Celebrate Thanksgiving in a Fun and Healthy Way

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends to share our gratitude for good health and good food. Planning a healthy meal, arranging fun activities for multiple generations and giving back to the community is what it’s all about. Here are some suggestions to help you prepare and enjoy a healthy and fun Thanksgiving.

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

It’s easy to let the healthy eating and exercise habits we’ve worked hard to put in place slide during the holidays, starting with the traditional Thanksgiving meal! This year, instead of the traditional turkey and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, creamy green bean casserole or candied yams, topped off with sugary pies and ice cream, why not try a healthier twist on your favorites?

Click on the recipe links included to see the full set of ingredients, directions and calorie count.

For starters, choose a salad or soup—or try all three:

Instead of the traditional bird and stuffing, with all the butter, breading and heavy gravy, health-conscious Thanks-givers may want to try a lighter alternative of herb-rubbed turkey au jus. Or try this roasted version, which substitutes the gravy for a refreshing, aged Italian vinegar-brown sugar sauce.

Of course, what would Thanksgiving dinner be without stuffing? The trick for reducing calories is to bake the stuffing separately, adding chicken broth or water instead of butter for moistness. This stuffing with cranberries recipe includes cranberries, apples, chestnuts and nutmeg. Is your mouth watering yet? For the more adventurous types, swap out the bread cubes for wild rice, or quinoa, such as in this fruit-vegetable-rice stuffing recipe—great for vegans.

Other healthy side dishes that will have you changing your tune for future Thanksgivings include:

Of course no Thanksgiving meal is complete without the piece de resistance–dessert. This twist on apple pie has a pressed-in crust with oats, which makes it high in fiber and tastes like apple cobbler. Or try a rustic apple-cranberry tart, served with a scoop of fat-free frozen yogurt or a dollop of light or fat-free whipped topping. For you pumpkin lovers out there, this lighter-calorie pumpkin cream cheese dip can be served with sliced apples as a dessert or spread on bagels the next morning.

Time Together

Thanksgiving typically brings together a range of ages, from the newborn grandchild to the patriarch and matriarch. Today’s seniors love to join in the fun. Here are some suggestions for games and activities the whole family can enjoy.

After the dishes are cleared, gather everyone around the table or family-room floor for board games. Include classics like Parcheesi, Scrabble, checkers and chess, but also invite guests to bring their own favorite modern game to share!

Seniors and toddlers alike can have fun with Thanksgiving crafts, such as making turkeys out of construction paper by tracing your grandchildren’s hands, or making macaroni necklaces on rope and colorful Fruit Loops bracelets on pipe cleaners. You can also browse Pinterest for unique Thanksgiving craft ideas or check out Oriental Trading for ready-made, easy-to-do holiday crafts.

If your Thanksgiving meal happens earlier in the day, consider putting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the television, or plan an afternoon back-to-back movie marathon with holiday classics, such as Disney’s animated film “Pocahontas,” or the comedic ‘90’s film “Dutch.” For teens and older, there’s the counter-culture classic “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” the poignant narrative of the first Thanksgiving settlers, “The New World,” or the antics of the star-filled cast of “Home for the Holidays.”

Sharing with Others

Feelings of loneliness are not limited to people living in isolation. Anyone can be alone or feel lonely, even seniors living in a flourishing community. Check with your local church or senior day care programs to obtain a list of seniors who may be alone for the holidays. Invite them to join in your Thanksgiving celebration or volunteer to deliver a special meal to them, if they are house-bound. You might also invite a family who has fallen upon hard times and can’t afford to host their own Thanksgiving dinner.

Gather your family or friends and volunteer for a few hours at the local soup kitchen serving Thanksgiving dinner to others. This is an invaluable learning experience for old and young alike, to learn to help others in the community.

However you choose to celebrate Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful for the simple things in life, and enjoy this special time surrounded by your loved ones.

Our senior living community provides an abundance of fun and educational events, outings and activities for seniors of all ages and fitness levels. Explore our website and contact us today for more information regarding the services and amenities that we offer.


Mayo Clinic