Feasting at Thanksgiving and Maintaining a Healthy Routine? Is it Possible?

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all of our blessings. Many Americans celebrate this special holiday by gathering together with friends and family around a table of food and drink. Sometimes we even feast more than once to celebrate!

For those of us who are on a health journey, these days can feel worrisome. We’re trying to be so healthy to take care of our bodies and eyes, but all this delicious (usually unhealthy high in fat and packed with sugar) food is staring us right in our failing eyes.

Be mindful

We know this day is coming each year, friends, it isn’t a surprise. Though it may often feel like the holidays sneak up on us, we know when they are. Thanksgiving is Thursday, November 28th if you haven’t checked the calendar yet for this year (2019). This is good to know so we can plan accordingly.

Knowing that Thanksgiving is approaching helps to keep me on track with my healthier eating patterns now. I keep this in mind when I’m shoving yet another salad into my mouth robotically on my lunch break. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE salad! It’s just that sometimes it feels redundant if I get into a pattern of eating the same salad day after day.

Plus, sometimes I just want something cheesy and hot and comforting to eat at lunchtime, especially in the fall and winter seasons! I know that I will soon have a day to indulge in eating all the yummy things, so I can happily wait and eat my eye-healthy foods while dreaming of stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Celebrating AND staying on track

I always advocate for two things: healthy living and being joyful. I am well aware that sometimes these two things seem to counteract each other. So, here’s my rule: When it’s time to celebrate, celebrate! I don’t hold back on holidays or birthdays or really anytime I feel like there’s a chance to feel joy and make memories.

Thanksgiving Thursday deserves some celebration and leeway with our diets. However, on regular ol’ Thursdays, I try to be mindful of what I eat. Historically, even the very first Thanksgivings were celebrated with a bounty of food. It’s part of the celebration of the day and I am not here to tell you not to indulge. I most certainly will be.

What I am here to suggest, is that if your macular degeneration health journey includes being conscious of what you eat (or don’t eat), there is a way to keep this up through the holidays...even the ones that include stuffing our faces until we have to unbutton our pants.

Allow yourself to be excited

This day comes once a year. I say it’s more than okay to eat what we want and not feel bad about it. Period. The Thanksgiving feast is something I definitely daydream about and look forward to. If you want to indulge, you should. If you want to fill your plate with mostly salad and skip dessert, you should.

There is food that nourishes our bodies and food that nourishes our souls. Thanksgiving can be both, but for me, it’s more of a soul-nourishing type of day.

Quick Tip: Not all Thanksgiving foods are unhealthy! Many traditional Thanksgiving foods are plant-based and turkey is a really lean protein as well.


The day after Thanksgiving is the start of a recuperation period for me...just in time to begin preparing for the next round of holiday celebrations. This is when I’m sure to be back in the full swing of eating healthy and exercising. If I’m having leftovers, I try to skip the buttery mashed potatoes and gravy and stick with a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread with lettuce and tomatoes.

Tips to cut back

If you’re wanting to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal(s) but are still trying to make healthier choices, here are some easy ways to cut back.

  • Dips, dressings, spreads and gravy, though very delicious, add a lot of unhealthy calories to our diets.
  • Stop when you’re full. I know this is so hard on Thanksgiving, but the leftovers will most likely be there later! Smaller, more frequent meals are healthier and easier for our bodies to process.
  • Save space! If you know what time you’re feasting, you can eat a light breakfast and/or lunch to save room (and calories).
  • Divide and conquer...if you know that you have two Thanksgiving celebrations to attend in one day, consider eating your main meal at the first then dessert at the second. Most hosts understand that we can have more than one place to go on holidays.

I’m truly thankful for you all and am wishing many blessings upon you this holiday season. With the right mindset, we can maintain a healthy lifestyle and celebrate the day without guilt. Holidays and the food that accompanies them can really be something to look forward to!

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!

Andrea Junge

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