selections. In fact, pecan pie can contain 500 calories per slice! Try reducing the sugar and butter, and adding a whole grain crust to your homemade pie instead.

Another tip from one of our past holiday posts is to avoid buffet-style meals and dessert selections, because this encourages overeating. Even if you’ve made healthier options, it’s important to take a break from Thanksgiving indulgence.

Thanksgiving Themed PE Class Games

It may be hard to keep kids focused in the lead up to Thanksgiving, but we have the perfect lesson plans to keep them on track. Use these fun alternative lessons to keep your class in shape, as we recommended last Thanksgiving.

Turkey Tag

Turkey tag is ideal for all ages. Designate two players as turkeys, and send them running after other players to tag them. Once tagged, other players are transformed into turkeys and must stay in place and flap their wings until another non-tagged team member taps them to release them.

Capture the Turkey

Similar to capture the flag, this game is great for large classes that can be split up into 2 or more large teams. Each team needs a large outdoor space (or ‘turkey farm’), along with a small ‘turkey jail’ area. The teams get a rubber chicken or paper turkey that must be captured by the opposing team and brought back to their farm. If you get tagged, you have to go to ‘turkey jail’ and squawk loudly to be freed by your team!

Turkey Trot

For this game, divide your class into two groups and use a turkey mascot (rubber chicken or football) to throw back and forth between opposing teams while music plays. When the music stops, the team member holding the ‘turkey’ must run to avoid being tagged. If they’re tagged, they must surrender the turkey, flap their wings, and gobble three times before trying to recapture the bird. When the music restarts, the turkey is tossed back and forth again.

Whether feasting or frolicking, keep these Thanksgiving Day tips in mind to help you and your students enjoy a fun and healthy holiday this year. To learn more about how you can encourage healthy eating all year round, visit SPARK’s Nutrition Services page today.

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