THE BLOG
11/24/2014 01:33 pm ET Updated Jan 24, 2015

4 Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving Healthier

Don't let the title misguide you. This isn't a post about cooking low-sodium turkey, sugar-free cranberry sauce, or gluten-free apple pie for your feast. We're talking about a healthier Thanksgiving that's fun, fit, and emotionally light. That sounds like a delicious recipe, doesn't it? I'll take it with a side of mashed potatoes!

Thanksgiving kick starts the most festive (and sometimes chaotic!) six weeks of the year. Every weekend is filled with parties, family, and more likely than not, shopping. It's a time of gratitude, generosity, and love, but it's important not to sacrifice your routine and lose yourself for the sake of being the best hostess (or even the best guest!). My suggestion is to get the whole family involved! When everyone is working towards a common goal, especially amidst the joy and fun of the holidays, you'll have even more to be grateful for! Try these four tips for rallying your troops and having your healthiest Thanksgiving yet.

1. Reflect together. Maybe you say grace before dinner and maybe you don't, but either way, I encourage you to include a mini-meditation before your feast. Thanksgiving day itself can be stressful, full of emotional weight (in both good ways and bad), and fast-paced in a way that makes us "Go! Go! Go!" from the second the Macy's parade begins to the second the turkey comes out of the oven. Amid the chaos, we should be taking time to appreciate that the season is less about who has the most beautiful centerpiece or most delicious appetizer and more about whom we're with and why we're with them.

So when you sit around the table, lead what might become your favorite new Thanksgiving tradition, "quiet time." This doesn't have to be a formal or serious meditative event (and the little ones are sure to giggle through it, but encourage them to stay focused); it's about togetherness more than anything. Have everyone at the table close their eyes, inhale deeply, hold the breath for a count of "Happy Thanksgiving," and release the breath with control and focus. This initiates a moment (or however long you choose!) of silent reflection about the day, the family, the feast, or heck, even the biggest float you watched in the parade earlier that day! Invite everyone not to totally quell their "mind chatter" but to observe it without judgment and allow their thoughts to pass freely and then let them go. You may find that any feud between cousin Sally and aunt Martha, the teasing and pranking between little ones, and your own post-cooking fatigue may dissipate at dinner because everyone is present, relaxed, and ready to be together.

2. Include a sport or group activity on Thanksgiving Day. Many of us associate Thanksgiving with football. It's fun to watch, but it's even more fun to play! Some of the most iconic moments from our favorite TV families come from them tossing a football around in the backyard. Think of Ross and Monica on Friends, Lucy and Charlie from Charlie Brown, or the iconic Thanksgiving scene from Homeward Bound; regardless of the level of competition (or trickery in the case of Lucy and Charlie!), getting active together can get every member of the family connected and having fun before your meal. It's easier to catch up and chat when you're actually playing a game, as opposed to having everyone's eyes glued to the TV watching one! And if football's not your style, maybe your family could register for a community run or make up the rules to your own new game! (And if you do, be sure to comment below and let us know what fun you've invented!)

3. Get the kids involved! Pie tastes better when you've earned it, so get the kids moving this Thanksgiving, and set up an exercise contest. It's easier than it sounds! All you need is a monitor with a stopwatch (or a smart phone!) and eager kids to participate. Contests of "who can hold the longest plank," "do the most push ups or sit ups," etc. are easy to do. If you set a good prize -- whoever wins gets to cut the first (and likely biggest) piece of pie! -- you may just get some couch potatoes doing pushups in no time! And hey, there's no real reason the adults in the room can't get in on this competition too!

4. Start a new thanking tradition. Thank you cards are wonderful things. But if you're writing multiples, it opens the possibility of getting a little repetitive and robotic -- "thank you for the [blank]. We had so much fun! Hope to see you soon!" What I've noticed is that "thank yous" are more genuine and personal when they're said out loud. The most official "thank you" is directed with eye contact and, of course, sincerity. But to make this tradition a bit more festive, you could make a "thanking game" before dessert comes out as a sort of bookend to the meal that your mini-meditation began. The best part about this game is that you make the rules! For example, you could put all the place cards in a bowl and draw names, each person saying "thank you" to the person they drew. Or you could simply go down the table and thank the person sitting directly across from you (eye contact, of course!). Maybe even challenge the kids at the table to write a "thank you" song! The possibilities are endless, but the intention is the same.

Whether you try all or even one of these holiday tips, I thank you for reading this post and wish you a happy, healthy, and emotionally light holiday.