5 Things to Do Thanksgiving Morning to Feel Healthier All Day

Setting aside a few minutes in the morning to write down what you're grateful for could put you in a healthier mindset for the rest of the day.
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Thanksgiving: It's an event that centers around gathering, lounging, connecting — and of course, chowing down. But this year, as with many other aspects of life, it may look and feel different.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will still happen, but it'll be much smaller. That neighborhood 5K race you look forward to might be canceled. You may not be able to celebrate in person with your loved ones or your circle of friends. And some ingredients you usually use in recipes could be tricky to track down, with supply-chain complications.

All of these added together could create a stressful morning, setting the wrong tone for the holiday. Instead, boost your mood and rev up your metabolism with these healthy hacks to start the day.

1. Move in a Way That Makes You Feel Good

Exercise is a powerful tool, not only for physical health but for our brains, too. Personal trainer Caitlin Jones, CPT, recommends working up a sweat and getting your heart pumping the morning of Thanksgiving to take advantage of those feel-good endorphins all day.

This doesn't mean you have to lace up your sneaks and run for the first time in months, but simply move your body in a way that feels good to you. Not only will you enjoy the experience more, but you're more likely to squeeze in the sweat before the chaos of cooking begins.

"We are much more likely to exercise regularly if it's an activity we enjoy rather than choosing an activity we think is good for us but that we loathe and won't get out of bed for," Jones says. "Hate running? Go for a walk. Not into lifting? Try yoga. When your alternative is staying in bed and hitting snooze on the alarm, pick the path of least resistance: aka a form of exercise you somewhat enjoy."

And remember, you shouldn't "punish" yourself for the food you're about to eat by doing dozens of burpees or putting yourself through sprints. Instead, Jones recommends shifting the way you view exercise and physical activity on Thanksgiving — and always.

You'll exercise more consistently if you don't focus on the end result, like losing weight, she says. It might help to change the language you use, to make you feel more optimistic about working out. Start with a phrase like, 'I am a fit person who is in control of my life and health, so exercising this morning is a great way to start my day!'

2. Eat a Healthy, Balanced Breakfast and Plan for Snacks

Skimping on breakfast to "save calories" sets you up for overeating later on.
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Many people believe it's better to skip breakfast because they are about to eat a hearty Thanksgiving meal, says Meghan Perkins, RD, dietitian and Nutrition Services Manager for Project Angel Heart. Or they might eat significantly less than they usually would leading up to the culinary affair.

But this tactic backfires, she says, since forgoing food until the late afternoon or evening will only make you hangry — and cause you to overeat to the point of being uncomfortable. Instead, Perkins suggests planning well-balanced meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar and metabolism regulated.

Start by scrambling some eggs with vegetables and serve with a whole-grain slice of toast, Perkins suggests. Or, if you're not an egg fan, have Greek yogurt with granola, oatmeal with walnuts or a piece of toast smothered in peanut or almond butter with banana and strawberries.

For snacks, Perkins recommends hummus with veggies or, for something heartier, a bowl of chili packed with beans.

"Focus on nourishing yourself with whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and lots of fiber from fruits and vegetables," she says.

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3. Take a Moment to Be Truly Thankful

We know, and we agree: Listing what you're thankful for in 2020 can feel like an uphill battle. There have been plenty of stressful, uncertain periods, and we've all experienced loss in some way.

But as psychologist Yvonne Thomas, PhD, puts it, practicing gratitude regularly is always vital for our mental health — and Thanksgiving is an annual reminder to create a ritual.

"Too often, when someone is going through a tough time, it's easy to forget, minimize or take for granted what is good in their life. When this happens, you can end up feeling depressed, anxious, hopeless, sad, jealous or angry," she says.

But when we focus on the positives, it's easier to see the whole picture, creating a calmer and happier spirit. You can sort of think of your thankfulness practice as a reality check that counterbalances negative thoughts, feelings or beliefs.

Thomas recommends beginning your Thanksgiving Day gratitude session by taking 10 minutes to think about what you're grateful for consciously. "Try to not just ​think​ about this, but make a point of ​feeling​ the emotions associated with what you realized you are grateful for," she says.

It can also be helpful, she adds, to write down this list in a journal or type it on your phone in the notes section. "By putting the gratitude in words, you are concretizing who and what you are thankful for, which might help you feel your emotions on a deeper level," she says.

To take it a step further, you can share those tokens of appreciation with others by texting a friend, calling up a relative or making a point to thank fellow dinner guests in person (or, you know, via FaceTime) during the Thanksgiving meal.

4. Make a Plan to Drink More Water

Stay hydrated by alternating water and other drinks.
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Let's say you begin the day with coffee, then before you know it you're toasting with champagne and then sipping wine with your meal. While you shouldn't necessarily avoid any of these beverages, you also shouldn't forget about H2O on Thanksgiving Day.

Think of water as a thirst-quenching multitasker, says Bridget Swinney, RD, dietitian and founder of Eat Right Mama. Often, we think we're hungry when we're just thirsty, so drinking enough water can help curb impulse eating at the snack table before the main course begins. Water can also help combat bloating, aiding in our digestion, she says.

Start your day with a tall glass of water, then consider creating a goal to have one full, 8-ounce glass of H2O for every other alcoholic or caffeinated drink you have.

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5. Give Yourself a Reality Check

Repeat after Perkins: The holidays are meant to be a brief period of joy and celebration with those nearest and dearest. They aren't about putting labels on what you "should" and "should not" eat.

While being mindful of your dietary choices is smart to maintain a proper balance, one day isn't going to make or break your lifestyle.

"It's important to keep in mind that the choices you make related to food and nutrition the rest of the year play a much larger role in your overall health than choices you make the few days you eat special food over the holidays," Perkins says.

Should any pesky, negative thoughts come up, Perkins challenges you to be kind to yourself and ask yourself if you would say something similar to a friend, loved one, your child or your partner.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker before leaving the house.