How to Enhance Wellness This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, a day to celebrate with family and friends, be thankful for all we have, and for some it is the unofficial start to the holiday season.  At Herren Wellness we understand that while the holiday can be a time for joy and gratitude, it also has its challenges particularly for those in early recovery.

With a heavy focus on eating and drinking, it can be difficult to navigate staying sober and also making conscious food choices.

This week we sat down with Herren Wellness Dietitian Stephanie Carlile to get her expertise on how to keep our well-being in check this Thanksgiving.

Interview with Herren Wellness Dietitian Stephanie Carlile

What is the biggest trap you see over the Thanksgiving holiday when it comes to maintaining nutrition?

One common obstacle to maintaining nutrition on Thanksgiving is when individuals give themselves permission to overeat, whether it’s intentional or not. I often hear people say things like, “I’m allowing myself a cheat day”, or “I am going all out today”, which can lead to mindless eating and over consumption of foods high in fat, sugar, salt, and calories. This can lead to feeling the need to compensate through dieting or exercise later. Everyone deserves freedom with their food choices, especially during special occasions such as holidays, but it’s important to practice mindful eating at the same time. This means:

  1. Being aware of and respecting hunger and fullness signals- Treat this day like any other, and eat balanced meals and snacks leading up to the big Thanksgiving meal. This will help to avoid extreme hunger, and thus, the urge to overeat. Practice awareness with fullness cues as well, and aim for comfortably full, not stuffed. There will likely be leftovers you can go back to later!

  2. Setting reasonable limits around food choices and eating times- Set guidelines for yourself that are both sensible and un restrictive. For example, eat a variety of foods you enjoy, but incorporate healthy options and portion control. Another example would be to eat only while hungry, sitting at the table, and from a plate instead of grazing.

  3. Honoring your health- Eat foods that taste good, but also make you feel well!

What are some tips you suggest for people who want to avoid overeating on Thanksgiving?

 In addition to the tips mentioned above, you can:

  • Slow down the pace of your eating. This will help to detect satiety before reaching the point of extreme fullness and discomfort. Slow down by cutting food into small pieces, putting your fork down or drinking water between bites, and engaging in conversation at the dinner table.

  • Build healthy plates. Incorporate color and variety in your plate by filling half of it with fruits and veggies. Starting your meal with fresh fruit or a small salad can help you to fill up on nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods, leaving less room for those that are high in fats, sugar, salt and calories. Try to eat from small plates, as this will help with portion control.

  • Be Prepared. If you’re a guest at a family or friend’s house this year, offer to bring a healthy dish. This will ensure that there is a healthy food option that you can incorporate into your dish and fill up on.

  • Stay hydrated. Symptoms of dehydration can resemble those of hunger. Drink water throughout the day and during meal time to help curb cravings and to aid with digestion.

What are your suggestions on keeping sugar in check with desserts?

 As a general rule, sugar can be reduced by about ⅓ (33%) in all recipes without having to substitute other ingredients, and without negatively impacting the dish’s quality. In addition, sugar can be entirely eliminated from recipes when it is used purely for added sweetness, like in whipped toppings or pie fillings. This year, try cutting out about ⅓ of the sugar from your dessert recipes. You can also try:

  • Avoiding store bought desserts, and making your own so that you can control the amount of sugar (and fat) going into them.

  • Adding natural sweeteners to food in replace of some sugar, like herbs and spices (i.e. cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and mint), citrus zest, dried fruits (i.e. cranberries, dates, or figs), or 100% fruit juices/purées.

  • Satisfying your sweet cravings by eating naturally sweet foods, such as fresh or dried fruit. Make a fruit salad, or add dried cranberries to your stuffing!

  • Drinking water, seltzer, or other low-calorie beverages that are low in added sugar. Not a fan of plain water? Try adding citrus juice/zest (i.e. oranges, limes, or lemons), cucumbers, fresh fruit, or a splash (1-2 tablespoons) of 100% juice to your water or seltzer.

Anything that people in early recovery should keep in mind when indulging in the holiday?

 While holidays can be wonderful, there’s no doubt that they can bring on stress, anxiety, and other difficult emotions. If you are feeling uneasy, seek ways to comfort, relieve, or distract yourself without using food, as it can lead to mindless eating and unwanted calories. Before the holiday gathering, pick 2-3 soothing, fun, and distracting activities that you can easily fall back on. Some ideas to get you thinking: go for a walk, call a friend, have a warm mug of tea, or play a game.

Stephanie Approved Thanksgiving Recipes

Not sure where to start?  Stephanie hand-picked these Thanksgiving recipes which are low in fat and sugar and also include Vegan options.  Try them out and share your thoughts.  Don’t forget to tag Herren Wellness on social!

Thanksgiving “Stuffing” Oatmeal

Healthy Pumpkin Pie 

Apple and Blackberry Crumble 

Healthy Mashed Potatoes

Healthy Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Healthy Green Bean Casserole 

 At Herren Wellness we understand the importance of maintaining wellness over the holiday season.  It can be a challenging time for those in early recovery to navigate- from traveling to family gatherings and being around people who are drinking.  There are several factors which are out of our control, however if we focus on what we can control such as making conscious food choices as Stephanie suggests, we can find ourselves more grounded over the holiday.

If you or anyone you love is struggling with substances at any stage or emotional health this holiday season, please reach out to us, we are here.

*Feature Image of blog courtesy @ful.filled

About Herren Wellness

Herren Wellness is a thriving community of people at all stages of their recovery journey. We introduce healthy habits and routines centered around emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness that provide a solid foundation for rediscovering your interests, experiencing joy in sobriety, and building structure and routine.

We provide several alumni support communities, including a weekly recovery support group, monthly alumni meeting, and online alumni community you can access anytime. Your connection to Herren Wellness doesn’t end when your stay ends; we are there for you throughout your recovery journey.

If you, or a loved one, are looking for help, please call us at (844) 443-7736, email us at, or fill out a contact form. You are not alone.