Friday, April 23, 2021

Healthy Holiday Food Swaps



Crystal Manjarres

B15-CBN_11-15-13-3When it comes to Thanksgiving I notice that people generally fall into one of two groups: those who are excited and those who are scared to death. OK, I may be exaggerating a bit with the last one, but hear me out. Thanksgiving is the ultimate holiday to those who love to pig out—and the ultimate disaster to those on a diet. After all, who enjoys watching everyone else eat to their heart’s content while you just sit there and suffer?

I’ll never forget my first “health conscious” Thanksgiving—I narrowed down my food choices to the healthiest selection and portioned small amounts onto my plate. No seconds. No desserts. No fun.

Granted, I felt amazing afterwards. I had squeezed in a great workout beforehand and with a small plate of healthy eats, I didn’t suffer any ill effects of a food hangover.

The next year was easier and last year I was pregnant, so food in its entirety completely grossed me out. This year, I want to change the game a bit. I want to enjoy my food and I want dessert!

If you want to have your cake and eat it too, listen up. With a few tweaks, you too can have an enjoyable and healthy Thanksgiving.

1. Workout first thing in the morning. If you don’t, you won’t later—trust me. When you get a workout in, it sets the mood for your day making you more conscious of the food you want to put in your body. It’ll make you more apt to skip the pecan pie when you realize that it’ll take you triple cardio just to burn off one slice.

2. Plan your plate. If you know you’ll be served your traditional favorite fares then plan ahead. Decide you’re going to have one portion of protein, carbohydrates and fat. If you want to be really good, have protein, veggies, soup or salad with clean carbs (like a half a sweet potato), or forgo carbs if



you want a small dessert (like pumpkin pie), or if you really want to score brownie points (without the actual brownie of course) have protein, veggies, salads or soups with no heavy carbs or dessert. Another option is to bring a healthier comfort food; if you crave mashed potatoes for instance, swap it for puréed cauliflower with a pat of butter instead. Or make a “light” cheesecake instead of the full-fat version.

3. Make family fun the center of attention instead of the family food. I know, I know—food is the star of the show. But try to make new traditions that focus on spending quality time together away from the kitchen table like going for a walk afterwards, playing football, a game of basketball or going for a bike ride. Why not whip out some board games or play Twister. After all, it’s always funny until someone gets hurt—then it’s hilarious! Just kidding!

4. Lastly, leave the table when you finish your meal. If food is hard for you to say no to, then go to another room and avoid that temptation. If it’s not, then start putting the food away or at least out of your way so that it won’t be easily accessible for you. Don’t take any leftovers (unless it’s healthy—and no, yams are not healthy!)

These are just some of the tricks I use to make Thanksgiving more fun and less stressed about the food. It’s a time of thanks, joy, and family—if you’re too full to function or too upset that you overate again, then your fun gets zapped away (just like your energy). Make this Thanksgiving a healthy, fit, and fun one!


Crystal Manjarres is the owner of Pink Island Fitness, a private personal training and Pilates studio on Marco Island. She is a Certified Personal Trainer, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Colon Hydrotherapist and Stott Pilates certified instructor. Her focus is “Empowering men and women of all shapes and sizes”. To send in a question, email She can also be reached at and 239-333-5771.

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