Nine Considerations for a Healthy Thanksgiving

Dr. Christopher McGowan
November 15, 2021

A holiday that’s heavily focused on food may feel overwhelming for many—especially those who have recently undergone a weight loss procedure. If you’re feeling anxious about the upcoming holiday, here are some top tips to help you manage the holiday in a healthy way.

Thanksgiving: Healthy Eating Tips

  1. Have a plan. Know where you’re going, who will attend, who’s cooking, and what’s on the menu. Think about your triggers (whether food or relationship-related) and develop a plan for how you’ll handle them. If your family stresses you out, how will you manage these feelings in a healthy way to avoid seeking comfort in food? (e.g., take a walk, head to the bathroom for some deep breathing, etc.) If your grandmother uses a pound of butter in every recipe, how will you make sure you have something to eat that you can feel good about? Thinking through these potential issues before you’re faced with them means you can be better prepared.
  2. Don’t skip meals to “save up calories.” Skipping meals is never a good idea. You’re more likely to wind up ravenous and overindulge. Instead, eat a small, healthy, protein-packed breakfast to hold you over until mealtime. If you’re hungry before it’s time to eat, grab some veggies and a few nuts or a piece of cheese to tide you over.
  3. Focus on the social/family aspect of the day. While Thanksgiving is often centered around food, remember that it’s really about gathering with the people you love most. Have fun talking and interacting, which can help you reduce or slow down your eating. Putting your fork down in between bites can help, too.
  4. Bring something you want to eat. In most cases, bringing a dish to share is welcomed on Thanksgiving. Make and bring something you know you’ll truly enjoy and feel good about eating. Consider healthy recipe swaps such as substituting full fat sour cream with low-fat plain Greek yogurt. Instead of butter-laden sweet potato casserole, bring healthy mashed sweet potatoes or a roasted veggie hash. Pinterest is filled with great bariatric recipes, and you can use sites like or If you want to calculate a recipe’s nutritional information, try
  5. Enjoy the food. Don’t let your anxiety about eating take away the joy of food. Remember that no foods are “off-limits,” but focus on portion control. Start with your protein (white meat turkey without skin is a very healthy option!), load up on vegetables, and indulge in a few bites of each of the foods that you love most. Savor the flavors, eat slowly and mindfully and you’ll feel satisfied. When it comes to dessert, you don’t have to avoid it altogether. Take a quarter of what you would have taken before your procedure, but take the time to enjoy every morsel. Or, if dessert is a trigger for you or would cause dumping syndrome (bypass revision patients), consider a helping of fruit topped with low-fat whipped cream and some toasted nuts.
  6. Incorporate physical activity. Being active can not only burn calories, but it can also get everyone away from the food table. A great time to do this is in between the Thanksgiving meal and dessert. It takes 20-30 minutes for the hormonal satiety cue to travel from your gut to your brain, which is why many overeat before they notice they’re full. Taking a brisk walk or hike can give your brain time to get the message, and can also help with digestion to make you more comfortable if you overeat.
  7. Avoid leftovers. Oftentimes, Thanksgiving eating can carry on for days. If you’re the host and cooking for a smaller group, consider cutting recipes in half to avoid having them in the fridge all weekend. Buy plenty of disposable Tupperware and send your guests home with any remaining food—especially desserts. If you’re a guest, kindly decline leftovers, or if it’s mom or grandma's offering and you don’t want to hurt their feelings, just toss it when you get home. 
  8. Divulge only what you want to. Let’s face it, families often feel like they are entitled to know everything about you—so be prepared for questions. People may want to know how you lost weight, why you’re not eating as much, etc. Remember that you only have to share what you are comfortable with, but thinking through how you’ll respond ahead of time can help you manage the barrage of questions. It’s no one’s business but yours how you lose weight or what you choose to eat (or avoid)—and you’re being honest if you tell others you’re partnering with a doctor and a dietitian to help manage your weight. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in getting the help you need to be healthy, but the choice of what to share is yours alone.
  9. Avoid or limit alcohol. If you’re within your first 12 months, remember that True You Weight Loss recommends NO alcohol. Refer to our previous blog post for the many reasons we encourage our patients to stick to this plan—even during the holidays. If you’re in maintenance mode, it’s still important to limit alcohol intake for many of the same reasons. (Empty calories, reduce inhibitions, can lead to overeating, and poor sleep—all of which can promote weight gain.) If someone brings you a glass of wine, you can either say “no thank you,” or, if you want to avoid the issue—take it and say thanks. At your next opportunity, empty a few sips in the sink or set your glass down when no one’s looking.

No matter what you do—take the time to enjoy this wonderful holiday. Remember that you’ve made a major decision to change your life and improve your health—you have much to be thankful for this year! From your True You Weight Loss team, Happy Thanksgiving! We are grateful for each and every one of our amazing patients.

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan
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