The countdown to the holidays has begun. Thanksgiving gatherings later this week officially kick off the season: time to enjoy family and friends, celebrate, be grateful and reflect on what’s important.

The Thanksgiving table doesn’t have to mean overeating or missing out, nor weight gain and stress. Social and family gatherings are about people; keep food “second” in its place. Here are a few tips to get you started this week for giving thanks healthfully.

Eat breakfast. Enjoy breakfast with plenty of fruit and fiber so you stay full longer. Saving calories for another meal usually results in overeating. Short on time? Prepare a festive overnight oatmeal the night before with pumpkin and cranberries.

Eat mindfully. Enjoy the Thanksgiving feast sitting at a table, free of screens (TV, phones). Put down your fork between bites and talk with everyone around you. Need a conversation starter? Try “Name one thing you are grateful for today.” Check out for more ideas.

Eat well. Use smaller plates to help with portion control. Fill half your plate first with vegetables. Choose foods you love that aren’t normally on the menu (Grandma’s sweet potatoes or Auntie’s brussels sprouts). Go easy on alcohol, alternating with water.

Get some exercise. Once the bird is in the oven, bundle up and get outside! Go for a walk. Play a little football in the yard. Skip the Black Friday lines and spend more of your day being active. Go sledding. Build snow castles and make snow families. Try snowshoeing at a nearby park (your local library has snowshoes to borrow).

Yes, health routines can be hard this time of year. However, there are so many small steps you can take to make healthy choices this holiday season. Use Thanksgiving to begin a gratitude practice for the rest of the year. Begin or end each day writing down two to three things for which you are grateful. This will help to keep your focus on the people, activities and traditions that make Thanksgiving, and the rest of the holidays, meaningful.

Do you have food safety questions about cooking your turkey? The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-674-6854) is staffed Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and open on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This week’s Health Talk was written by Bethany Yon, chronic disease prevention specialist at the Vermont Department of Health, 802-786-5115,

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