Thanksgiving, the wonderful American holiday imbedded in family tradition that people either absolutely love or hate. It can either be very stressful or very relaxing depending on your family dynamic. Some dancers get a few days or the whole week off to rest before December shows, while others are starting their Nutcracker run that weekend. Whatever your Thanksgiving looks like, I’ve compiled a few tips to make this holiday more manageable for dancers and non-dancers alike.

Healthy Thanksgiving for Dancers

  1. Don’t Do the Night-Before-Thanksgiving Bar Crawl

If you’re over the age of 21, it can be tempting to go out with friends from home the night before Thanksgiving since everyone is home. Don’t! Being hung-over, tired, and dehydrated is not the way you want to start Thanksgiving.  Instead grab coffee, tea or dinner with your group of friends from home.

  1. Get the Blood Flowing

On Thanksgiving morning, wake up and get the blood flowing with any type of physical activity. This doesn’t mean you need to go take class or go hard-core at the gym. My hometown does a 5k Turkey Trot race on Thanksgiving morning.

My mom and I walk the 5k for fun and to give us a jump start to the day before we start cooking. Another relaxing option is doing a restorative or gentle Vinyasa yoga practice. If there isn’t a studio open near you on thanksgiving there are lots of practices that you can find on YouTube.

  1. Bring a Recipe That You Enjoy

Thanksgiving is often centered around meat being a main course of the meal. If you’re Vegan or Vegetarian, this can leave you with fewer options. Coordinate with your host and offer to bring an alternative protein and veggie-based recipe that’s either Vegan or Vegetarian friendly that you and your guests will enjoy. Maybe make this Kale Salad, that way you can precede any indulgences with something packed with nutrition.

  1. Help with the Meal Prep
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This goes hand and hand with #3. Help with preparing the meal, whether it’s a dish that you bring, or you help your host prepare a dish. My family does Thanksgiving with our friends that I grew up dancing with.

In additional to traditional Thanksgiving foods, we make Italian food. Gradually, it’s become my job to make the Eggplant Parmesan every year. It’s a great opportunity to improve your cooking skills and the host will most likely appreciate the help.

Also, meal prep will keep your mind off any food anticipations you might be worried about.

  1. Pace Yourself

You know the phrase: it’s a marathon, not a sprint? Take that to heart on Thanksgiving. Pace yourself, there’s multiple courses and lots of food options. Don’t fill up on the first thing you eat. Plus, you want to give yourself lots of nutritious food options: veggies, protein, and carbohydrates.

Also, you are not obligated to finish the food on your plate.

  1. Avoid Hot Button Conversation Topics During Dinner

Yes I know that’s a cliché Thanksgiving advice, but it’s a good tip! If you feel that a conversation is getting too heated (ergo venturing anywhere near politics), steer the conversation into a more neutral territory.

  1. Help with the Cleanup

No one likes doing dishes, but this is a way to cope with any food stress you have. Keeping your mind busy on clean up gives your mind something to focus on besides everything you just ate. It prevents any food regrets you may have. Also, the more people that help, the faster the clean up goes.

  1. Only Take As Many Leftovers That You Want and Know You Will Eat
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I know I’m not the only one who has various family members shoving leftovers at them after a family dinner (no matter what time of year). Be realistic; only take the food you know you’ll eat for lunch the next few days.

Don’t take extra food or dessert home that will either just sit in your fridge and/or guilt trip you for the next week. Freezing left overs into lunch and dinner sized portions is a great way to meal prep for the following week.

  1. Focus on the values of Thanksgiving, Not Just the Food

For the most part, people focus on the food for Thanksgiving. But remember that Thanksgiving is about being thankful and spending time with family.

Choose to focus on that element of the holiday more than the food. Maybe that means you pull a Linus (from the Charlie Brown Cartoon Series) and get up on your soapbox with your blanket to remind friends and family what they should be thankful for.

  1. Be Kind to Yourself the Day After

You are allowed to take time off from dance and enjoy yourself. Never regret spending quality time with friends and family during the holidays.

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A Healthy Approach to Thanksgiving